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Biometrics and AI vision technologies deployed in Hong Kong and UK prisons to prevent drug use


Hong Kong is testing AI vision and prisoner-tracking technologies and the UK has completed a trial of iris and facial biometric screening for prison visitors, as each deals with prison security problems, including drug smuggling.

A video surveillance system will be introduced by Hong Kong this year with artificial intelligence-powered video analytics as part of a smart prison initiative to deal with overcrowding, violence and drug use in short-staffed prisons, Forbes reports.

The system monitors inmates and sends alerts to officers if necessary, such as if it determines they are fighting or attempting suicide. Forbes does not specifically indicate if the system’s capabilities include facial recognition.

Smart wristbands are also being distributed to certain inmates, in particular those in hospital wards. The wearables will track pulse rate and location, and triggers an alarm if removed. The initiative also includes a robot arm to conduct searches of fecal matter for contraband drugs.

UK iris and facial recognition trial successful

UK Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced the successful completion of a trial of dual biometric technology for screening prison visitors to prevent the flow of drugs into correctional facilities. The document validation plus iris and facial recognition solution has been tested at three prisons, HMP Hull, Humber, and Lindholme, in December and January.

Some UK prisons have fingerprint recognition for visitor identification, but most use a paper-based system, which has been unequal to the task of stopping the supply of illicit drugs by prison visitors, a problem identified by intelligence investigations, according to the government’s announcement. The legacy systems are also slow and resource-intensive, and the Prison Service is now considering replacing them with the biometric systems trialed, or similar systems. One of the trial prisons found that the rate of “no-shows” for visitations increased after it became known that the biometric system was in use, possibly indicating its effectiveness as a deterrent.

“New technology is vital in our fight against the gangs that seek to cause chaos in prisons, and this biometric equipment has the potential to significantly aid our efforts,” says Gauke.

The biometric trial is part of a larger initiative to improve conditions and security in prisons, after seizures of drugs and mobile phones by prison staff increased by 4,000 to 23,000 last year, a 17 percent increase.

The technology used in the trial was provided by Facewatch, IDScan, and Tascent.

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