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Chinese town implements Baidu face recognition to identify tourists


The Chinese tourist town of Wuzhen is implementing Baidu’s face recognition technology to identify tourists staying in its hotels and to serve as their entry pass, according to a report by New Scientist.

Baidu’s facial recognition system is expected to process 5,000 visitors a day to Wuzhen, a historic town that has been transformed into a tourist attraction with museums, tours and crafts.

Wuzhen visitors checking into hotels will now have their pictures taken and uploaded to a central database.

If they leave and re-enter the town, the face recognition software will verify their identity as a guest of a hotel there before allowing them back in.

In the past, several types of entry tickets were given out to differentiate between one-off visitors and those guests staying for a longer period.

However, the town discovered that this system could easily be exploited as guests would share their tickets so they didn’t have to pay the entry fee.

The town initially began fingerprint identifying hotel guests to prevent individuals from sharing an entry pass, which led to long queues and often resulted in false positives.

Baidu’s face recognition system uses cameras to detect people as they approach the entry’s turnstile.

The visitor’s face is checked against a database of registered visitors, and the system grants entry to the person if his or her face matches with one of the photos in the database.

“It was only a matter of time before face recognition software was rolled out on this scale,” said Mark Nixon at the University of Southampton, UK. “It’s more convenient to use your face than tickets, he says, so it’s likely that the technology will soon be seen elsewhere.“

Baidu said it trained the software on massive datasets that comprise of more than 1 billion face images and has a 99.8% accuracy rate.

The software also detects facial movements so that it can’t be duped by an individual holding up a still image of another person’s face.

Baidu is currently using the software for employee entry at its Beijing headquarters, but this will be the first time the company rolls it out at a large scale.

If the Wuzhen trial is successful, Baidu is planning to operate similar systems in other areas, such as tourist destinations and theme parks.

“We want our software to eventually be used by all of the town’s visitors, and then in many other places around China,” said Yuanqing Lin, director of the Institute of Deep Learning at Baidu.

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