Facial recognition: Coming to a gadget near you

A giant KIA video screen advertises facial recognition in prototype vehicles as patrons walk past at CES International Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Facial recognition: Coming to a gadget near you

  • Carmakers at CES were showing how facial recognition could improve and personalize the travel experience through music, entertainment and other preferences
  • Carriere said retailers can customize ads on digital signs by using this technology — so a teenage girl might not see the same message as an elderly man

LAS VEGAS: Imagine walking into a store where a robot greets you by name, lets you know that your online order is ready, and then suggests other products you might want pick up.
Facial recognition is making that possible as the technology gains traction in a range of consumer products, automobiles, and retail and hotel services, in addition to its longstanding but controversial use in law enforcement and security.
At the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, exhibitors pointed to how facial recognition may be used to “personalize” experiences and enhance personal security.
While facial recognition has been on smartphones for some time, some newer uses include in care and entry systems for homes and offices, along with retail applications.
SoftBank Robotics chief strategy officer Steve Carlin, who showed CES attendees how the company’s Pepper robot could offer retail customers personalized attention, said the technology could also be used in hotels where an automated system could deliver a customized experience to a regular client.
“They should be able to say ‘Welcome back, you don’t need to stand in line, we’ve already checked you in and we’ve sent the key to your phone,’” Carlin said.
Carmakers at CES were showing how facial recognition could improve and personalize the travel experience through music, entertainment and other preferences.
Abe Chen of the Chinese-based auto startup Byton said its vehicle, set to launch later this year, would be able to make useful recommendations based on facial recognition.
“It knows who is in the car, how long you’ve been on the road and what you like to eat, so it could make a restaurant recommendation,” Chen told a CES presentation.
Richard Carriere of the Taiwan-based tech firm Cyberlink said the firm’s new facial recognition being shown at CES is “very precise” and is being offered for retail, home and law enforcement applications.
Carriere said retailers can customize ads on digital signs by using this technology — so a teenage girl might not see the same message as an elderly man.
“If someone walks into a store, based on gender or facial expression or age group we can customize what shows up in the signage,” he told AFP.
Other startups were integrating facial recognition into home doorbells or security systems, enabling family members and friends to gain entry while alerting homeowners about potentially suspicious people.
“This is one more element of autonomy in your intelligent home,” said Bill Hensley of the security firm Nortek, who showed how its new Elan system can easily let people in and then customize the home environment.
Chinese startup Tuya introduced its AI video doorbell using real-time facial recognition to identify family members, friends, couriers, property managers and even pets, and to create a “whitelist” of accepted people.
“You will be able to give people a one-time pass, and you can talk with them over a video connection,” said Tuya sales chief Sandy Scott of the device, which is to go on sale later this year.
Scott said the device could be used in assisted living homes to limit entries of unknown people, and also recognize if someone with dementia is wandering off. It stores data on the device to reduce risks of data leakage.
Other CES exhibitors including Procter & Gamble were demonstrating the use of facial recognition to enable customers to personalize skin care treatments.
Even as the uses for facial recognition grow, the technology remains controversial, especially regarding law enforcement building up databases.
Some critics worry about the accuracy of the technology and whether it means more kinds of surveillance and tracking.
Retailers and other firms “may already have every data point about me except my face,” Brenda Leong of the Future of Privacy Forum in Washington said.
“So you wonder, what is the value added?“
Equating the technology to online tracking, she said facial recognition means “your face as a cookie,” the tracking files used by online data collectors.
A Brookings Institution survey earlier this year found 50 percent of respondents opposed facial recognition software in retail stores to prevent theft, and 44 percent said using this software in airports to establish identity was unfavorable.
A different survey released this week by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation offered different results, finding just 26 percent want the government to strictly limit facial recognition, and 20 percent support limits on facial recognition if it would mean airports cannot use it to speed up security lines
“People are often suspicious of new technologies, but in this case, they seem to have warmed up to facial recognition technology quite quickly,” said Daniel Castro of ITIF.


Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

Updated 20 March 2019
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Saudi ICT sector holds key to growth, forum told

  • 5G will be used in 30% of big cities in Saudi Arabia by 2020
  • 90% of KSA has 4G technology coverage, including remote centers and villages

RIYADH: Information and communications technology (ICT) is one of the main drivers of development in today’s world, a Riyadh forum on “Digital Transformation for an Ambitious Country” has been told.

In his opening speech to the annual Communications and Information Technology Indicators Forum, Abdul Aziz Al-Ruwais, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission, said the ICT sector stimulated productivity, enhanced competitiveness and encouraged innovation.

On Wednesday, the Saudi minister of communications and information technology, Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha, joined regional and global leaders in the ICT sector, telecom executives and government officials at the forum.

Al-Ruwais said that ICT has been used to “develop strategies and regulatory policies that can guarantee the availability of infrastructure, basic apparatus and services in all regions of the Kingdom.”

“In order to facilitate the mission of researchers, experts and those interested in telecommunication services indicators, the Communications and Information Technology Commission established an electronic platform that allows the user to have access to indicators and statistics related to the sector. This platform enables the user to view the indicators in the form of tables and detailed graphs,” he said.

Al-Ruwais said the commission has achieved 90 percent coverage of 4G technologies in the Kingdom, including remote centers and villages.

He said the authority has issued temporary licenses for fifth-generation networks, equipping 153 sites with 5G in nine cities. So far, 680 trials were conducted for 5G.

He said that ICT services achieved high indicators during the 2017 Hajj season, with local and international calls totaling 439 million through 16,000 base stations.

Mufarreh Nahari, director of Market Studies at CITC, said: “It is expected that by 2020 the experimental uses of 5G will be fully completed and they will be ready to launch the official 5G sim by then. By the end of 2020 we expect that 5G will be used in 30 percent of the big cities in Saudi Arabia.”

The past three years have seen an increase in internet usage. In 2018, two-thirds of Internet users in the Kingdom used the internet for more than four hours a day, said Nahari.

Ammar Al-Ansari, department head of Country Digital Acceleration at Cisco, said: “The agreements signed by the crown prince during his overseas visits led to the introduction of a number of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques, including virtual schools and smart classrooms.” 

Seven schools in Saudi have a live stream for teachers to connect with their students. They may be 250 km to 300 km apart, but an active learning session takes place between students and educators.

Al-Ansari displayed a video from a teacher in Jeddah giving lessons to students in the northern region via a smart board. AI was used to monitor and analyze students’ attention spans. 

The analysis will help educators update traditional teaching methods.