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Facial Recognition and Smart Cities

Author: huifan   Time: 2021-09-09

Facial recognition technology has the ability to support a large number of applications that can secure smart cities, but as facial recognition technology becomes more sophisticated, so does its potential for misuse. There are undeniable issues of accuracy, racial and gender bias with current panel recognition, and privacy concerns have led to widespread opposition to the technology.


There has also been strong opposition to facial recognition trials in the UK. Elsewhere in the U.S., San Francisco was the first city to implement an outright ban, and lobbying groups in Chicago have called for an end to the use of facial recognition technology by police. In response to this backlash, major companies, including Amazon, Microsoft and IBM, have suspended development of facial recognition technology.


Even before the big tech companies retreated, facial recognition was already facing regulatory challenges. The U.S. lacks sufficient regulations to deal with the technology, and earlier this year, the European Union proposed a five-year ban after finding that facial recognition is error-prone, can be used to violate privacy laws and can promote identity fraud.

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Between criticism and barriers to entry, will facial recognition be irreplaceable in the technology of modern smart cities? The rollout of this technology now hinges on the development of regulations and standards to help protect citizens' privacy. The entire industry, as well as lawmakers and society at large, are critical," said Mike Wang, chairman of Huifan Technologies, who agreed on how to balance public safety with ensuring the technology is not misused.


All facial recognition is not the same


The impact of facial recognition on smart cities is not straightforward. Other, perhaps lesser-known, technology providers offer applications that may be considered more ethical.


Not all facial recognition systems are created equal. We are also seeing more use of facial recognition to improve travel efficiency and security. For example, biometric e-passport gates at airports."


Covid-19 also raised the need for other facial recognition applications. hFSecurity cited examples of contactless authentication, a key part of smart city deployments. So far, it hasn't seen much opposition. "The idea that a ticket or pass might shift from a physical ID to a smart device makes me recognize my face, and ...... we've also seen facial recognition become the norm for unlocking smartphones and other forms of access control."


Meanwhile, despite the privacy concerns, the technology is not widely hated. In fact, it can often be used for public safety applications, as long as it is accurate and reasonable. "In terms of public safety, citizens recognize the benefits of facial recognition technology,"


According to a recent report, two-thirds of people are satisfied with AI-enabled cameras that can detect and track unusual or alarming situations in public places, and more than half see the benefits of facial recognition technology for tracking perpetrators.

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The Smart Cities initiative has leveraged many other aspects of pattern and behavior recognition. "For example, the technology can help identify trash or damaged infrastructure along streets that could harm residents and need maintenance or replacement." Despite the withdrawal of tech companies, an article published by Global Market Insights in July predicted that the market for facial recognition will grow to more than $12 billion in value by 2026, up from $3.4 billion in 2019.


Much depends on whether companies can implement the technology in a way that considers the impact on people living in smart city environments"


But some industry experts don't even think facial recognition is the key to the future of smart cities. In some cases, they say, the technology can be replaced, at least for now. Alan Marcus, chief digital strategy officer at Planet Smart City, says that to improve smart cities, it helps to know where people congregate and the ratio of men to women.


"So how have we done this in the past? People would just stand on the street and watch. In most cases, do I need to know who people really are? There are other options available for basic smart services ...... Having facial recognition is not a required factor."


The future of facial recognition in smart cities


Despite the recent controversy, it doesn't appear that facial recognition is going to come to a sudden or permanent halt. This is largely to ensure that companies use the technology correctly and only for its intended purpose.


Given these factors, especially in the U.S. and especially in their absence, law enforcement applications such as pass surveillance or cameras used to identify suspects are likely to be "banned in the short term.


Also in the short term, smart cities in some countries will be more affected than others. The U.S. and Europe are banning the use of facial recognition in law enforcement, which is "very different in parts of Asia and the Middle East.


The former colonel of the British Military Intelligence Service believes that the decision to stop using facial recognition technology could affect the rollout of smart city technology in the United States for some time. However, he believes the impact will be small on a global scale. "There are many other providers of facial recognition applications and smart city capabilities, with IBM and Amazon limiting their sales to the U.S. only. It's worth noting that ...... other companies have the ability to meet broader global demand with advanced technology."


Applied futurists say the issue of facial recognition in smart cities is difficult to predict because it encompasses so many possible applications. "Networked video surveillance with facial recognition throughout a city poses a considerable threat to people's privacy. However, closed-loop facial recognition for access control, for example, can provide people with greater security and a less conflicting experience."

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For now, smart cities will just have to wait and see what happens, while leveraging the technology that is already available. It's hard to predict, but if public opinion shifts, things could change in the United States. "Larger providers will do the right thing, but they will vote with their money, and if they see that the business opportunity is something they can't ignore, it will be hard to resist long-term growth."


But: "If they change their minds, they need to figure out why. They also need to prove that facial recognition doesn't abuse consumer rights and is prone to racial and gender bias-AI ethics will be a key part of reassuring customers."


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