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NZ Police prepares for face recognition

The New Zealand Police force is gearing up to use face recognition technology for fighting crime and identifying suspects.Groundwork for the use of facial recognition is being laid with the department replacing its existing image management system, which has been in use since 1997.
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Written by Rob O'Neill on

The New Zealand Police force is gearing up to use face recognition technology for fighting crime and identifying suspects.

Groundwork for the use of facial recognition is being laid with the department replacing its existing image management system, which has been in use since 1997.

The new system will interface with the core National Intelligence Application, allowing the production of formal photo line-ups and also interface with firearms licensing systems.

However, the tender documents also specify it must be able to support advanced suspect identification using facial recognition, among other functionality.

Police were not prepared to comment on the project apart from supplying the tender documents and a list of pre-prepared questions and answers.

Those documents reveal the department intends to introduce biometric face identification as Phase 2 of its systems redevelopment.

"The most significant benefit of this technology is to allow NZ Police to utilise proven biometric facial recognition software to identify possible suspects from images of unknown offenders," the document said, adding that it is not proposing to use the system for biometric identity verification which will continue to be based on the Police's LiveScan fingerprinting system.

While the tender is primarily for Phase one of the project (the replacement of the department's image management technology), separate pricing is requested for the optional Phase two.

The documents also reveal the functionality sought in any biometric face recognition system, categorised as "mandatory" and "desirable".

Mandatory functionality includes the ability to match any newly acquired or existing image with an offender database; easy to use manual or automated "anchoring" to ensure the recognition algorithm is correctly applied; and the ability to select any matched image and display it with any associated metadata.

Facial recognition systems typically compare features from a live person or from an image with those held in a facial database. Some early deployments of the technology in the US and UK have been notable failures.

Facial recognition systems are, however, developing rapidly, with new technologies and algorithms emerging constantly.

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