“The machine,” an advanced computer system featured in the American television drama Person of Interest that is able to use closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to predict crimes, may not be so far fetched after all. A video that went viral on Chinese social media recently offered a glimpse into just how far China’s cutting-edge surveillance technology has come.
In the video, footage taken by CCTV cameras is instantly tagged with information of passing vehicles and pedestrians, including each person’s sex, age and clothing and the model and color of cars. Tags appear on each person and vehicle as soon as they enter the camera’s range.
The system is also able to scan faces and compare them with its database of criminal suspects at large. When there is a match, an alarm notifies the police of its findings.
Resembling Minority Report or some other sci-fi movie, this cutting-edge surveillance technology is from a new system developed by SenseTime, a Chinese technology company headquartered in Beijing.
Equipped with 20 million CCTV cameras, China now has the largest monitoring network in the world, according to Amazing China, a six-episode documentary co-produced by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and China Central Television (whose acronym is also, coincidentally, CCTV).
The network, dubbed “Skynet” (a name taken from the fictional net-based artificial intelligence in the futuristic Terminator films), aims to boost public security as personal and societal safety threats increase across the world.
Operation Skynet: Wang Qiang, a specialist in non-war military actions at the National Defense University of the People’s Liberation Army, defines the Skynet system as an infrastructure based on artificial intelligence and big data that aims to boost public safety. “CCTV cameras are like eyes that protects people’s safety,” he said.
Since it was launched in 2011, many Chinese cities have been stepping up their effort to deploy more CCTV cameras.
From 2011 to 2015, the government of Changsha, Hunan Province, invested 528 million yuan ($35.39 million) in the Skynet project, installing over 50,000 CCTV cameras. At least 27,000 of them are high-definition, capable of capturing footage at night using infrared lenses, according to news portal rednet.cn.—Agencies