Voice and Contactless Technologies For a Safer Workplace

With businesses looking to ensure COVID-safe working conditions, the use of voice and contactless interfaces could help provide safer ways of carrying out daily work tasks.

Report

A recent report by 451 Research states that technology generally will play a crucial role for businesses continuity post-lockdown and that in the past 2 years (in the U.S.) there has been increased interest in the use of voice interfaces in the workplace, with voice-activated interfaces and digital assistants being among the top disruptive technologies that organisations were looking to adopt.  The report also highlights how, in the past year there has been a growing number of speech-enabled devices designed specifically for the workplace, such as desk phones, meeting room equipment and hearable devices.  Also, voice-enabled intelligent assistants have been integrated with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows.

Conclusions

Now, in the post-COVID-19 business environment, the report concludes that:

– These technologies and integrations could become particularly valuable in making the workplace safer and more contactless and help to retain the necessary physical distancing for those who are required to return.

– The need to provide a safe workplace will see organisations accelerating digital transformation initiatives, driving adoption of voice interfaces, biometrics, and real-time communications.

– Voice user interfaces, real-time communications and location management services will be used to help support frontline workers as well as helping organisations to further automate their operations.

Examples

Some of the examples cited in the report of those who currently use voice technology and who could benefit from using more of it include frontline workers such as nurses and doctors, first responders, factory workers, grocery store employees, drivers, and food and grocery and delivery gig workers.

It should be remembered that the report is U.S. based, where integrations of voice-enabled intelligent assistants with meeting room equipment and team collaboration workflows deployed in the workplace began around three years ago, and where intelligent assistants e.g. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri are ubiquitous for the average consumer. Also, in the U.S, Amazon has been active in expanding its Alexa for Business that uses voice commands for e.g. managing meetings and controlling conference room devices.

Challenges

Some of the challenges that businesses in the UK face in addition to the market conditions and making the office/workplace physically safe on a daily basis are how they offer good service levels with many staff still not back at the office and how they can quickly and affordably take advantage of the benefits of technology to make things work and remain competitive.

Change

With social distancing looking as though it will need to be in place for many months to come, yet with many returning to workplaces in the UK after becoming used to working remotely (facilitated by technology), there is now an expectation that (and a necessity for) workplaces to change in order to maximise safety for the users of all work buildings.

Ways that businesses in the UK could operate safely, embrace technology, and move forward could include:

– Making more use of Alexa for Business, Microsoft’s Cortana, biometrics, and chatbots with AI for speech recognition.

– Workers continuing to make use of as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or Zoom, and using simple chatbots and other speech-based technologies e.g. voice-to-text transcription.

– Making even greater use of the Cloud.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Just as governments have to balance public health with the economy, most businesses will need key people to return to their premises and will already be at least in the process of physically creating an environment, working routines and policies that ensure maximum safety within available guidelines.

The realisation by many managers and their employees that technology can successfully be quickly mastered and used to keep critical parts of the business going during lockdown looks likely to contribute to serious consideration being given to the use of more technologies such as voice and contactless technologies going forward.

Are Masks A Challenge To Facial Recognition Technology?

In addition to questions about the continued use of potentially unreliable and unregulated live facial recognition (LFR) technology, masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus may be presenting a further challenge to the technology.

Questions From London Assembly Members

A recently published letter by London Assembly members Caroline Pidgeon MBE AM and Sian Berry AM to Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick have asked whether the LFR technology could be withdrawn during the COVID-19 pandemic on the ground that it has been shown to be generally inaccurate, and it still raises questions about civil liberties. 

Also, concerns are now being raised about how the already questionable accuracy of LFR could be challenged further by people wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Civil Liberties of Londoners

The two London Assembly members argue in the letter that a lack of laws, national guidelines,  regulations and debate about LFR’s use could mean that stopping Londoners or visitors to London “incorrectly, without democratic public consent and without clear justification erodes our civil liberties”.  The pair also said that this could continue to erode trust in the police, which has been declining anyway in recent years.

Inaccurate

The letter highlights concerns about the general inaccuracy of LFR. This is illustrated by the example of first two deployments of LFR this year, where more than 13,000 faces were scanned,  only six individuals were stopped, and five of those six were misidentified and incorrectly stopped by the police. Also, of the eight people who created a ‘system alert’, seven were incorrectly identified.

Others Concerns

Other concerns by the pair outlined in the letter about the continued deployment of LFR include worries about the possibility of mission creep, the lack of transparency about which watchlists are being used, worries that LFR will be used operationally at protests, demonstrations, or public events in future e.g. Notting Hill Carnival, and fears that the technology will continue to be used without clarity, accountability or full democratic consent

Masks Are A Further Challenge

Many commentators from both sides of the facial recognition debate have raised concerns about how the wearing of face masks could affect the accuracy of facial recognition technology.

China and Russia

It has been reported that Chinese electronics manufacturer Hanwang has produced facial recognition technology that is 95% accurate in identifying the faces of people who are wearing masks.

Also, in Moscow, where the many existing cameras have been deployed to help enforce the city’s lockdown and to identify those who don’t comply, systems have been able to identify those wearing masks.

France

In France, after the easing of lockdown restrictions, it has been reported that surveillance cameras will be used to monitor compliance with social distancing and the wearing of masks.  A recent trial in Cannes using French firm Datakalab’s surveillance software, which includes an automatic alert to city authorities and police for breaches of mask-wearing and social distancing rules looks set to be rolled out to other French cities.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Facial recognition is another tool which, under normal circumstances (if used responsibly as intended) could help to fight crime in towns and city centres, thereby helping the mainly retail businesses that operate there.  The worry is that there are still general questions about the accuracy of LFR, its impact on our privacy and civil liberties and that the COVId-19 pandemic could be used as an excuse to use it more and in a way that leads to mission creep. It does appear that in China and Russia for example, even individuals wearing face masks can be identified by facial recognition camera systems, although many in the west regard these as states where a great deal of control on the privacy and civil liberties population is exercised and may be alarmed at such systems being used in the UK.  The pandemic, however, appears to be making states less worried about infringing civil liberties for the time being as they battle to control a virus that has devastated lives and economies, and technology must be one of the tools being used in the fight against COVID-19.

Featured Article – Facial Recognition and Super Computers Help in COVID-19 Fight

Technology is playing an important role in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with adapted facial recognition cameras and super-computers now joining the battle to help beat the virus.

Adapted Facial Recognition

Facial recognition camera systems have been trialled and deployed in many different locations in the UK which famously include the 2016 and 2017 Notting Hill Carnivals, the Champions League final day June 2017 in Cardiff,  the Kings Cross Estate in 2019 and in a deliberately “overt” trial of live facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan Police in the centre of Romford, London, in January 2019.  Although it would be hard to deny that facial recognition technology (FRT) could prove to be a very valuable tool in the fight against crime, issues around its accuracy, bias and privacy have led to criticism in the UK from the Information Commissioner about some of the ways it has been used, while (in January) the European Commission was considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces for up to five years while new regulations for its use were put in place.

However, one way that some facial recognition systems have been adapted to help in the fight against COVID-19 include the incorporation of temperature screening.

Thermographic Temperature-Screening

In the early news reports of the initial spread of COVID-19 in China, news reports focused on how thermographic, temperature-screening cameras backed up by AI could be used to pick out people from crowds who displayed a key symptom, notably a raised temperature.

These systems are also likely to play a role in our post-lockdown, pre-vaccine world as one of many tools, systems, and procedures to improve safety as countries try to re-start their economies on the long road back.

In the UK – Facial Recognition Combined With ‘Fever Detection System’

In the UK, an AI-powered facial recognition system at Bristol Airport is reported to have been adapted to incorporate a ‘fever detection system’, developed by British technology company SCC. This means that the existing FRT system has been augmented with thermographic cameras that can quickly spot people, even in large moving groups (as would normally happen in airports) who have the kind of raised temperatures associated with COVID-19.

In Russia – Facial Recognition Combined With Digital Passes on Phones

It has also been reported that, as far back as March, officials in Moscow have been using the city’s network of tens of thousands of security cameras, which can offer instant, real-time facial recognition of citizens in combination with digital passes on mobile phones. It has been reported that the sheer number of cameras in Moscow, which can also be used to measure social distancing and detect crowds, coupled with the sophisticated FRT at the back-end is enough to ensure that those who are supposed to be in isolation can be detected even if they come outside their front door for a few seconds.  Moscow’s facial recognition system is also reported to be able to identify a person correctly, even if they are wearing a face mask.

Supercomputers

One of the great advantages of supercomputers is that they can carry out staggering numbers of calculations per second, thereby being able to solve complicated problems in a mere fraction of the time that it would take other computers to do the same thing.  Supercomputers are, therefore, now being used in the fight against coronavirus. For example:

– Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Advanced Computing Centre (TACC) in the U.S. are using a Frontera supercomputer and a huge computer model of the coronavirus to help researchers design new drugs and vaccines.

– University College London (UCL) researchers, as part of a consortium of over a hundred researchers from across the US and Europe, are using some of the world’s most powerful supercomputers (including the biggest one in Europe and the most powerful one in the world) to study the COVID-19 virus and thereby help develop effective treatments and, hopefully, a vaccine.  The researchers have been using the Summit at Oak Ridge National Lab, USA (1st) and SuperMUC-NG at GCS@LRZ, Germany (9th)  supercomputers to quickly search through existing libraries of compounds that could be used to attach themselves to the surface of the novel coronavirus.

– In the U.S. the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium, a combined effort by private-public organisations, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. government departments and IBM are bringing together federal government, industry, and academics who are offering free computing time and resources on their supercomputers to help to understand and beat the coronavirus.

Looking Ahead

Facial recognition cameras used by police and government agencies have been the focus of some bad press and questions over a variety of issues, but the arrival of the pandemic has turned many things on their heads. The fact is that there are existing facial recognition camera systems which, when combined with other technologies, could help to stop the spread of a potentially deadly disease.

With vaccines normally taking years to develop, and with the pandemic being a serious, shared global threat, it makes sense that the world’s most powerful computing resources should be (and are being) deployed to speed up the process of understanding the virus and of quickly sorting through existing data and knowledge that could help.

Google’s Drone-Deliveries Boosted By Pandemic

The value of drone delivery services appears to have been realised now that the world’s population centres are in lockdown, with Alphabet’s (Google’s) drone deliveries doubling in test areas in the U.S. and Australia.

What Drone Delivery Service?

Alphabet Inc.’s Wing service offers parcel delivery by special drone aircraft.  In the U.S. the service was approved by the federal government last October but is being operated in a limited test area around Christiansburg, Virginia.  It is operating using partnerships with FedEx Corp., the Walgreens store chain (for medicine, toilet roll and similar deliveries), and with a local bakery and a coffee shop. Wing is also working as part of an approved program with Virginia Tech.

Alphabet’s Wing also has a drone delivery service in the Vuosaari district of Helsinki in Finland and in Canberra, Australia where it delivers goods from a variety of vendors including Mitchell Supermarket, Krofne Donuts and even Drummond Golf (golf balls, tees and gloves).

It is the drone deliveries in the Christiansburg, Virginia area of the U.S. and in Canberra, Australia that are reported to have doubled their deliveries in response to demand from customers who are staying at home.

Other Drone Delivery Services

Wing is, of course, not the only drone delivery service.  Amazon’s Prime Air delivery service, which made test deliveries as far back as 2016 and 2017 still exists but is described by Amazon as “a future delivery system” which has “great potential”, but does seem to have gone somewhat quiet since the much-publicised tests.

In The UK

Drone services are already in operation in the UK, offering a variety of services and performing a number of duties.  In addition to drones used in the promotions and film industries, UK agencies also use drones.  For example, back in 2017, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service and multi-agency partners (Fire and Rescue, Constabulary, County Council and others) launched a shared drone service to provide a range of aerial surveillance options in support of emergency services and voluntary organisations.

Drones In The Pandemic and Beyond

Reports of other uses of drones in the pandemic and beyond include:

– Reports from Jerusalem that Israeli police have been using drones outside apartment buildings to check whether people who have been ordered to self-isolate are doing so.

– Spanish police and the French police using drones with speakers around public places to warn people to go home.

– The University of South Australia (UniSA) and Canada-based drone technology specialist ‘Draganfly’ teaming up to create a drone that can use sensors and computer vision to spot people with infectious respiratory diseases.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Clearly, drone delivery options are still a long way off for most of us, but the pandemic has highlighted more elements of value in them that are being applied in the test areas for local shop deliveries during the pandemic, and for use in disease control on the post-pandemic modern world that we now find ourselves entering.  Drones have also been used for medical purposes (live organ delivery) and could prove valuable again for moving medical and other help into closed-off areas where there is disease in future.

For now, and in the near future, we are still waiting for the tech giants in conjunction with business partners to expand the scale and scope of drone delivery so that it can begin to add value and provide a competitive edge for all kinds of businesses and organisations.

Viruses Killed By Robots

Robots armed with UV-C ultraviolet light beams that can effectively disinfect surfaces in a hospital room in 10-20 minutes are helping in the fight against COVID-19.

UVD Robots, Denmark

The robots, which are reported to have been shipped in considerable numbers to Wuhan in China, Asia, and parts of Europe are manufactured in Denmark’s third-largest city, Odense, by the UVD Robots company.  The manufacturers say that if used as part of a regular cleaning cycle, they could prevent and reduce the spread of infectious diseases, viruses, bacteria, as well as other types of harmful organic microorganisms.

Breaks Down DNA

These smart robots, which look a little like a printer on wheels with several light-sabres arranged vertically in a circle on top, can autonomously clean traces of viruses from a room by ‘burning’ them from surfaces using UV-Wavelength: 254NM (UV-C light) in a way that breaks down the DNA-structure of the virus.

Research and Testing

The UVD robots are the product of 6 years research, design, development, and testing by leading, reputable organisation Blue Ocean Robotics, and the Danish Healthcare Authority (supported by leading microbiologists and hygiene specialists from Odense University Hospital).

How?

The Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) method of disinfection, which has been in accepted use since the mid-20th century, involves using short-wavelength ultraviolet (UV-C) to disrupt the DNA of microorganisms so that they can no longer carry out cellular functions.

Features

The features of UVD’s cleaning robots include 360-degree disinfection coverage, a 3-hour battery charge, and software and sensor-based safety features.  The operating time per charge for the UV module is 2-2.5 hours (equal to 9-10 rooms).  It is claimed that these units can kill up to 99.99 per cent of bacteria.

HAIs

The primary purpose of the robots is to help and improve quality of care for hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world by providing an effective, low human risk, 24-hour available way to eradicate the kind of Hospital Acquired Infections (HAIs) which affect millions of patients (and kill several thousand) each year.

The COVID-19 outbreak which has led to many healthcare environments being overwhelmed with large numbers of patients has, therefore, made the need for this kind of cleaning/disinfecting system seem very attractive.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Now, more than ever in living memory, having a device that can simply, automatically, quickly and effectively get on with the cleaning of hospital rooms on-demand, without worrying about infection (as may be the case for human cleaners), and without putting more human resource demands on hospitals must be invaluable, and would account for the increase in orders internationally. Devices like these show how a combination of technologies can be combined to create real value and tackle a problem in an effective way that could benefit all of us.

AI Skills Course Available – Free of Charge

A free, basic AI skills course, funded by Finland’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (MEAE), is being made available to citizens across the EU’s 27 member states. 

Success in Finland

The decision by the Finnish government to make the course available online across the EU to an estimated five million Europeans (1% of the total population of EU states) in the 2020-2021 academic year was boosted by the popularity of a test run of the course in Finland back in 2018.

The Course

The six-chapter ‘Elements of AI’ course, which is still open to UK citizens, is aimed at de-mystifying and providing a critical and customised understanding of AI, offers a basic understanding of what AI is, how it can be used to boost business productivity, and how it will affect jobs and society in the future. The six chapters of the course can be studied in a structured or ‘own-pace’ way and cover the topics of What is AI?, AI problem solving, real-world AI, machine learning, neural networks and implications.

The course is available in six languages – English, German, Swedish, Estonian, Norwegian and Finnish.

Run by the University of Helsinki, the course represents a way in which a university can play a role in reaching a Europe-wide, cross-border audience and build important competencies for the future across that area.

Gift

The provision of the online course, which is funded by the MEAE to an estimated cost of €1.7m a year is essentially a gift from Finland, not just to leaders of fellow EU states but to the people of EU countries to mark the end of Finland’s six-month rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU.  It is the hope, therefore, that Finland’s gift will have real-world value in terms of helping to develop digital literacy in the EU.

You can sign up for the course here: https://www.elementsofai.com/

170 Countries

It’s claimed that to date, the free online AI course has been completed by students from over 170 countries and that around 40 % of course participants are women, which is more than double the average for computer science courses.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

With a tech skills shortage in the UK, with AI becoming a component in an increasing number of products and services, and with the fact that you can very rarely expect to get something of value for nothing, this free online course could be of some value to businesses across Europe.  The fact that the course is delivered online with just a few details needed to enrol makes it accessible, and the fact that it can be tackled in a structured way or at your own pace makes it convenient.  It’s also refreshing to see a country giving a gift to millions of citizens rather than just to other EU leaders and the fact that more women are taking the course must be good news for the tech and science sectors. Anything that can effectively, quickly and cheaply make a positive difference to digital literacy in the EU is likely to end up benefitting businesses across Europe.  Also, even though the UK’s now out of the EU, it’s a good job that we’re still able to access the course.

Amazon Offering Custom ‘Brand Voice’ to Replace Default Alexa Voice

Amazon’s AWS is offering a new ‘Brand Voice’ capability to companies which enables them to create their own custom voice for Alexa that replaces the default voice with one that reflects their “persona”, such as the voice of Colonel Sanders for KFC.

Brand Polly

The capability is being offered through Amazon’s ‘Brand Polly’, the cloud service by Amazon Web Services (AWS), that converts text into lifelike speech.  The name ‘Polly’ is a reference to parrots which are well-known for being able to mimic human voices.

Amazon says that companies can work with the Amazon Polly team of AI research scientists and linguists to build an exclusive, high-quality, Neural Text-to-Speech (NTTS) voice that will represent the “persona” of a brand.

Why?

According to Amazon, the ‘Brand Voice’ will give companies another way to differentiate their brand by incorporating a unique vocal identity into their products and services. Hearing the ‘Brand Voice’ of a company is also another way to help create an experience for customers that strengthen the brand, triggers the brand messages and attitudes that a customer has already assimilated through advertising, and helps to provide another element of consistency to brand messages, communications and interactions.

How?

The capability involves using deep learning technology that can learn the intonation patterns of natural speech data and reproduce from that a voice in a similar style or tone. For example, in September, Alexa users were given the option to use the voice of Samuel L. Jackson for their Alexa and in order to produce the voice, the NTTS models were ‘trained’ using hours of recorded dialogue rather than the actor being required to read new dialogue for the system.

Who?

Amazon Polly says on its website that it has already been working with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) Canada (for a Colonel Sanders-style brand voice) and with National Australia Bank (NAB), using “the same deep learning technology that powers the voice of Alexa”.

Uses

The ‘Brand Voice’ created for companies can, for example, be used for call centre systems (as with NAB).

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

The almost inevitable ‘Brand Voice’ move sees Amazon taking another step to monetizing Alexa and moving more into the business market where there is huge potential for modifications and different targeted and customised versions of Alexa and digital assistants.  Back in April last year, for example, Amazon launched its Alexa for Business Blueprints, which is a platform that enables businesses to make their own Alexa-powered applications for their organisation and incorporate their own customised, private ‘skills’. The announcement of ‘Brand Voice’, therefore, is really an extension of this programme.  For businesses and organisations, Alexa for Business and ‘Brand Voice’ offers the opportunity to relatively easily customise some powerful, flexible technology in a way that can closely meet their individual needs, and provide a new marketing and communications tool that can add value in a unique way.

Police Images of Serious Offenders Reportedly Shared With Private Landlord For Facial Recognition Trial

There have been calls for government intervention after it was alleged that South Yorkshire Police shared its images of serious offenders with a private landlord (Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield) as part of a live facial recognition trial.

The Facial Trial

The alleged details of the image-sharing for the trial were brought to the attention of the public by the BBC radio programme File on 4, and by privacy group Big Brother Watch.

It has been reported that the Meadowhall shopping centre’s facial recognition trial ran for four weeks between January and March 2018 and that no signs warning visitors that facial recognition was in use were displayed. The owner of Meadowhall shopping centre is reported as saying (last August) that the data from the facial recognition trial was “deleted immediately” after the trial ended. It has also been reported that the police have confirmed that they supported the trial.

Questions

The disclosure has prompted some commentators to question not only the ethical and legal perspective of not just holding public facial recognition trials without displaying signs but also of the police allegedly sharing photos of criminals (presumably from their own records) with a private landlord.

The UK Home Office’s Surveillance Camera Code of Practice, however, does appear to support the use of facial recognition or other biometric characteristic recognition systems if their use is “clearly justified and proportionate.”

Other Shopping Centres

Other facial recognition trials in shopping centres and public shopping areas have been met with a negative response too.  For example, the halting of a trial at the Trafford Centre shopping mall in Manchester in 2018, and with the Kings Cross facial recognition trial (between May 2016 and March 2018) which is still the subject of an ICO investigation.

Met Rolling Out Facial Recognition Anyway

Meanwhile, and despite a warning from Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, back in November, the Metropolitan Police has announced it will be going ahead with its plans to use live facial recognition cameras on an operational basis for the first time on London’s streets to find suspects wanted for serious or violent crime. Also, it has been reported that South Wales Police will be going ahead in the Spring with a trial of body-worn facial recognition cameras.

EU – No Ban

Even though many privacy campaigners were hoping that the EC would push for a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces for up to five years while new regulations for its use are put in place, Reuters has reported that The European Union has now scrapped any possibility of a ban on facial recognition technology in public spaces.

Facebook Pays

Meanwhile, Facebook has just announced that it will pay £421m to a group of Facebook users in Illinois, who argued that its facial recognition tool violated the state’s privacy laws.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Most people would accept that facial recognition could be a helpful tool in fighting crime, saving costs, and catching known criminals more quickly and that this would be of benefit to businesses and individuals. The challenge, however, is that despite ICO investigations and calls for caution, and despite problems that the technology is known to have e.g. being inaccurate and showing a bias (being better at identifying white and male faces), not to mention its impact on privacy, the police appear to be pushing ahead with its use anyway.  For privacy campaigners and others, this may give the impression that their real concerns (many of which are shared by the ICO) are being pushed aside in an apparent rush to get the technology rolled out. It appears to many that the use of the technology is happening before any of the major problems with it have been resolved and before there has been a proper debate or the introduction of an up-to-date statutory law and code of practice for the technology.

EU Considers Ban on Facial Recognition

It has been reported that the European Commission is considering a ban on the use of facial recognition in public spaces for up to five years while new regulations for its use are put in place.

Document

The reports of a possible three to five-year ban come from an 18-page EC report, which has been seen by some major news distributors.

Why?

Facial recognition trials in the UK first raised the issues of how the technology can be intrusive, can infringe upon a person’s privacy and data rights, and how facial recognition technology is not always accurate.  These issues have also been identified and raised in the UK, For example:

– In December 2018, Elizabeth Denham, the UK’s Information Commissioner launched a formal investigation into how police forces used FRT after high failure rates, misidentifications and worries about legality, bias, and privacy. This stemmed from the trial of ‘real-time’ facial recognition technology on Champions League final day June 2017 in Cardiff, by South Wales and Gwent Police forces, which was criticised for costing £177,000 and yet only resulting in one arrest of a local man whose arrest was unconnected.

– Trials of FRT at the 2016 and 2017 Notting Hill Carnivals led to the Police facing criticism that FRT was ineffective, racially discriminatory, and confused men with women.

– In September 2018 a letter, written by Big Brother Watch (a privacy campaign group) and signed by more than 18 politicians, 25 campaign groups, and numerous academics and barristers highlighted concerns that facial recognition is being adopted in the UK before it has been properly scrutinised.

– In September 2019 it was revealed that the owners of King’s Cross Estate had been using FRT without telling the public, and with London’s Metropolitan Police Service supplying the images for a database.

– In December 2019, a US report showed that, after tests by The National Institute of Standards and Technology (Nist) of 189 algorithms from 99 developers, their facial recognition technology was found to be less accurate at identifying African-American and Asian faces, and was particularly prone to misidentifying African-American females.

Impact Assessment

The 18-page EC report is said to contain the recommendation that a three to five-year ban on the public use of facial recognition technology would allow time to develop a methodology for assessing the impacts of (and developing risk management measures for) the use of facial recognition technology.

Google Calls For AI To Be Regulated

The way in which artificial intelligence (AI) is being widely and quickly deployed before the regulation of the technology has had a chance a to catch up is the subject of recent comments by Sundar Pichai, the head of Google’s parent company, Alphabet’.  Mr Pichai (in the Financial Times) called for regulation with a sensible approach and for a set of rules for areas of AI development such as self-driving cars and AI usage in health.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

It seems that there is some discomfort in the UK, Europe and beyond that relatively new technologies which have known flaws, and are of concern to government representatives, interest groups and the public are being rolled out before the necessary regulations and risk management measures have had time to be properly considered and developed.  It is true that facial recognition could have real benefits (e.g. fighting crime) which could have benefits for many businesses and that AI has a vast range of opportunities for businesses to save money and time plus innovating products, services and processes.  However, the flaws in these technologies, and their potential to be used improperly, covertly, and in a way that could infringe the rights of the public cannot be ignored, and it is likely to be a good thing in the long term, that time is taken and efforts are made now to address the issues of stakeholders and develop regulations and measures that could prevent bigger problems involving these technologies further down the line.

Glimpse of the Future of Tech at CES Expo Show

This week, at the giant CES expo in Las Vegas, the latest technology from around the world is on display, and here are just a few of the glimpses into the future that are being demonstrated there, with regards to business-tech.

Cyberlink FaceMe®

Leading facial recognition company Cyberlink will be demonstrating the power of its highly accurate FaceMe® AI engine. The FaceMe® system, which Cyberlink claims has an accuracy rate (TAR, True Acceptance Rate) of 99.5% at 10-4 FAR, is so advanced that it can recognise the age, gender and even the emotional state of passers-by and can use this information to display appropriate adverts.

D-ID

In a world where facial recognition technology is becoming more prevalent, D-ID recognise the need to protect the sensitive biometric data that makes up our faces. On display at CES expo is D-ID’s anti facial recognition solution which uses an algorithm, advanced image processing and deep learning techniques to re-synthesise any given photo to a protected version so that photos are unrecognisable to face recognition algorithms, but humans will not notice any difference.

Hour One

Another interesting contribution to the Las Vegas CES expo is Hour One’s AI-powered system for creating premium quality synthetic characters based on real-life people. The idea is that these very realistic characters can be used to promote products without companies having to hire expensive stars and actors and that companies using Hour One can save time and money and get a close match to their brief due to the capabilities, scale/cope and fast turnaround that Hour One offers.

Mirriad

Also adding to the intriguing and engaging tech innovations at the expo, albeit at private meetings there, is Mirriad’s AI-powered solution for analysing videos, TV programmes and movies for brand/product insertion opportunities and enabling retrospective brand placements in the visual content. For example, different adverts can be inserted in roadside billboards and bus stop advertising boards that are shown in pre-shot videos and films.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

AI is clearly emerging as an engine that’s driving change and creating a wide range of opportunities for business marketing as well as for security purposes. The realism and accuracy, flexibility, scope, scale, and potential cost savings that AI offers could provide many beneficial business opportunities. The flipside for us as individuals and consumers is that, for example, as biometric systems (such as facial recognition) offers us some convenience and protection from cyber-crime, they can also threaten our privacy and security. It is ironic and probably inevitable, therefore, that we may need and value AI-powered protection solutions such as D-ID to protect us.