Japan to test intelligent facial-recognition CCTV in Tokyo rail station

Published 2 May 2006

Japan to test intelligent CCTV at rail stations in Tokyo: Faces of passengers at the station will be run against a database of wanted criminals and terrorists

Japan’s transport ministry affiliate will begin testing a new video monitoring system developed by NTT Communications that can detect designated people among passengers by analyzing their facial features. The test will be conducted at a central Tokyo subway station. The Institution for Transport Policy Studies will conduct the experiment for one hour every weekday from 1 May to 19 May at a designated ticket gate at Kasumigaseki Station. To assuage privacy concerns, the test will involve only selected staff and no private passengers.

The system is designed to issue an alert if the video monitor detects a person with facial features matching those of a person on a specified list, such as a list of criminal suspects compiled by the police or of condominium residents for checking building entrants. The system analyses the position of the nose and eyes as well as features of the skin from a video capture of the face. The system can check one person against a list of 10,000 people per second.

Jiro Hanyu, vice chairman of the institution, said, “Apart from whether it is actually going to be introduced or not, it is necessary to develop such technology. The experiment is also intended to promote discussions on the issue of public safety and privacy.”

The institution plans to analyze the outcome of the experiment in July and report it to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry and other related parties.