Singapore fights crime the smart, integrated way with facial recognition technology

A simple mock-up of the Smart Command Centre by Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs and Japanese technology giant NEC, aimed at fighting crime more efficiently and effectively.
A simple mock-up of the Smart Command Centre by Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs and Japanese technology giant NEC, aimed at fighting crime more efficiently and effectively.ST PHOTO: WALTER SIM

TOKYO - Singapore’s crime-busters have teamed up with Japanese technology giant NEC to form a Smart Command Centre, in a bid to fight crime more efficiently and effectively.

Concept trials began this year and taps NEC's Neoface facial recognition technology that is the fastest in the world in picking out criminal suspects from a crowd using artificial intelligence.

“We are facing a lot of heightened security threats around the world,” said Mr Lawrence Tham, deputy director of strategy and concept generation under the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) ops-tech group.

“And so we are looking at an integrated approach that can give us a situation picture (using) video surveillance, and that can help enhance our officers’ sense-making and decision-making. That is key to the Home Team.”

MHA was presenting the fruits of its collaboration with NEC at a two-day annual trade show held by the tech giant in Tokyo, which began yesterday. 

The Smart Command Centre taps Singapore’s wide network of closed-circuit surveillance cameras, and potentially drones that the MHA is considering to use.

It is able to recognise faces in a crowd – as well as pick out persons-of-interest in police watchlists. 

On top of that, it is able to track those who are not on watchlists, but are found to be behaving suspiciously by loitering within an area.

The system allows police officers to then zoom in on a particular individual, plotting across data sets from multiple camera images to form a timeline of his movement patterns.

“Video surveillance is not new and is common and widely deployed, but NEC’s system is not just about surveillance,” Mr Tham said. 

“It is one where we can detect, tag and track a person, which will come in useful during a manhunt situation. We can locate him or her anywhere in Singapore, and this is very powerful for law enforcement agencies,” he added.

And the most critical component, he said, is how all this information can be synchronised to the responding officers’ smartphones – allowing them to know where the culprit is in real time.

Correction note: An earlier version of this story said that the MHA had teamed up with NEC to form a Smart Command Centre that began operations this year. This is, in fact, still in a "concept" phase to jointly trial video analytics.