Police in Leicestershire will
become the first in the UK to trial facial recognition software
that can cross-reference any digital images with the police
NeoFace is a computer program that can be used to automatically
search, process and match facial images held in large digital
mugshot databases in order to speed up criminal investigations –
currently police officers will trawl through on-screen photos and
compare them by eye. Police officers can take a new digital image
— whether it’s from CCTV or a body camera — and enter it into the
NeoFace system. NeoFace will enhance the image and then compare it
to the police database, ranking the database images against the new
image in order to produce a list of likely candidates. The system
also maintains an audit trail for each step of image enhancement –
something that’s critical if it’s to be used as evidence. As it
stands, however, this evidence can’t be used in court, it can only
be used to develop new lines of enquiry.
Some of the image enhancement tools that NeoFace offers include
“pose correction”, which aims to create a frontal face image from a
rotated image, and “consolidation”, which aims to generate a good
frontal face image from a series of images at different angles. In
the background, NeoFace runs algorithms to convert two-dimensional
images into three-dimensional ones through a process called
“morphing”. These representations are then rotated into different
directions so that it’s easier to find a match in the database by
comparing dozens of measurements between key facial features. It
does this within seconds.
Developed by NEC, NeoFace supposedly offers more accurate facial
recognition than other vendors, according to an evaluation be the
US National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2013.
The Leicestershire Police force has been evaluating the software
for a few months and has already found it to have a high success
rate of identification. It is now launching a six-month trial.
“We have over ninety-thousand photos on our system and NeoFace
can compare someone’s image against our complete databases in
seconds. Besides the speed it’s also impressive because it can even
find family members related to the person we’re trying to
identify,” explains Andy Ramsey, who works in the force’s Identity
It’s not the first time police have experimented with facial
recognition software. Brazilian police used the technology during the World Cup while Boston police tried to use it to
track down the marathon bombing suspect.