China’s big brother: how artificial intelligence is catching criminals and advancing health care

By Zigor Aldama (SCMP),

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The lifts rising to Yitu Technology’s headquarters have no buttons. The pass cards of the staff and visitors stepping into the elevators that service floors 23 and 25 of a newly built sky­scraper in Shanghai’s Hongqiao business district are read automatically – no swipe required – and each passenger is deposited at their specified floor.

The only way to beat the system and alight on a different floor is to wait for someone who does have access and jump out alongside them. Or, if this were a sci-fi thriller, you’d set off the fire alarms and take the stairs while everyone else was evacuating. But even in that scenario, you’d be caught: Yitu’s cameras record everyone coming into the building and track them inside. An artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm recognizes faces and plots the movement of their owners on maps of each floor.

In one of the company’s open spaces is a large screen that identifies anyone who stares at it, and then plays videos of their recent movements throughout the premises. The effect is perhaps a little “Big Brother”, but this is nothing compared to what else Yitu can do – and is doing.