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Artificial intelligence

Malaysian police wear Chinese start-up’s AI camera to identify suspected criminals

The body-mounted cameras use facial recognition software developed by Chinese start-up Yitu Technology

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 6:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 April, 2018, 4:33pm

As China establishes itself as a global leader in artificial intelligence, its innovations are being met with increasing demand from abroad. 

There is a growing appetite in particular for its advanced surveillance systems, the latest example being a body-mounted camera being used by Malaysian police that employs facial recognition technology to identify suspects.

The Auxiliary Force (AFSB), part of the Royal Malaysia Police Cooperative, has been equipping its officers with the cameras that use cutting-edge facial recognition capabilities designed by the Chinese artificial intelligence start-up Yitu Technology. The system enables officers to promptly compare and match images captured by the body-camera with those stored in the police database.

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The surveillance camera works at night but, for now, only allows officers to review captured video footage to identify people of interest after the event. 

“This is a significant step forward for us as we leverage artificial intelligence to increase public safety and security. Looking ahead, AFSB also intends to expand the capabilities of our body-worn camera system to include real-time facial recognition and instant alerts to the presence of persons of interest from criminal watch lists,” said Dato’ Rosmadi Bin Ghazali, CEO of the Auxiliary Force, in a press release.

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China is home to a number of leading AI companies, including SenseTime Group, Megvii – also known as Face++ – and Yitu Technology. The country accounted for 48 per cent of the total US$15.2 billion raised by AI start-ups worldwide last year, outstripping the 38 per cent raised by US firms, according to American research firm CB Insights. 

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The world’s most populous country is also en route to creating a national facial recognition system that would be connected to cameras, with the ability to recognise any of the country’s 1.3 billion citizens in less than three seconds. 

Founded in 2012, the Shanghai-based start-up Yitu, which completed series C funding of US$55 million in May 2017 from Hillhouse Capital Group and other investors, said three seconds is all it takes to identify someone from the 1.4 billion faces stored in China’s national databases. 

This is a significant step forward for us as we leverage artificial intelligence to increase public safety and security
Dato’ Rosmadi Bin Ghazali, Auxiliary Force

Public security agencies have been the major source of demand for Yitu’s technology so far, Lin Chenxi, one of the two co-founders said in an interview in November.

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Yitu’s facial recognition software has been widely used for safety and surveillance purposes in China. It is used by banks to verify ATM transactions, while surveillance cameras at borders are using it to match and cross-reference travellers with national databases to identify smugglers and illegal entrants.

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The solution from Yitu is also being used for security at Chinese tourist location including ports, and public spaces which require high safety standards. In its first three months of operation, it has helped Shanghai’s Metro operator to apprehend 567 lawbreakers, according to the company.

The Chinese firm has said aims to generate more revenue from overseas markets by exporting its technology overseas, to countries in Africa and Europe, where governments are grappling with the threat of terrorism.

In January, Yitu opened its first international office in Singapore, trying to use the country as a springboard to enter more adjacent markets in the region including Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia. 

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The global facial recognition market is forecast to be worth US$6.5 billion by 2021, up from US$2.3 billion in 2016, according to estimates by the research company Technavio.

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