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AI technology at the Vertical Marathon? Ping An Technology launches face recognition access control

AI technology at the Vertical Marathon? Ping An Technology launches face recognition access control

SHANGHAI, June 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- This year's Vertical Marathon was held in Ping An Financial Center (PAFC), the world's fourth and China's second tallest building. Lin Feng, a sports fan and a self-admitted technology geek working in Shenzhen, was very excited when he received his medal upon reaching the building's Free Sky Observation Deck on the 116th floor after completing the 3,201-step, 541-meter climb. He had challenged himself yet once again.

Ping An Financial Center (PAFC)
Ping An Financial Center (PAFC)

Vertical Marathon is not a new event for the 25-year old Lin, as he had entered such a competition for the first time when still attending university. Due to the excitement he feels when he is engaged in one, and the fact that it is usually quite easy to register and qualify, he loves the marathon. Since he started working in Shenzhen after graduating from university, he has joined the competition every year. It goes without saying that, this year he has had an extraordinary experience.

In addition to the physical challenge, this Vertical Marathon proved to be of particular interest for Lin, due to the application of advanced building management technology and Ping An's AI technology in the building where the race was held. The geek side of Lin looked forward to the race with excitement when he learned of the event venue.

Experience the feeling of "belonging" that facial recognition can deliver

Starting from the registration for this year's Vertical Marathon, Lin was given the opportunity to experience some of the most mind-boggling, futuristic technology around. The organizer installed two electronic sign-in screens outside the PAFC building. Guided by a member of the welcoming team, Lin walked into the designated area and immediately heard a disembodied voice announce, "Ping An welcomes you." Within milliseconds of quickly brushing his face past the screen, the facial image had already been captured and was being displayed on the screen with the words "Lin Feng, Welcome!" under the image of his face. He was quite taken aback by the automated recognition and the speed of it. He tried it several more times. Each time, his face was immediately recognized. The welcoming language and helpful tips provided on the screens gave Lin the feeling that he was being given the VIP treatment and let him feel very much at home.

At the previous such events, attendees had to register manually which wasted a lot of time. With too many runners, or in this case, climbers, in a marathon competition, athletes must come to the venue early if they hope to start the race on time. Just like the other sports events, Lin sent his photo, name and ID number to the organizer in advance in accordance with the conventional process. He was pleasantly surprised when presented with the easy "sign-in once" admission process once he actually got there.

The facial recognition technology has, to the surprise of experts well versed in the technology, overcome one key challenge

Lin, with his tech background, had already done some reading up on facial recognition. When self-service convenience stores started popping up in Shenzhen around a year ago, he got his first taste of facial recognition being used as a tool for allowing access. However, that took place indoors. He knew from his reading that the technology has very specific requirements in terms of the surrounding environment. It can't be used in a very bright environment such as outdoors. This time he successfully gained access to the venue via a face recognition-activated facility that was outside, right on the street in Shenzhen, accurately determining his name and ID. How was this achieved?

Lin got the answer from a member of the welcoming team who gave his name as Li. Li works at Ping An Technology and was placed there to answer any tech-related questions from curious climbers: the face recognition sign-in system leverages the one-to-many (or 1:N) recognition algorithm. The organizing committee had collected all the athletes' names and headshots in advance and uploaded them as a batch file to the database. The system extracted the facial characteristic values and recorded a one-to-one face comparison, forming a face recognition library. When athletes enter the camera zone, the back-office server compares the face in real time, recognizing the face within milliseconds. Ping An Technology's face recognition system rapidly established the identities of over 300 athletes, including some who had come from abroad, despite the overly bright environment. The system can identify one face per second, allowing the athletes to enter the venue at one second intervals.

Lin brought up the question immediately: the facial recognition technology enhances the ability at recognition in a bright environment, but how does it work in a dimly lit situation? Li replied that technicians at Ping An Technology had also taken that scenario into consideration and developed a system that supports voice recognition in addition to facial, so that the system can function just the same as in normal lighting situations, based on the addition of voiceprint technology when working in a poorly lit environment.  

This demonstrated that Ping An Technology's smart building system solutions had made a new breakthrough in the smart sensing domain. The company's ultimate goal is to empower machines and facilities so that they have the same sensory abilities as human beings -- the five senses of vision, hearing, smell, touch and taste -- allowing these systems to generate multi-dimensional and comprehensive sensory information by analyzing employees' and visitors' micro expressions and body movements.

The future of PAFC, a building equipped with futuristic technologies

Lin, with his interest in futuristic technologies, wanted to take a few minutes before the start of the Vertical Marathon to learn about Ping An Technology's goals in the smart building domain. He also wanted to know what PAFC had to offer currently in terms of convenient facilities and services as well as its future plans. Li, who was clearly quite proud of the technologies provided by his employer, was quick to answer.

"PAFC will become an even smarter building equipped with many kinds of futuristic technologies," Li responded. "The building will integrate a variety of smart sensing systems with the goal of creating a more convenient and secure working environment."

Li went on to explain, "As one of the first buildings in China to enable full self-service registration of visitors by integrating the facial recognition technology into the access control system, PAFC's visitor access process consists of two steps: first, a security check that identifies suspicious items and sends an alarm if one is detected, followed by the visitors then registering at the front desk and providing information as to whom they are visiting and the purpose of their visit. While waiting for approval, visitors must remain in the designated area following registration in line with building management rules. VIP visitors such as Lin will be warmly welcomed with their names displayed on the screen along with a voice announcement '(the name of the visitor), Welcome!' For those who work within PAFC, they can enter the building by passing through the facial recognition system even if they have forgotten to bring their entry pass, preventing fraudulent behavior, such as buddy punching (clocking in for a coworker). With the smart systems, companies and their employees within the building can identity their respective areas of activity." To cite an example, the facial recognition-based elevator control system allows each employee to identify and use the elevator that leads to their respective office, preventing an uncontrolled flow of people without fixed duties and ensuring privacy of information for each company.

Soon, the micro-expression technology, a more accurate facial recognition technology, will be integrated into the building's visitor registration process. Security staff will immediately stop the visitor from entering the building once the system sends an alarm after detecting any abnormality of his or her micro expressions, including anger and or any kind of behavior that could be a precursor to violence. As a result, the new technology is expected to bring the security of the building to a new level.

Based on the AI-based deep learning algorithm, Ping An Technology's visitor system supports facial recognition and comparison of the visitor's face with the photo on his or her government-issued ID card. The complete solution not only captures the image of the visitor but also enables the visitor to pass through the entry gate solely on the basis of the facial recognition technology. It also seamlessly connects to the public security network's database, allowing for the comparison and verification of the visitor's information. In addition, the system includes the collection of digitized images and facial identification in real time, preventing attacks by individuals who cannot be identified, as well as an image capture functionality that allows the security staff to allow rapid identification of the individual at a later time.

Ping An Technology's smart building model is not limited to the inside of the building, but has also been extended to the parking management system outside the building, supporting vehicle management based on the vehicle license plate recognition technology, including automated collection of parking fees.   

After hearing Li's full explanation, Lin had even greater confidence in his ability to observe and understand the futuristic capabilities of the building during the climb. His excitement in seeing first-hand what these new technologies were capable of may well have contributed to his beating his own record, reaching the top faster than on any earlier endeavors. Upon reaching the 116th floor of the building, he took in the majestic skyline of Shenzhen, the city of innovation, and seemed to comprehend what Li had said about Ping An Technology's initial intention to tap the AI and Internet of Things (IoT) markets: given the unprecedented AI-based transformation that is currently taking place around the globe, Ping An Technology hopes to build on its years of experience in development, implementation and operation of technologies that support Ping An Group, in a move to engage more of the world's leading technology firms to work with users in promoting innovation via its open platform, with the aim of leading the integration and development of the two emerging sectors. (Aliases have been used in this news release to ensure the privacy of the individuals mentioned.)

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