How artificial intelligence is changing security

The city of Nice tested state-of-the-art facial recognition technology at its annual February carnival – with impressive results. Oliver Rowland visited the city’s video surveillance unit, which ran the tests, to see how it uses artificial intelligence. We also spoke to Confidentia, the Monaco-based firm which developed the cutting-edge software

The city of Nice could soon be using security cameras so ‘intelligent’ that they can identify members of the public who look afraid or angry.

There are plans to trial a system in the city’s trams that is capable of automatically recognising unusual emotions, such as fear or anger, on the faces of passengers and flagging it up, a mairie staff member said.

Nice already considers itself one of France’s ‘smartest’ cities.

As Connexion reported in August, the city’s municipal police claimed a 100% success rate with facial recognition tests during the city’s carnival.

The mairie told Connexion when we visited that it hopes its report about this to the government and MPs will spur on laws allowing facial recognition to be used daily [since then however the initiative hit a bump in the road with national data security agency Cnil saying the report was not detailed enough for final conclusions to be drawn].

Mayor Christian Estrosi believes current personal data laws which prevent it, dating from 1978, are obsolete.

Nice has not waited for such a change, however,  to make massive use of video surveillance. Up to 20 people work 24 hours a day in its Centre de Supervision Urbaine (CSU), the largest of any French municipal police.

They monitor screens that show images from 2,700 cameras, take calls, and process requests from other authorities to use images. The cameras are in strategic points around the commune, as well as at its 153 schools and at tram stops and inside trams.

CSU head Grégory Pezet said the centre was created in 2008 by Mr Estrosi. “When he arrived, we had 300 cameras, and there will be 3,000 by the end of the year.” The cameras are 4k resolution, giving high quality images.

“We can zoom in to see a car numberplate at 600 metres,” Mr Pezet said.

Some present a fixed view, while others work in 360 degrees. “The operator uses a joystick ...

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