Is Public Safety China’s New Export?

R. Bhattacharyya

Summary Bullets:

• Huawei showcased its Video Cloud Platform at its recent analyst event, touting its application for public safety.

• The company pointed to widespread adoption and success in China, but can it find a market for its solution overseas?

During Huawei’s Analyst Summit in Shenzhen, China, executive keynotes emphasized the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in the company’s vision to create a more connected, more intelligent world. The company’s vision is to use AI to improve people’s daily lives and to benefit society as a whole. Unlike some competitors, who often showcase the application of AI to improve the customer experience, or point to use cases that incorporate natural language processing or natural language generation, Huawei was keen to highlight its video strategy. The company has roughly 5,450 members of its staff involved in developing video solutions and eight research and development centers that focus on video technology (three in China, as well as sites in the US, France, Ireland, Russia, and Japan). Huawei envisions several use cases for the application of AI and video, including identification of abandoned objects, intrusion detection, crowd density monitoring, facial control/admission processing, and vehicle, facial, and physical attribute identification.
In support of its vision to use technology for the greater good, Huawei noted several applications of visual recognition in the area of public safety. The company indicated that 60% of cases in Huawei’s home town of Shenzhen were solved with video in 2017. Executives detailed the safe city initiative in place that resulted in the return of a kidnapped child within 15 hours of his abduction from a shopping center. Huawei’s software defined cameras used facial recognition to capture images of potential suspects, and data analytics compared results to a blacklist of individuals and as well as to images captured by a vast network of cameras dispersed at city entrance and exit points. Executives also profiled the use of visual recognition to identify cars that commit driving violations, and a platform for transporting hazardous material that includes video analytics, multimedia communication, facial recognition, and can reroute trucks as traffic problems arise.

Huawei pointed out that traditional in-building and external video systems are often separate, making it difficult to share data between the two systems. As a result, analysis is often manual, which is time consuming and inefficient. Huawei’s Video Cloud Solution (HVCS) encompasses ultra-broadband networks, high-performance cloud computing, data processing and video processing technologies, creating a platform for application partners. Additionally, Huawei offers AI-infused, software defined cameras that can perform vehicle license plate recognition, facial recognition, human body recognition, cycling analysis, behavior analytics and image enhancement, greatly speeding up the analysis and shortening the time it takes to deliver actionable insights.

But can China export its public safety use cases, particularly those designed to fight crime? That depends. Some countries may be wary of implementing an AI-intensive solution from a Chinese vendor given the recent political pressure felt by ZTE and Kaspersky over alleged security concerns. But the Huawei solution is already being used overseas. In Kenya, Huawei provides a safe city initiative, which it touts has resulted in a 46% drop in crime. Many parts of the world are challenged to improve security, particularly in urban areas, and at times, law enforcement agencies appear to be fighting an uphill battle.

Although AI can’t address the underlying causes of violent crime (population displacement, lack of economic opportunities, etc.) the technology can be a useful tool in an overall crime investigation/deterrence strategy. However, many factors will be critical to success. Do developing countries have the communications infrastructure to transport and process the massive volumes of data required to perform visual recognition? Do agencies support inter-regional collaboration to the degree that they can act on findings, or will corruption and infighting hinder success? And then finally, can developing nations or those with aging infrastructure afford the expensive investment in technology? Or, given the toll crime takes on foreign investment and tourism, can they afford not to?

What do you think?

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