Visitors at one tourist destination in China no longer need to carry around tickets, stamps, or IDs to get into the park. Just their face is fine. The popular water town of Wuzhen recently upgraded its ticketing system so it now uses facial recognition technology at entry ways to verify whether people can enter.
Millions of visitors come to Wuzhen each year to view the historic buildings and meander through over bridges and on the waterways. With the new technology, cameras at the gateways into the attraction will take pictures of the guests and check the photo against a database of registered visitors. Verification takes place in a matter of seconds and is more accurate than human judgement.
Baidu, a Chinese web firm often referred to as Chinese Google, created the recognition software using neural network technology and licenses it to the park. Other than Wuzhen, the tech firm also employs the software at their Beijing headquarters to let employees in and out.
Wuzhen was previously using a fingerprint identification system to manage entry to the attractions but this took too long and caused lengthy lines. Before that, it used a ticketing system but this allowed visitors to abuse the system and share tickets.
And Baidu plans to let its partners use the technology in other ways, Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng told CNNMoney. One partner is already working on using it to let people enter their home in lieu of using a physical key, which would be a pretty convenient feature for anyone renting their property out on Airbnb to let new guests gain entry.
Machine learning to recognize faces has many potential applications and it’s even finding some use in the field of criminal investigation. The FBI has been working on gaining access to faces from over four-hundred million images taken from passport, driver’s license, and visa databases in 16 states.
But the endeavor is also raising concerns around data privacy as well as security. Because while having a vast trove of faces stored in the cloud is still a bit daunting even if it aids criminal investigations and gets us into tourist attractions faster.