(NEW SCIENTIST) — Who needs tickets when you have a face? From today, the ticketed tourist town of Wuzhen in China is using face-recognition technology to identify people staying in its hotels and to act as their entry pass through the gates of the attraction.
The system, which is expected to process 5000 visitors a day, has been created by web giant Baidu – often referred to as the “Chinese Google”.
Wuzhen is a historic town that has been turned into a tourist attraction with museums, tours and traditional crafts. When people check in to hotels in the tourist area, they will now have their pictures taken and uploaded to a central database. If they leave and re-enter the town, the face-recognition software will check that they are actually a guest of a hotel there before allowing them back in.
Previously, multiple types of entry ticket had to be handed out to distinguish between one-off visitors and those staying for longer. But the system could easily be exploited, and some guests were caught sharing their tickets with other people to avoid paying the entry fee.
To prevent this, the town started to use fingerprint identification for hotel guests, so only one individual could use each entry pass. “But this took too long,” says Yuanqing Lin, director of the Institute of Deep Learning at Baidu.
Asking visitors to put their finger on a sensor and wait for software to verify their identity caused big queues and often resulted in false positives. The new face-recognition system uses cameras to spot people as they approach a turnstile at the entry. Faces detected by the cameras are checked against a database of registered visitors, all within a second. If you’re on the database, you’re allowed in; if not, the doors remain closed.
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