If you have seen web shows like Black Mirror or Person of Interest, you will be well aware that a dystopian future is knocking on our doors.
The ability to track people from afar has become the hallmark of surveillance in China, and people seem to have gotten used to it.
And India is looking to follow China’s formula, with cameras set up everywhere to detect people with devious intentions or looking to cause harm. There’s even talk of cameras at railway stations to track theft cases.
At the India Mobile Congress, we got a chance to speak with startups and technology giants who’re keen on bringing the feature to our shores, and by the looks of it, the country’s government is more than keen to adopt it.
While 5G was the big talk of the event, the use of high-speed internet could instigate use of facial recognition. Startups like Radisys and Staqu have been laying the groundwork with projects abroad.
The first-of-its-kind pilot test has taken place at the Bengaluru International airport, where a company called Vision-Box has set up the feature to offer paperless travelling to fliers. Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) CEO talked about the use of the feature and was quick to point out its convenience, stating that “your face is your boarding pass”.
Radisys has no intentions of going to airports for now, but the company is looking to stamp its facial mark in the country, eyeing the smart cities ecosystem. It got me tracked via its camera, and relying on limited bandwidth they fed my details post capturing my image on screen.
“Surveillance will not be part of our setup and we’ll inform the clients that any such practice will not be part of its business strategy, a company executive said. It’s easy to go on face value, but with Reliance Industries planning to buy it, the whole equation for Radisys could change.
Then you have a telecom giant like Huawei, which was part of the IMC 2018 and showcased its repertoire of products to track down people. It helps that Huawei’s already a big name in the Chinese market, but would that raise concerns for the security of India? That’s hard to tell for now.
The company demonstrated its facial tracking camera connected to software that gets real-time data on people, including their demographics, facial imprints and other features.
Radisys was mostly focused on running a real-time camera to track people, objects or even quantify stocks inside a store, without storing or capturing images and will erase data after every six hours.
Huawei, on the other hand, seems to have a strong focus on surveillance, which could delight the Indian government, but the public is bound to feel concerned. It has designed a product that claims to detect and track 100 people simultaneously.
After all, unlike China, India is a democratic country, and the right to privacy is a fundamental law that’s worth revisiting if such experiments become reality. This brings us to Staqu, which has created smart glasses that can actually track and identify people on the road.
The company used this device with ABHED (Artificial intelligence Based Human Efface Detection,) which enabled police forces to digitise criminal and missing persons’ records. They held a successful pilot program with the Alwar Police Department (Rajasthan), and worked with state-level police forces in Punjab and Uttarakhand.
The idea is noble and very few would argue with the use of it. However, this is 2018 and people tend to make use of technology like this for nefarious purposes and that’s a worry which is unlikely to subside anytime soon. And yes, reliance on Aadhaar data may also be intertwined in the broader picture of this technology.
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