China's AI firm takes big leap, develops technology to scan 2 billion people at one go

China's Yitu Technologies has an AI that can recognise faces, catch criminals, record people's movements and taker them to desired locations without pressing a button.

Iron Man's Jarvis Twitter/Frikicast

If you're an employee at China's Yitu Technologies, you must be used to working in an Iron Man-like world where machines around you are smarter and more efficient than you can ever be.

The Artificial Intelligence (AI) that controls the office has facial recognition capability encompassing 1.8 billion faces. It has also helped to catch criminals in China. AI will create more change in the world than the industrial revolution put together, said Zhu Long, Yitu Technologies' co-founder.

His statement is evident in his company's headquarters where the elevators work by reading employees' passcards automatically and dropping them on their respective floors, without even having to press a button.

The surveillance cameras in the office keep track of where everyone is going and what everyone is doing. Even better, if you stare at a large screen in the company open space, videos of your recent movements in the office will start playing on the screen.

"Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds which would have been unbelievable just three years ago," said Long in an interview to South China Morning Post.

Yitu's Gragonfly Eye recognises faces, tracks people's movements and records their activities. Such an intelligent AI system was not thought of even a few years ago, and it existed only in sci-fi movies, like Iron Man and his J.A.R.V.I.S.

The generic platform of the company has 1.8 billion photographs, including people in the national database and those who have visited China recently.

Although Yitu refused to disclose whether Hong Kong citizens are in their database, it has been revealed that 320 million photographs come from China's borders, ports and airports, where foreigners are visible.

An employee works at Shanghai Shentong Metro Group's comprehensive operation coordination center in Shanghai
Representational picture of Shanghai metro survelliance Reuters

Currently, the Dragonfly Eye is used by more than 20 provincial public security departments, 150 municipal public security systems and various public events like the Qingdao International Beer Festival. It caught a criminal in the Shanghai Metro on the first day of its implementation. It has a record of catching 567 lawbreakers in six months.

It has been reported that this AI has reduced pickpocketing in Xiamen's buses by 30 percent. "Let's say that we live in Shanghai, a city of 24 million people. It's challenging for the government to police such a large population. And it would be impossible without technology. Even when we have many cameras installed, it's a hard task. You can't watch all the videos, and doing a search is very time- consuming and requires too many resources to get meaningful results from such a huge amount of data. But artificial intelligence can do it easily, and by using existing infrastructure," explains Long.

In addition to criminal security, AI has also advanced in the fields of healthcare and finance. Its diagnostic system, AICARE can analyse CT, X-ray and MRI scans in seconds to give accurate results in Triple-A hospitals of China.

A woman withdraws money from an ATM machine in Nice
Representational image of an ATM machine Reuters

This technology can also be used to recognise people in ATMs without them swiping cards. The face of the customer and his pin number would be enough to carry out transactions, providing two layers of security to prevent malpractices.

"Our algorithm is more accurate than customs officials at telling whether two images show the same person. It can even find a subject among millions of others using a 25 or 30-year-old image. And in the past two years, the performance of machines has increased by 1,000 times," assures Long.

Related topics : Artificial intelligence