Railways declines to buy ‘expensive’ Long Distance Face Recognition Software

facial-recognitionMumbai: A proposal to buy facial recognition software which might help catch criminals preying on victims on railway premises has been shot down by the railway ministry as it is too expensive.

Had the proposal been accepted, the Rs 2 crore software would have synchronised with the railway’s own integrated security system (ISS), and matched physical features of wanted men and women if they were caught on any of the CCTV cameras on railway premises.

City officials had been pushing for this American-based software for the past two to three months, however the ministry declined the proposal last week saying that other than the Rs 2 crore investment, US private companies were asking for additional money per annum for license renewal.

“The ministry feels that the Rs 2 crore itself was a big push for the software but the fact that the American-based companies were asking for an annual fee to renew license to use the software was a bit of a stretch. What the private companies were asking for is standard practice when any government agency uses their software.

However, Mumbai suburban and our passenger trains within and outside the state are already such loss-making assets that the ministry has asked us not to pursue the idea any longer,” said an official on condition of anonymity.

In the event it had been deployed, the software would have used data from Railway Police Force (RPF) and Government Railway Police (GRP), including photographs and sketches of repeat offenders, and matched it with offenders suspected of committing crimes. This matching would have been done through images caught on any of the CCTV cameras placed on platforms and entry/exit points at stations.

The software uses important physical characteristics to match wanted criminals and throws it up to officials along with the location of the person’s last seen. “The width of your forehead, cheek bones, the space between your eyes, your jaw – the software reads all these features and tries to find anyone who matches the same. It is highly accurate and is used in the defence sector back in America,” the official said.

So, if a commuter lodged a complaint of robbery and a sketch of the assailant had already been put up on the system, the software would try to find the person through CCTV camera. “It basically helps us catch the offender quicker and takes less manpower,” added the official.

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