Chinese facial recognition is perhaps the world’s most active laboratory for the biometric technology, and recent weeks have brought even more developments for that authentication method. All of this happening against the backdrop of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, which is, for the moment at least, hampering some facial recognition efforts in that country.
Companies such as ZTE, Dahua and China Telecom are among those proposing new international standards in the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for facial recognition, video monitoring, city and vehicle surveillance
For starters, China recently enacted a policy that mandates that consumers undergo facial recognition scans in order to open new mobile phone accounts, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Previously, consumers were required only to verify their identities via their state-issued ID cards. Officially, the reason for the change, at least according to Chinese authorities, is to reduce fraud, including the sale of illegal mobile phone cards.
Chinese facial recognition: A global standard?
As the country’s three main telecom providers put that mobile phone plan into action, other technology players in China are moving to support the creation of better standards for facial recognition. The main thinking behind that effort is that such guidelines could enable China to gain an edge when it comes to setting global facial recognition standards. That, in turn, could give China’s own proprietary facial recognition technology a leg up and lead to increased global sales and deployments.
“Companies such as ZTE, Dahua and China Telecom are among those proposing new international standards — specifications aimed at creating universally consistent technology — in the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for facial recognition, video monitoring, city and vehicle surveillance,” according to a report in the Financial Times. The report added that some 200 countries are part of the ITU, and that its standards “are commonly adopted as policy by developing nations in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the Chinese government has agreed to supply infrastructure and surveillance tech under its Belt and Road Initiative,” a large-scale global economic development program from China.
As the report noted, North America and Europe tend to follow guides set by other standards bodies. As well, China has already started to sell facial recognition and related technology to such countries as Uganda and South Africa. “Similarly, the Singapore government plans to install facial recognition cameras on its lampposts, a contract that Chinese start-up Yitu has bid for,” the report said.
As China seeks to boosts its use and deployments of facial recognition technology, a public health crisis is putting such efforts to the test, at least temporarily. As authorities there try to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the wearing of face masks has become mandatory in at least some provinces. That has hampered the effectiveness of facial recognition authentication systems, which are used for a variety of tasks, including building and bank account access. Even so, that seems a relative blip on the larger movement toward more facial recognition power on the part of China.