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Japan turns to face biometrics for safe and secure Olympics amid COVID-19

Local fans have been attending live events since July
Japan turns to face biometrics for safe and secure Olympics amid COVID-19

Japanese authorities are hoping face biometrics installed at venues in Tokyo for the Olympic Games can help keep fans safe from the coronavirus with contactless interactions.

A facial recognition system installed at the Tokyo Dome, one of the Olympic venues, has been tested and will be put to use as one of the counter-measures against the virus, The Japan News reports.

Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics from July 23 to August 8, and Japan has said foreign fans will not be attending the games due to the pandemic. But concerns remain about how many home fans will be allowed into game venues and the measures that will be put in place in order to keep them safe from possible infection.

The Tokyo Dome biometric project is designed to help reduce situations where fans coming for games will find themselves in closed spaces, crowed spots or in very close physical contact with one another.

Apart from biometric access control features, what is described as the ‘Tokyo Dome digital transformation project’ also uses facial recognition technology for payments at shops, mobile ordering via smartphones by fans for packaged meals and drinks, and barcode recognition for access at automated gates, The Japan News added.

Officials believe the facial recognition system will prevent fraudsters from impersonating others with falsified IDs.

Tsukasa Imamura, President of the Yomiuri Giants baseball club, which launched the Tokyo Dome’s system to protect its fans, said the plan is to ensure that people have memorable experiences as they intend to “…make the Tokyo Dome the cleanest, safest and most comfortable stadium in the world.”

Meanwhile, another report by The Japan Times explains how Japan’s sports authorities have used face biometrics and other digital technologies to ensure fan safety at sports venues since July last year despite the presence of the virus. They believe the experience can be replicated during the upcoming Olympics.

The report cited the experience of the J League, where facial recognition cameras have been installed at stadiums to monitor fan behavior. Data from cameras monitoring a number of J League games suggests that about 90 percent of fans effectively wore their facemasks, with the remaining 10 percent being either children or adults who had pulled off their masks to eat or drink.

“We believe that with scientific evidence and the experience of holding over 1,000 games with coronavirus prevention measures, it’s possible to run simulations and show that we can hold events above 50 percent of venue capacity. It will be important to have a model showing the decrease in risk created by combining countermeasures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, staggered entrance and exit times and the progress of inoculations,” J League spokesman Yu Iwasaka told Japan Times.

Some of these facial recognition solutions deployed for fan safety at sports venues have been provided by local company NEC. The biometric-based tests have been trialed to see how many fans can be allowed into sporting venues while keeping them safe from the coronavirus.

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