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In Istanbul, Cameras To Recognize 15,000 Faces/sec. 221

An anonymous reader writes "Istanbul's popular (and crowded) Istiklal shopping, cafe, and restaurant street is being outfitted with 64 wirelessly controlled, tamper-proof face-recognition cameras attached to a computer system capable of scanning 15,000 faces per second in a moving crowd for a positive match. The link from Samanyolu, badly translated by Google, states that 3 cameras are in place so far and that if trials are successful, this will mark the first time such a system, previously used by Scotland Yard and normally reserved for indoor security use, will be put to use in a public outdoor setting. It also notes that each camera controlled by the system is capable of 'locking onto' the faces of known criminals and pickpockets detected in the crowd and 'tracking' their movements for up to 300 meters before the next, closer placed camera takes over." Hit the link for more of this reader's background on the growing electronic encroachment on privacy in this city, which will be the European Capital of Culture in 2010, causing him to ask, "Is the historic city of Istanbul turning into the new London?"

While the article doesn't state it outright, it would appear likely that the outdoor face recognition system, if "successful," will be expanded to other crowded areas of Istanbul as well, which has already seen a dazzling increase in the number of installed plain-vanilla (non face-recognizing) CCTV cameras in recent years. This comes after Istanbul's two signature Bosphorus bridges have become passable only by vehicles with a mandatory vehicle windscreen-mounted electronic pass, subway and bus tickets in the city have gone electronic, vote tallying in municipal and national elections has become fully computerized, and future plans for mandatory biometric ID cards for all Turkish citizens have been announced by the government.

The ruling "moderate Islamist" AKP party appears to frame these and other e-government initiatives as "keeping step with the times," "keeping step with other major world cities," and "making living safer, easier and more efficient through the targeted use of electronic technology." Its secular critics, on the other hand, argue that everything and everyone under the sun is rapidly becoming electronically trackable thanks to the omnipresence of mobile phones and gratuitous overuse of these installed electronic systems, and that these systems will, eventually, form a dense surveillance grid that could turn daily life for Turks (and secular Turks critical of the current government in particular) into living in a veritable Big Brother House.
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In Istanbul, Cameras To Recognize 15,000 Faces/sec.

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  • afaik (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 24, 2009 @08:40PM (#28079009)

      - less effective than promised
      - doesn't reduce serious crimes like assault
      - doesn't reduce, but shift crime scenes to other areas
      - less effective than more light, more policemen, ...
      - more expensive than more light, more policemen, ...
      - often not working, tech staff admits ...

  • Re:Oh really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tnnn ( 1035022 ) <(tnnn) (at) (> on Sunday May 24, 2009 @08:43PM (#28079041)
    I believe that those 64 cameras are connected to a system capable of scanning 15000 faces total - not 15000 from each camera. 15000/64 gives us about 235 faces per camera which is quite possible when using high resolution wide-angle cameras. Besides think about the future - you can easily double the amount of cameras and the system will still work without any upgrades.
  • Re:Say what again? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 24, 2009 @08:53PM (#28079095)
    It's not an oxymoron, moron.
  • by Assmasher ( 456699 ) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @09:01PM (#28079125) Journal

    ...the phrase 15,000 faces per second is just an example of sensationalistic journalism.

    There is a minimum input size for the identification of a 'face' dependent upon aspect and the focal length of the camera in question (amongst many other factors such as radial distortion due to the lens, whether the lens is shielded, lighting, et cetera); ergo, the camera in question, at a given focal length, could contain a field of view large enough and the resolution is high enough to meet 15,000 x the absolute mimimal pixel input for a 'face.' The processing for systems of this type (although I don't recall if it applies to this particular system) is tileable and accounts for boundary conditions (a 'face' falls on up to 4 tiles); therefore, the processing is highly parallel in nature. Most likely they meant that with the maximum cameras in place, given their proposed resolutions and fields of view, if they had unlimited computing power they'd theoretically be able to process 15,000 faces each second.

    Solving a computer vision problem like this turns out to be highly hierarchical; i.e. a large number of computers process the incoming camera frames for optical flow, multigaussian motion detecxtion, edge detection, --insert motion map generating algorithm here--, these motion maps are shuttled to a second tier of systems who perform basic pattern recognition in order to discern probable aspect, reference points, and other forms of meta data. This tier can, if given a profile, apply discriminatory filters to sort the wehat from the 'chaff.' These 'probables' are then passed to the highest tier of systems who process this (hopefully) much smaller number of 'faces' using things such as color-space normalization from the original image, the motion map, and all the associated method data that has been generated along the way.

    Luckily, most of the large companies working in these sorts of field are capable of producing crude prototypes; but, oddly enough, quality software engineers tend to be scarce amongst security companies. It is the startups and smaller companies (such as those found in Israel) that approach these types of problems with the flexibility to lead to some seriously scary big brother stuff.

  • Re:Oh really? (Score:1, Informative)

    by SilverHatHacker ( 1381259 ) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @09:14PM (#28079203)
    Byzantium. Byzantine is an adjective.
  • This explains it! (Score:4, Informative)

    by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Sunday May 24, 2009 @09:43PM (#28079341)

    Istanbul was Constantinople
    Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

    Every gal in Constantinople
    Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
    So if you've a date in Constantinople
    She'll be waiting in Istanbul

    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
    Why they changed it I can't say
    People just liked it better that way

    So take me back to Constantinople
    No, you can't go back to Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Turks

    Istanbul (Istanbul)
    Istanbul (Istanbul)

    Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
    Why they changed it I can't say
    People just liked it better that way

    Istanbul was Constantinople
    Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Turks

    So take me back to Constantinople
    No, you can't go back to Constantinople
    Been a long time gone, Constantinople
    Why did Constantinople get the works?
    That's nobody's business but the Turks


  • by yog ( 19073 ) * on Sunday May 24, 2009 @11:09PM (#28079757) Homepage Journal

    Well, the London underground CCTV cameras helped them identify [] the subway bombers and locate their helpers and arms stashes. I don't know if even this heinous a crime merits losing one's anonymity, but it proves that such technology can help the good guys when applied correctly.

    As someone above pointed out, however, it's questionable that the Turkish government is benevolent enough to use this technology wisely and correctly. It's doubtful that any government can, actually.

    But, if you were to ask me whether I would sacrifice my life and/or my loved ones in the name of freedom, I would probably say no, go ahead and mount the cameras. I'd rather live.

  • by jo42 ( 227475 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @12:06AM (#28080017) Homepage

    Just wear a traditional burqa []. Problem solved.

  • Re:Sunnah says: (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @01:23AM (#28080287)

    Complete and utter nonsense. Turkey has been a Secular, Western-style Republic since it was founded along these lines by Kemal Ataturk in 1923. Secular meaning "separation of church and state" or, if you like, "government is run on rational policymaking vs religious dogma".

    The leadership of the Turkish Military is NOT "dominated by local Jews". It is composed of Muslim Turks following the modernity principles set out by Kemal Ataturk. Jews are a tiny minority in Turkey at best, with little influence in the political realm.

    And the Turkish population is not nearly as "religious" as you state. The last election showed the electorate split 50/50 between the ruling conservative and alternative secular parties.

    The country is currently deeply polarized between Turks who want to maintain the secular, Western-style Republic and Turks who want to see Ataturk's Republic give way to a more conservative theocratic style of living.

  • by Rick Bentley ( 988595 ) on Monday May 25, 2009 @01:24AM (#28080291) Homepage
    ...and this is sensationalism, there is no good way to process 15,000 faces/second.

    Here's how it works in the real world:
    1) Face recognition demos well with small data sets. When you set it up on a conference room and scan everyone's face in the meeting, and then have each subject re-approach the camera, it works great. Note that the each subject in this demo is in the same lighting and didn't grow a mustache in the last 5min -- and there were only ~10 people in the data set. The real world is very different. A 15,000 subject data set is very very different.

    2) When you set up a camera to scan for faces you need a lot of pixels in a head-on portrait type of shot. 640x480 is actually still pretty high resolution for a camera (there are some 8 megapixel ones but they are rare and they generate so much data that it quickly gets hard to switch and store that much data, even locally). Still, you'll need most of those 640 pixels wide in order to get a good shot of a face -- esp. if you're going to run that face against a large data set.

    3) So, if you had 15,000 640x480 cameras, they'd still have to be setup in front of 15,000 turnstiles, or some other kind of crowd control device, for you to know that you're going to get a good face shot AND people would have to be moving through those turnstiles at 1 person/second. Picking faces out of a crowd? Not going to happen. You'd at least need PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom cameras) with face finding/tracking/grabbing algorithm to even try ... and those algorithms tend to get confused easily (the one on our test bench, from a very large company that does a lot of government sales, tries to chase shadows from the ceiling fan, inevitably follows them to the corner and never sees anything useful again until someone manually overrides it).

    The closest centralized face-tracking technology is from a company called 3VR [], they are used by banks to spot known bad-check writers at the bank counter (when someone cashes a bad check, they will use a different name/account/ID but they still show up with the same face). It works okay, better than nothing at least, but they can tolerate a lot of false-positives and just slow pay them or ask for a 2nd form of ID or whatever.

    The company I started, Connexed [], centralizes video from a lot of cameras, but I can say definitively that there is no tool on the market that will process 15,000 faces per second, no matter how much money you throw at it, and do anything useful other than trigger a flood of false-positive ID's faster than humans can process. You could always try to set the algorithm for maximum false-negatives (let a lot of bad guys get by) and minimum false-positives but even then, unless you have some way to get 15,000 people/second to look directly into a camera under good lighting, you're not going to have anything useful happen.

    I'm sure it demo'd well, though, and the vendor got a good chunk of money for the trial that will ultimately fail.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 25, 2009 @04:27AM (#28081015)

    These systems are being put in place in every major city around the western world. The limiting factor in the speed of implementation is cost, but it's coming.

    Don't expect your politicians to slow implementation down - they want to control your lives; that's why they're politicians.

    Tell me, at what point during the discussions, planning and implementation of the countrywide system to track number plates around the UK did your elected representative ask you what you thought about the plan? They had almost twenty years as the system was put together piece by piece, to ask you.

    Either they didn't know about it, or they didn't care to ask you.

    Istanbul. Very funny. Better start looking at Guildford, Shepherd's Bush, Oxford Street, Southampton... every motorway junction...

  • If its a paradise as you say, why are you posting as an Anonymous Coward?
    Let me quote from Economist a few facts:

    Almost since it first came to power in 2002, Mr Erdogan's mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) Party has been under attack from Turkey's secular Ataturkist establishment, particularly the generals.

    located in []

    The generals and their allies believe that nothing less than the future of Ataturk's secular republic is at stake. Similar rumblings were heard when the now defunct pro-Islamic Welfare party first came to power in 1996. It was ejected a year later in a bloodless "velvet coup" and banned on similar charges to those now levelled at the AKP. But with each intervention the Islamists come back stronger.

    Located at []

    Pressed for evidence of creeping Islamisation under the AKP, they point to the growing number of women who wear the headscarf, which is proscribed as a symbol of Islamic militancy in state-run institutions and schools.

    The battle for Turkey's soul is being waged most fiercely in the country's schools. Egitim-Sen, a leftist teachers' union, charges that Islam has been permeating textbooks under the AKP. Darwin's theory of evolution is being whittled away and creationism is seeping in. Islamist fraternities, or tarikat, continue to ensnare students by offering free accommodation. The quid pro quo is that they fast and pray, and girls cover their heads.

    In other words, the threat of radical Islam in Turkey may have increased thanks to the secularists' attack on the AKP.

    Located at []

    Any more comments?

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10