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News & Events

HI-TECH cameras that can scan crowds for terrorists and shoplifters have beaten a trained Scotland Yard “spotter” in a unique test.

The facial recognition cameras picked out four out of six “faces” in a crowded station concourse but the human eye only spotted two of them. The trial, for the BBC Inside Out London current affairs programme, will be screened tonight on BBC 1 at 7.30pm. Producers set up the test to examine the reliability of new CCTV computer software that can check 25,000 faces a second from a database of suspects. The reliability of the new technology has been questioned in the past but is increasingly being used daily in areas such as airport security.

Now makers of a new system called Face Alert say it has produced 98 per cent accuracy scores on moving targets in trials. BBC researchers pitted the system against Idris Bada, a civilian detention officer at Charing Cross police station who is one of a squad with exceptional memories for faces recruited to a team to identify the London rioters.

Mr Bada was given five minutes to memorise 30 faces before six of the subjects mingled with crowds at Charing Cross railway station and walked past a fixed point. The Met expert was able to pick out Terrorists picked out in a crowd by cameras that can beat human eye

Scan: the software analyses the measurements of people’s faces two while the Face Alert camera spotted four. Tim Noest, the managing director of Lodge Service Intelligence which makes Face Alert, said two of the faces were obscured by crowds.

He said: “Facial recognition systems have not been accurate in the past but
this system is.” The system alerts clients to a suspect with a text to their phone. Mr Noest said the Face Alert software was now on trial in “60 per cent” of high street stores in Britain and in one major supermarket chain.

Det Chief Insp Mick Neville, who is in charge of the Met’s CCTV unit hunting the rioters, said the test was “not completely fair” because humans also check how people walk and dress. He said the technology was being used to search for rioters but had limited value so far.

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