In an effort to limit infections, South Korea is to trial an artificial intelligence (AI) facial recognition system to track Covid cases in one of its most densely populated cities, according to an official cited by Reuters.
The system, which will be funded nationally and tested in Bucheon, on the outskirts of Seoul, will begin operating in January. Using facial recognition and AI, it will take advantage of the city’s 10,820 security cameras to track the movements of active cases and their close contacts, and to determine whether they wore a mask.
Reuters reported on Monday that the city had submitted a 110-page business plan to South Korea’s Ministry of Science and Information and Communications Technology, which is seeking proposals to limit the spread of infection. Once the project is rolled out, South Korea will join China, India, Japan, Poland, Russia, and multiple US states in exploring the potential of facial recognition to keep a watchful eye on those who test Covid-positive.
A Bucheon official said the system would be an effective way to reduce the workload of the team charged with tracking Covid cases in the populous city. South Korea’s current tracking system already investigates credit card records, phone data, and other personal information to determine close contacts and limit potential outbreaks. However, the limitations of the existing system means working around the clock to control the spread of the virus.
Bucheon Mayor Jang Deog-cheon has previously publicly argued for an AI system, stating that “using facial recognition technology will enable that analysis in an instant,” instead of workers having to spend “hours analyzing a single [segment of] CCTV footage.”
The news of the AI system rollout comes after South Korea reported 1,030 new Covid infections on Sunday, marking the largest single-day increase and the second daily record in a row. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) confirmed that 1,002 of those had been domestically transmitted.