Face mask recognition becomes latest test for video surveillance at the edge

Edge video surveillance systems look for masks

Businesses are planning their reopening strategies as they’re trying to adapt to a new normal post-coronavirus. One that has made significant adaptations is Uber Technologies, Inc.

As Uber restarts its business, it will now require both drivers and users to wear a face mask or covering when using the app. The requirements will apply to rides in the U.S., Canada, India, and most of Europe, starting on Monday, May 18, the company announced.

The company has been working on technology with face mask verification capabilities to detect if users on the platform have their faces covered. While the features are already available in its driver identity verification tool “Real-Time ID-check,” Uber president Dara Khosrowshahi said that the system detects the mask as an object in a photo and does not process biometric information or compare the new mask “selfies” to driver photos in a database.

“As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution. Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips. At the same time, our teams are preparing for the next phase of recovery, where we will all have a role to play,” said Uber’s head of safety communications Andrew Hasbun, in a statement to CNN Business earlier in May.

Uber is not the only company that has made face masks mandatory, as JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines have announced similar measures for passengers. While Uber will try to provide all drivers worldwide with masks, the drivers will have to cover their faces regardless.

Edge video surveillance systems look for masks

In Paris, France, the metro authority has rolled out a three-month pilot project to test face mask recognition technology on subway riders, embedded on surveillance cameras at Chatelet-Les-Halles station, according to Bloomberg.

The technology was developed by French company Datakalab to monitor if people are wearing masks on the subway to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The initiative has been criticized by CNIL, the government’s privacy watchdog, who argued it not only raises privacy concerns but may not be GDPR compliant.

“We don’t collect data, we don’t store it,” Xavier Fischer, chief executive officer of Datakalab, told Bloomberg. “There’s also a 15-minute delay from when the data is collected to when it’s sent to authorities.”

As France is slowly easing lockdown measures, face masks will be mandatory on public transportation. The interest in surveillance technology has increased as governments as struggling to find prevention and containment measures.

The Paris metro authority has stated the technology is used only to keep track of the number of people following the guidelines but will not fine those who are not complying with the requirements.

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