How a university campus is using facial recognition to keep its dorms safe

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Female undergraduates at a top Chinese university can now use their face to open doors.

The Beijing Normal University installed two facial recognition devices at entrances to the No. 13 female dorms in early May this year, according to state-run Beijing News. 

The system — which has been on trial for nearly three weeks — is meant to deter intruders from entering the dorms through tailgating, say campus staff. If the system does not recognise a face, it will alert security. 

Image: Pear Video/Miaopai

Students can either swipe their student ID, key in their ID number, or say their name; the system then runs their face through a database and unlocks the door for residents it recognises. 

Residents interviewed by Beijing News say that the system has been convenient. 

One student told Beijing News that when she logged her identity into the system, she had to take pictures from several different angles, so the database basically had a 3D model of her face.

Still, the machine’s 97% recognition rate poses an inconvenience to some. “It’s a bit slow — sometimes I had to retry two to three times with different angles,” another student, who declined to be named, said. “There’s a little bit of lag with the system.” 

A student who said she lives in the No. 13 dorm told Mashable through Weibo that visitors are generally not allowed in dormitories unless approved by security.

“[Theft] wasn’t common,” the student, who asked to not be named, said, “but we’ve had unauthorized visitors come into the dormitories before.”

The university is planning to install the system in its nine other female dorms if the trial is successful. We’ve contacted the school to find out more. 

The system is one of many innovative applications of facial recognition technology that China has implemented. 

Authorities have sought to use facial recognition technology to ration toilet paper in the Temple of Heaven, a Chinese tourist hotspot, while Baidu, the country’s search giant, partnered with KFC to create a smart kiosk that would recognise repeat customers and suggest menu choices. 

Still, scanning your face to go back to your dorm was a conversation starter on Weibo.

Image: Ng YI Shu/Mashable

“It’s great! Good for the system to stop men from coming in to women’s dorms. If you want a date, go somewhere else instead of a dorm — some men are just so shameless that they flirt with their girlfriend’s roommates,” one user joked.

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

Another was worried about long lines: “Do you have to queue to scan your face after class?”

Image: NG YI SHU/MASHABLE

Another user kept it real: “Our school also has one — it’s used to keep thieves at bay, not boyfriends.”

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