A UK first: Police arrest suspect thanks to facial recognition tech

7 Jun 2017

Image: CLICKMANIS/Shutterstock

Police in Wales have reportedly arrested someone after using facial recognition software, in what is a first in the UK.

Welsh police have been dabbling in facial recognition software over the past few months, with a major project to trial two versions of the software currently under way.

Used at the Champions League final in Cardiff on 3 June, the police tested real-time facial recognition software through crowds.

A separate test of slow-time, static face searching was deployed across 500,000 custody images stored in the force’s record system.

Quick results

The results have been swift, with a person reportedly arrested thanks to this technology. This is a first for the UK police force.

According to Wales Online, the arrest was made one week ago, and it was not related to the Champions League final. Arstechnica quotes police sources as confirming an arrest.

Police vehicles were spotted around Cardiff with ‘facial recognition’ labels visible.

“While early indications are proving positive, we will continue to develop our understanding of its capabilities and its limitations,” said the police in a statement.

“South Wales Police has made significant progress in the development of its technology in the past 18 months, and that work is only set to continue as we strive to ensure we arm our officers with the very best technology commercially available – providing the public benefit is both proven and justifiable.”


Facial recognition, and indeed any biometric technology, is under intense scrutiny these days as software and devices advance faster than legislators can keep up.

Last month, it emerged that Dubai’s police force has recruited its latest member: a robot police officer. Weighing in at 100kg and measuring 170cm in height, the robot will patrol the city’s streets, offering advice to those who need it.

The robot’s hardware will enable it to scan a person’s face to determine their emotions from up to 1.5 metres away, then change its mood accordingly to help them.

In the event of a crime, its facial recognition software will record a criminal’s face and live-stream it back to police headquarters.

Reduce friction

Beyond policing the streets, the technology is spreading into other aspects of life. Delta and Jet Blue airlines, for example, are pushing towards fingerprint, iris or face recognition software for traveller IDs.

Both are testing various formats to utilise the latest in recognition software, again with a view to a company-wide, and therefore international, roll out.

“We hope to learn how we can further reduce friction points in the airport experience, with the boarding process being one of the hardest to solve,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president for customer experience.

In a more commercial sense, Nest Labs, the company behind the popular smart thermostat product of recent years, is getting involved too.

It now wants to bring greater security to your house, adding parent company Google’s facial recognition technology to a high-resolution home security camera.

This means that the Nest Cam IQ, unveiled last month, will theoretically know who you are, distinguishing you from strangers.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic