South Korea will soon employ a face recognition system that will use artificial intelligence to identify coronavirus-infected people. The administration has invested in an AI system installed in more than ten thousand CCTV cameras to track the movement of people. Although the project has raised concerns of privacy invasion, the administrative body has decided to launch the system in the coming few weeks.
Bucheon, a densely populated region in South Korea, will have its first COVID-19 virus identification system operated in the city. Bucheon is a few kilometers away from Seoul. According to a city official, the system will be operational in Bucheon from January.
More than ten thousand CCTV cameras will gather footage taken from across the region. With face recognition technology and AI algorithms, the system will analyze this footage and track the movements of infected people. The data will help understand if the infected person has close contact with any other person. Also, the system will track if people are wearing masks.
A parliamentary lawmaker shared some insights with Reuters regarding the new project deal. A 110-page long business plan was presented to the Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology.
The officials said the new technology aims to reduce the workload of tracing teams manually tracking footage of a city with more than 800,000 people. With the new system, the government can adopt better preventive measures as the system will help track the spread of COVID-19 efficiently and accurately.
At present, the country uses a high-tech contact tracing system through other means, including tracking credit card records, cell phone location data, along with manually tracking CCTV footage. However, these tracking structures still fall short of accurate analyzing and monitoring.
As South Korea rolls out the new system in January, it will be the seventh country to experiment with the face recognition technique for tracking COVID-19 spread in the country. Until now, China, India, Japan, Poland, Russia, and the U.S. have used the technology in the wake of COVID-19.
Bucheon Mayor Jung Deog-cheon spoke at the bidding of national funding for the installation of face recognition systems in South Korean cities. He argued that such a system would make tracing faster.
“It sometimes takes hours to analyze a single CCTV footage. Using visual recognition technology will enable that analysis in an instant,” he tweeted from his official account.
The current systems used data from the testimonies of patients and their relatives. Since such spoken statements by patients are often not reliable, the new system will eliminate the process of finding the whereabouts of the patients and tracking their activities.
The health ministry does not have any AI project expansion plans at present. It has not officially declared nationwide execution of the new AI-powered system. The ministry aims to digitize some manual work involved in the contact tracing structure in the administration.