Level 17
Police using cutting-edge tech to catch criminals and monitor commuters.
As the Chinese Lunar New Year Holiday began last week and millions of Chinese journeyed home for the occasion, at one particular train station in the Henan Province travellers were met by the sight of police wearing sunglasses equipped with the latest Facial Recognition software to identify individuals in the crowds and catch criminals.

Officers patrolling the Zhengzhou East Province Station began using the smart glasses as Chinese citizens began their exodus like ‘Spring Transport’ back to their families and hometowns. The event is commonly referred to as the largest annual human migration. In Zhengzhou itself, over 100,000 use the station every day during this period.

According to Chinese State media, the frame-mounted camera on the sunglasses being used by police is is equipped with cutting-edge facial-recognition technology more than capable of the “highly effective screening”of crowds for fugitives and criminals trying to travel under false pretenses. The official newspaper of China, the People’s Daily included images of a policewoman wearing the glasses as she worked.

A Chinese police officer using the facial recognition glasses to scan crowds of commuters for criminals.

Arrests and IDs
The glasses, developed by Beijing-based LLVision Tech, spent over a year working with local police forces to develop the devices, said the company’s CEO Wu Fei.

The facial recognition glasses have several advantages over traditional CCTV recognition software. For a start, the glasses are hardwired into an off-line hand-held database meaning that results are faster than the cloud based systems most commonly in use. As a point of fact, railway police at the Zhengzhou’s Station have said the glasses have already been instrumental in the arrest of seven people connected to major criminal cases, and helped identify 26 others who were traveling under false identities.

Slippery slope?
However, despite the apparent effectiveness of the devices, not everyone is happy with the advanced technology. William Nee, a China researcher at Amnesty International told the Wall Street Journal that “the potential to give individual police officers facial-recognition technology in sunglasses could eventually make China’s surveillance state all the more ubiquitous,” highlighting the fact that while glasses could be useful from a security point of view, it could also make it easier for authorities to track and profile ‘political malcontents, and ethnic minorities’.

No escape
China has one most comprehensive and linked surveillance networks in the world, monitoring virtually all forms of transport across the entirety of the massive country, and according to The Verge, China will have more than 600 million CCTV Cameras in operation by 2020, with Chinese tech companies using advanced software to recognize people based on innate characteristics such as their gait, height, and shoulder width, as well as recognizing distinctive clothing.