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Beijing subway to introduce facial recognition and palm scanners this year

Authorities are considering bio-recognition systems to reduce congestion

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Beijing's subway system plans to introduce palm scanners and facial recognition cameras, state media reported on Tuesday.

Having already tested facial recognition technology on everything from identifying criminals at traffic stops to predicting customers' orders at fast food restaurants, 'bio-recognition' technology in China has already advanced to a mature stage, said Huawei's director of railway business department Wang Jianwei.

Designed to help speed up passenger flow through subway stations during peak periods, facial recognition cameras will be able to detect people's faces, potentially allowing them to bypass normal ticketing channels, while palm readers will allow passengers to swipe their hands to gain entry at ticket turnstiles. Commuters would then simply be required to keep an online account topped up.

Shanghai's subway system has already installed palm scanners, allowing images to be immediately compared to a print database, China Daily reports. According to Shanghai subway rules, disabled soldiers, blind people, veterans, retired cadres and injured police officers are permitted to use the subway for free, with Shanghai Metro encouraging these groups to access the subway using palm vein technology on its Pujiang line.

Unsurprisingly however, this latest announcement has been met with concerns over surveillance and privacy from human rights groups, with fears that authorities may also use the technology to block access to certain commuters, as well as track people's movements.

According to Vice Minister of Transport Liu Xiaoming, 96 Beijing subway stations have already had to implement measures limiting passengers during peak hours due to congestion. Beijing currently has 22 urban railway lines, with more than 10 million passengers riding its subway trains on an average working day.

The rise of the machines

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