Police station in China is replacing cops with AI and face scanners

10 Nov 2017

Image: chinahbzyg/Shutterstock

A police station under construction in China is doing away with human police in favour of a station staffed by AI.

The next time a citizen in the Chinese city of Wuhan needs some help from the police, there’s a good chance that they will not be dealing with a human but, rather, artificial intelligence (AI).

Construction on a human-free police station is underway in the city, and could be the first of many across the country.

The blog Radii quoted the Chinese newspaper Caijing Neican as saying: “Police stations are crucial state organs of power. Public security enforcement is the most important social service provided by the government.

“But today, they are also changing and advancing with the times! The light of AI has begun to shine on this area.”

So, how will the police station actually work?

By teaming up with Chinese digital media giant Tencent, the station will be rigged with facial-recognition technology, with a particular focus on helping people to sort out their car-related matters, such as renewing a driver’s licence or doing a simulated driving test.

The newspaper report added: “No need for ID cards or photos, no need to run around filling out forms or certificates, no need to prove ‘I am me’ – the facial scan is enough.”

Once the station has opened, it will run 24/7 to meet the demands of its citizens.

China’s love of facial-recognition tech

Facial-recognition technology is experiencing a massive boom in China of late with companies introducing it to different commercial sectors.

Earlier this year, Alibaba’s financial arm, Alipay, revealed its collaboration with fast-food chain KFC to test its Smile to Pay system.

Alipay users can authenticate their payments through a combination of facial scanning and inputting their mobile phone numbers.

Using a “live-ness detection algorithm”, the user’s identity is found in the database and is then analysed for shadows and other features that can only come from living beings.

This, it said, prevents someone using videos or photos in an attempt to hijack a person’s Alipay account.

The country’s government is also very keen to develop facial-recognition technology, with a project already underway to build a database of its 1bn-plus citizens.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic