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Live smart, go digital: biometric identification in the “Smart City” concept

Live smart, godigital: biometric identification in the smart city concept — RecFaces

The growth of urbanization is a global trend that will continue to gain momentum in the future. According to UN estimates, by 2050, 6.3 billion people will live in cities — more than 67% of the world's population. For the cities themselves, urbanization is becoming a serious challenge. Among the key problems are environmental pollution, waste recycling, safety, traffic jams, transport accessibility, and the need to upgrade infrastructure. Their solution should be the concept of Smart City — “Smart City”. According to the American analytical company Mordor Intelligence, by 2026 the global smart city market will exceed $2 trillion.

Despite the fact that the idea of Smart City was born more than 20 years ago, this term has not yet received a unified interpretation. In general terms, it can be described as an urban planning concept that increases the efficiency of urban management through the introduction of a complex of advanced information technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT). An extensive network of sensors will allow monitoring the entire functionality of the city infrastructure: from water supply to lighting, from power supply systems to garbage collection. Special attention is paid to ecology and solving the problems of environmental pollution. Smart City technologies also help to optimize the transport system and control traffic. For the citizens themselves, the key features of Smart City are reduced to the definitions of “safe” and “comfortable”. Behind these definitions is a large-scale and complex IT infrastructure. Biometric technologies also play an important role in it. Today we will talk about how and why biometric identification is used in “Smart Cities”.


Public security is one of the most difficult tasks in the management of a modern city. The problem of security is growing in proportion to the growth of the population of cities: the more people there are, the higher the crime rate. Biometric identification becomes the basis for solving this problem in the concept of “Smart Cities”.

Reducing the crime rate and improving the efficiency of the investigation of offenses

The city's network of video surveillance cameras equipped with face recognition functions allows police officers to identify possible incidents on the streets of the city in a timely manner and respond promptly to them.
As an example, let's consider the project of a “smart” video surveillance system, which was implemented in the Argentine city of Tigre in 2011. Despite the modest population (about 31 thousand people), as in many other cities of Latin America, the crime rate here was quite high. “Biometric” cameras were able not only to recognize faces, but also to detect suspicious behavior of people. The information was transmitted to the police in real time. The effect was impressive: the number of car thefts in the city decreased by 80%. In addition, the data from the video cameras formed the basis of the “criminal map” of the city. This made it possible to strengthen control in those areas where the largest number of offenses was recorded.

Biometric identification also makes it possible to significantly increase the detection of crimes. Of course, it is possible to conduct investigations with the help of ordinary video surveillance cameras. But, often, this method is ineffective. After spending several hours watching the video, a police officer may not notice the appearance of the criminal. The integration of the facial recognition function into the video surveillance system automates the search process. It is enough to have a photo of the offender to instantly get information about the locations in which he appeared, and calculate the trajectory of his movement around the city. In addition, the technology allows you to establish social connections of the criminal. Identify the persons with whom he met, and then track their movements already. This is especially true when it comes to preventing or investigating crimes committed by a group of people. For example, criminal or terrorist groups. All data is stored in long-term archives, and can be ranked by different parameters: date, time, place or a specific camera.
Face recognition technologies are constantly being improved, and it is extremely difficult to deceive modern algorithms. The system detects a person even in difficult weather conditions and even if he uses camouflage techniques: a hood, hats, glasses or medical masks.

When transferring the city to “smart” video surveillance, special attention is paid to the objects of a large crowd of people: public transport, stadiums, large shopping centers and popular tourist attractions. The number of tracking devices is actually limited only by the city budget. For example,  according to a study by Surfshark, there are 657 cameras per 1 square kilometer in Chennai, 399 in London, 277 in Beijing, and 254 in Paris.

Biometric identification and COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic and the self-isolation regime introduced by most countries of the world in the spring of 2020 have become a serious test for facial recognition technologies.

Video surveillance cameras equipped with facial biometrics first helped the authorities to monitor the observance of quarantine by people who returned from abroad, and then to monitor compliance with the general regime of self-isolation. Despite a number of problems at the initial stages of use, in general, the system has proven itself well.

China also gave us a successful case of using intelligent video surveillance in the fight against the pandemic. The facial recognition system operating in the Middle Kingdom is rightfully considered the most verified and extensive in the world. During the pandemic, the Chinese authorities used data from video surveillance cameras, information from mobile operators, drones, data from online stores and other technologies based on artificial intelligence. This gave an exhaustive picture of the movement of citizens and their contacts with infected people. As a result, China was able to stop the spread of COVID-19 much faster than other countries.

Surveillance cameras, geodata of mobile operators and information about bank card payments were also used by South Korea to counteract the coronavirus. But unlike China, the authorities here have relied on the consciousness of citizens and the openness of data, and not on restricting freedom of movement. Information about the movements of infected people was received by local governments, which then distributed it to the population via SMS and mobile applications. Alerts helped citizens avoid those locations that could be dangerous.


Biometric technologies in transport systems

Public transport

The introduction of biometric identification in the operation of public transport in “Smart Cities” not only increases the safety of its use, but also makes trips more comfortable for citizens.

Thus, the installation of a video surveillance camera with face recognition technology in the vehicle's interior allows you to count the number of passengers. Using this data, you can determine the busiest routes and calculate the exact intervals of peak hours. The analysis helps to optimize the transport schedule. Increase or decrease the number of departures on the lines, depending on the route.

The “face-to-face” payment system is also designed to make transport trips more convenient. A similar system is already used in Singapore, Dubai and London. Access controllers installed in the turnstile area with face recognition technology “read” the biometric data of the passenger, and automatically deduct the cost of the trip from his account.

Now the Face Pay technology is being globally tested in subway. 

Airports and train stations

Biometric technologies are also being successfully implemented in the work of large transport hubs of “Smart Cities”. First of all, airports and train stations.Thus, the use of “smart” video surveillance and e-gates with facial recognition technology can speed up the passage of pre-flight formalities at airports by 30%. Biometric identification can be used at all stages of control: from baggage delivery to customs control. You can learn more about how biometrics changes the work of airports in the RecFaces blog.


Services for sharing various things and services are one of the promising areas in the concept of “Smart Cities”. This can be either a “sharing” of clothes or things that meets the idea of reasonable consumption, or common vehicles. First of all, here we are talking about car sharing.

Today, the popularity of car sharing depends on the density of the city's population: the more people live in the metropolis, the more difficult it is for them to find a suitable parking place in the immediate vicinity of the house. It is logical to assume that as urbanization increases, more and more urban residents will abandon personal transport. This theory is already confirmed by modern research.

Thus, in Switzerland, with the advent of car sharing, the volume of trips by private cars fell by 35%, and the popularity of public transport increased by 12%. Thus, car sharing not only contributes to the fight against traffic jams, but also helps the city authorities in solving parking problems.

However, carsharing has many “weak” points, both from the point of view of operators and from the point of view of users. Companies suffer from fraudulent schemes using other people's accounts and reckless drivers. Customers expect more personalization and comfort from a rented car. The integration of biometric identification into the work of carsharing services allows us to take into account the interests of both parties. Verification of the user using biometric data excludes the possibility of renting a car by a third party. After all, unlike passport data or a photo, a “living face” of a person cannot be forged. In addition, a camera with a face recognition function can help the machine “remember” the settings that are relevant for a particular user. As a result, the driver will no longer have to spend time adjusting mirrors or adjusting seats.

Interaction with state authorities

The ease of citizens ' access to services is another important part of the Smart City concept. To enroll in a polyclinic, get the necessary certificate, pay taxes or fines — something that used to take hours, or even days, today can be done in a couple of minutes without leaving home. Most countries of the world are engaged in digitalization of public services today. Individual cities are also implementing their own systems, for example, some cities have special platforms serving for making an appointment with a doctor.

When working with such services, the question of digital security arises. Biometric identification is becoming one of the ways to protect citizens ' personal data. So in India, there is a unified AADHAR system, for registration in which users ' fingerprints and iris scanning data are used. The service is integrated with other government services. For example, with the portal, through which citizens can share opinions on policy issues. 

We see that biometric identification can be used to solve a wide range of urban management tasks. In the foreseeable future, more and more cities will begin to implement the principles of the Smart City concept, including those requiring the use of biometric technologies. This will be one of the factors of the growth of the global biometrics market. Read more about the industry trends and forecasts of its development in the article of the RecFaces blog.

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