Criminals face instant ID check

A system allowing police to identify villains at the click of a mobile phone button has been unveiled in the US.

A system allowing police to identify villains at the click of a mobile phone button has been unveiled in the US.

Faceit uses facial recognition technology to instantly check the faces of suspects against mugshots of thousands of known criminals held on a central database.

Using a miniature camera mounted on their mobile phone, police and other law enforcement officials working in the field can ‘snap’ faces and transmit the image for processing.

The system automatically sends back an alert and an electronic version of the stored mugshot if a match occurs, allowing the officer at the scene to decide what further action to take.

Faceit works by analysing 80 elements of the face, including the bone structure around the eyes, nose and cheeks. According to biometrics specialist Visionics, which developed the system, recognition is unaffected by changes to appearance caused by beards or new hairstyles and can correctly match faces after they have aged by up to 15 years.

Tests of the system at Fresno Yosemite Airport in California correctly spotted 80 per cent of stored faces and generated a false alarm once in every 500 uses, said the company.

The new mobile application of the technology is the latest extension to the Faceit recognition technology developed by Visionics over the past 18 months. It is a joint venture between Visionics, telecoms giant Motorola and Wirehound, a software developer. It is currently being tested by an unnamed US law enforcement agency.Wirehound spokesman Steve Potell said it would probably most commonly be used during routine stop and searches by police.

‘Ninety per cent of the bad guys caught in the US are pulled over by police during traffic checks,’ said Potell. He said the system could warn the officer at the scene if the suspect was considered dangerous and automatically alert nearby colleagues that help may be needed.

Potell said future upgrades may incorporate GPS satellite technology to lock on to the officer involved in the incident, allowing them to be tracked if they head off in pursuit of a suspect.

Facial recognition is one of a range of uses of biometrics, the analysis of unchangeable human characteristics, currently being developed to fight crime.

UK police have already used facial recognition technology in a bid to identify the perpetrators and victims of sexual abuse transmitted on the internet.