Even mask-wearers can be ID’d, China facial recognition firm says

Jeck Deocampo   •   March 9, 2020   •   622

 A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s first facial recognition technology that can identify people when they are wearing a mask, as most are these days because of the coronavirus, and help in the fight against the disease.

China employs some of the world’s most sophisticated systems of electronic surveillance, including facial recognition.

But the coronavirus, which emerged in Hubei province late last year, has resulted in almost everyone wearing a surgical mask outdoors in the hope of warding off the virus – posing a particular problem for surveillance.

Now Hanwang Technology Ltd, which also goes by the English name Hanvon, said it has come up technology that can successfully recognise people even when they are wearing masks.

“If connected to a temperature sensor, it can measure body temperature while identifying the person’s name, and then the system would process the result, say, if it detects a temperature over 38 degrees,” Hanwang Vice President Huang Lei told Reuters in an interview.

The Beijing-based firm said a team of 20 staff used core technology developed over the past 10 years, a sample database of about 6 million unmasked faces and a much smaller database of masked faces, to develop the technology,

The team began work on the system in January, as the coronavirus outbreak gathered pace, and began rolling it out to the market after just a month.

It sells two main types of products that use the technology. One performs “single channel” recognition that is best used at, for example, entrances to office buildings.

The other, more powerful, product is a “multi-channel” recognition system that uses “multiple surveillance cameras”.

It can identify everyone in a crowd of up to 30 people “within a second”, Huang says.

“When wearing a mask, the recognition rate can reach about 95%, which can ensure that most people can be identified,” Huang said, adding the success rate for people without mask is about 99.5%.

A big customer, not surprisingly, is the Ministry of Public Security, which runs the police.

Using Hanwang’s technology, the ministry can cross-reference images with its own database of names and other information and then identify and track people as they move about, Huang said.

“It can detect crime suspects, terrorists or make reports or warnings,” he said.

But the system struggles to identify people with both a mask and sunglasses, he said.

“In this situation, all of the key facial information is lost. In such cases recognition is tough,” Huang said.

The company has about 200 clients in Beijing using the technology, including the police, and expect scores more across 20 provinces to start installing it soon, Huang said.

It is not immediately clear how Chinese citizens are reacting to this new technology.

When it comes to other surveillance tools being used in the fight against the coronavirus, there has been some grumbling on social media but most people seem to be accepting extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to deal with the health emergency.

Although domestic customers have been driving Hanwang’s business, Huang also said he expected more foreign interest, as the virus spreads around the world and more people wear face masks.

“It not only benefits Chinese people, but also, when the technology is applied globally, it can benefit the world,” he said. (REUTERS CONNECT)

(Production: Martin Pollard)

Metro Manila to likely transition to GCQ after May 31 —Palace

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 28, 2020

Metro Manila has a possibility to transition to General Community Quarantine (GCQ) from Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) after May 31, according to the Malacañang.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said there is a chance that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions might ease in Metro Manila and other parts of the country.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID) held a meeting on Wednesday (May 27) to determine if the MECQ should continue after May 31.

“Chances are we will, in fact, be transitioning to GCQ in Metro Manila, according to the chief implementer and the DILG [Department of the Interior and Local Government] Secretary,” Roque said in a statement.

The Metro Manila Council (MMC) is also recommending to the IATF to put the National Capital Region under GCQ.

Once Metro Manila transitioned to GCQ, Roque said public transportation will resume operations but will have limited capacity.

He also appealed to the private and public sectors to finalize their work scheme where 50% will resume in worksites and 50% will work from home.

“We are appealing to both private and public sectors to ensure at least 50-50 workforce,” he said. –AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

China’s parliament approves Hong Kong national security bill

UNTV News   •   May 28, 2020

China’s National People’s Congress’ third session closed on Thursday (May 28) after parliament members voted on a proposal to implement Hong Kong’s national security legislation.

“The session made a decision to establish a legal system and enforcement mechanism for the national security of Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region,” chairman of the standing committee of the NPC, Li Zhanshu, told delegates at the closing ceremony.

“It will uphold and improve the ‘one country, two systems’ policy. It is in line with the Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and is in the interest of all Chinese people including Hong Kong people,” he added.

The legislation received 2,878 votes while one voted against and six abstained. The draft national security law has received international criticism with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declaring that Hong Kong is ‘no longer autonomous.’

Hong Kong, which has freedoms not granted in the mainland such as freedom of assembly and freedom of the press, has experienced months-long anti-government protests which sparked from a now-withdrawn extradition bill. (Reuters)

(Production: Joyce Zhou, Pak Yiu)

Mandaluyong City beefs up rapid testing after COVID-19 infects 277 tricycle drivers

Marje Pelayo   •   May 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Mandaluyong City government cannot decide yet on whether or not to allow tricycle drivers to operate come June 1.

This, after 277 of the 3,115 tricycle drivers who underwent rapid testing were confirmed positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Mandaluyong City Health Office is continuously conducting rapid tests among 7,000 tricycle drivers in the city to ensure their safety and the safety of their passengers.

Those who were infected are now under isolation in the city’s quarantine facility while waiting for the confirmatory tests using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test.

“Nagko contact tracing pa ho kami kasi scattered po ito eh. Hindi po ito kasi by area. So mina-map out pa po namin kung saan sila marami (We are doing contact tracing because these are scattered. It is not just in one area. So we are mapping out where the most number of cases are),” said Dr. Alexander Sta, Maria of the city health office.

The LGU, meanwhile, clarified that the increase in the number of confirmed cases in the city is a result of the mass testing which allowed for the immediate tracking of COVID-19 probable patients and their prompt isolation to curb further spread.

“This is coordinated kasi meron po tayong in-charge sa buong TODA. Then before po ito ni-launch, na-meeting po ang lahat ng presidente ng kanilang mga TODA so binigyan po sila ng schedule (This is a coordinated effort. There is someone in charge of the whole TODA. Before this was launched, we held a meeting with their respective presidents and all of them were given a schedule),” Sta. Maria added.

The city government will test jeepney drivers next once the tests among tricycle drivers is completed. MNP (with reports from Vincent Arboleda)

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