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

Zigor Aldama:

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.

“Our machines can very easily recognise you among at least 2 billion people in a matter of seconds,” says chief executive and Yitu co-founder Zhu Long, “which would have been unbelievable just three years ago.”

Yitu’s Dragonfly Eye generic portrait platform already has 1.8 billion photographs to work with: those logged in the national database and you, if you have visited China recently. Yitu will not say whether Hong Kong identity card holders have been logged in the government’s database, for which the company provides navigation software and algor­ithms, but 320 million of the photos have come from China’s borders, including ports and airports, where pictures are taken of everyone who enters and leaves the country.