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Tokyo 2020 taps NEC for facial recognition system

AI-powered technology will be rolled out to increase security at Olympic Games.

by Sam Carp

Tokyo 2020 taps NEC for facial recognition system

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be the first edition of the multi-sport event to use facial recognition technology to increase security around all venues.

The organisers of the Games have teamed up with Japanese telecommunications and information technology giant NEC to develop the system, which is built around an artificial intelligence (AI) engine called NeoFace.

The technology will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the event, including athletes, volunteers, media, and other staff, all of whom will be required to submit photographs to a database before the Olympics start in July 2020.   

The system, which was showcased to the media at an event in the Japanese capital, will use IC chips within identification cards to automatically verify the identity of people entering Games venues.

The aim of the system is to speed up the security process to ensure people are not spending long periods of time waiting in the heat. If temperatures match what Japan has experienced so far this summer, the Games are on course to be the hottest Olympics for more than a century.

Rather than being aimed at spectators, the technology will predominantly concentrate on strengthening security and decreasing waiting time for athletes.

“Every time they enter the facility, they have to do a security check,” said Tokyo 2020’s head of security Tsuyoshi Iwashita. “Tokyo’s venues don’t always have enough space for the security check or even space to wait for the security check. When the events are happening, we expect many people to come and the weather will be very hot. This is why we introduced this facial recognition.”

“With our extensive experience and knowledge of biometric identification technologies, NEC is well placed to help ensure the Tokyo 2020 Games can be operated smoothly, safely and securely," added NEC senior vice president Masaaki Suganuma. “Athletes, Games staff, volunteers and the media will have this recognition.”