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Pakistan safe city project stalls with nearly 1K facial recognition cameras not functioning

Pakistan safe city project stalls with nearly 1K facial recognition cameras not functioning

Since it was rolled out in 2016, the Lahore safe city project in Punjab province has been facing major challenges, with the majority of the facial recognition cameras not in a fully-functional state. Authorities have turned to rely on privately-installed alternatives to expand the system.

The national daily newspaper Dawn refers to a recently published report which lists a number of things not going right with the estimated Rs12 billion (US$51.7 million) surveillance project, that includes facial recognition, license plate recognition, traffic management and police notifications.

Dawn mentions that about 35 percent of all cameras for the system are not fully functional, leaving some major roads and other public areas in the city out of surveillance coverage.

The facial recognition component of the project is said to be among the important aspects of the project for the Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA).

The Punjab city surveillance project was designed, among other things, to ensure number-plate tracking, traffic management, and also to enable law enforcement agencies in checking crime and ensuring the safety of people.

According to the document cited by Dawn, about 2,500 of the 7,678 cameras deployed in various locations around the provincial capital are non-functional, resulting in many areas becoming havens for activities of criminal gangs. Almost all of the 1,000 facial recognition cameras are out of order.

The report also mentions dysfunctions with the Variable Messaging System (VMS), a platform connected with the Police Traffic Management System (PTMS), installed as part of the safe city project to provide information to users via digital road signs concerning road traffic.

The Lahore smart city project has been mired in controversy, with local partner Business Efficiency Solutions (BES) suing Huawei in California over allegations of stolen technology and pressure to build backdoors for access to sensitive data. The project was initially expected to include 8,000 facial recognition cameras.

PSCA Chief Operating Officer Kamran Khan is quoted by Dawn as blaming the breakdown of the surveillance system on failure of the contactor to meet some of its contractual clauses. The official however said in the meantime, alternative measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the city.

As such, the city authority says they have identified about 137,000 locations in the city where surveillance cameras are deployed under private initiatives.

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