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China can apparently now identify citizens based on the way they walk

China is home to the worlds largest network of CCTV cameras — more than 170 million — and its police have adopted Google Glass-like smart specs to seek out suspects in crowds, but now its surveillance efforts have hit a new level with technology that can apparently identify individuals based on their body shape and the way they walk. The gait recognition technology is already being used by police in Beijing and Shanghai where it can identify individuals even when their face is obscured or their back is turned, according to an AP report. The technology was developed by Chinese AI startup Watrix, which recently picked up a $14.5 million funding round to further develop its systems. CEO Huang Yongzhen told the AP that it can ID individuals at up to 50 meters (165 feet) which, in conjunction with existing facial recognition technology, can help police and surveillance systems operate more efficiently in busy areas. The positive impact is in finding criminals, but theres a less savory edge.  Besides law enforcement, media reports have shown that China has deployed surveillance technology for more sinister purposes that include controlling its people. In particular, the government has been criticized for the way it uses its databases and facial recognition tech to police Chinas ethnic minorities.  A system deployed in Xinjiang — a Western province with a population of some 10 million Uighur Muslims — is reportedly designed to notify authorities when target individuals go beyond their home or place of work, according to Bloomberg. China stands accused of detaining as many of one million Muslims in re-education camps in Xinjiang. The province, which includes a number of cities that are located closer to Baghdad than to Beijing, has been the scene of unrest and ethnic tension in the past, and thats one reason why the government has deployed these systems. It isnt clear, however, whether the gait analysis tech has made its way to Xinjiang at this point. If not yet, youd imagine it will soon. Chinas CCTV surveillance network took just 7 minutes to capture BBC reporter

China implements tech that can detect people by the way they walk

Limping doesnt fool the software. A Chinese surveillance company, Watrix, has developed a new system for "gait recognition" that can identify people up to 165 feet away based on how they walk. This means that if a person is wearing a mask or is at an awkward angle, the software can use existing footage to detect them. CEO of Watrix, Huang Yongzhen, told the Associated Press in an interview that the software can't be fooled by limping or other out-of-the-ordinary stances because it analyzes a person's entire body. Watrix's gait recognition technology is fed a video clip of the person walking, cuts a silhouette and creates a model of the way a person walks. While Watrix claims its technology has a 94 percent accuracy rate, analysis is not done live and in real-time. And it should be noted that these claims have not been independently verified and the effectiveness of this software is still largely unknown. Police in Beijing and Shanghai have already started using gait recognition, and is part of a push to develop data-driven AI surveillance around the country. It's especially scary for some groups within China, as security officials in the Muslim-majority western province, Xinjiang, have expressed interest in utilizing the software. This is on top of the already-established facial recognition technology that has been implemented in Xinjiang. People of this far-western region, known as Uighurs, have been detained, tortured and forced to do things against their beliefs in what China calls "vocational education and training." China has rejected UN claims of mass internment -- which it made public in August of this year -- saying that the reports were politically motivated. Gait recognition itself isn't a new technology, as scientists in Japan, the UK and the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency have all been researching it. It just hadn't been commercialized, well, until Watrix entered the space. Huang believes that this technology will actually help Chinese citizens, such as when an elderly person falls over. But the virtuousness of gait recognition will be put to the test as it continues to roll out across China.