A prison that houses some of China’s most high-profile criminals is reportedly installing an artificial
intelligence network that will be able to recognise and track every inmate around the clock and alert
guards if anything seems out of place.
The "smart jail" system inside Yancheng prison integrates surveillance cameras and hidden sensors that
collect data points into a central "brain," an AI-powered computer that will generate a daily report on
inmates using facial recognition and movement analysis.
"If an inmate has been spotted pacing up and down in a room for some time, the machine may regard
the phenomenon as suspicious and suggest close-up check with a human guard," project representative
Meng Qingbiao told the South China Morning Post newspaper.
The technology deployed allows each camera to track up to 200 faces at a time, according to Mr Meng.
"So the prisoners might be able to blend in the crowd in a packed corridor, busy canteen, exercise
session or even massive brawl, but they will never be able to slip away completely.
It might even help guards behave better and treat prisoners more uniformly.
For instance, if inmates succeed bribing guards to help them escape, neither will be able to duck away
from the surveillance technology, he said about the system, jointly developed by public research
institutes including Tianjin University and Tiandy, a surveillance technology firm.
China has been rapidly developing artificial intelligence capabilities and rolling out new technologies for
use in city streets to track traffic patterns to schools to monitor students.
In some airports, it’s already possible to board at the gate via facial recognition.
And one tech firm, Watrix, is working on a new "gait recognition" software that identifies people using
their silhouettes and how they walk, even if their faces are obscured and their backs are turned.
In the long run, such technology could supplement facial recognition, which relies on high-resolution
images of a person’s face to work properly.
Yancheng prison is often referred to as China’s ‘VIP’ prison as it houses some of formerly high ranking
officials who have been fallen by a widespread anti-corruption crackdown, and is thought to have
relatively more comfortable accommodations.