Participants in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be among 300,000 attendees to be identified using facial recognition technology, organisers said.
The security system being rolled out across the event’s venues will use technology provided by NEC Corporation, which also provides mugshot-matching software to police forces in the UK.
It will be used to prevent people from stealing access cards and using them to access restricted areas – instead, attendees will need to show that their facial image matches the one shared by the card.
All 300,000 people accredited to attend the event – from athletes and officials through to staff members and media representatives – will have their facial images enrolled in the comparison database.
Facial recognition works with an algorithm comparing a “probe image” captured via CCTV or another source, to a database of “comparison images”.
However, even the most sophisticated systems have struggled to make matches when the database of comparison images is very large.
Although the Olympics and Paralympics believe the technology will “improve overall comfort and convenience”, the database of 300,000 people is likely to pose an enormous test to NEC’s system.
A driving concern behind the implementation of the system was the fears of long queues forming during the peak of summer in Tokyo. More than 120 people have died in a record heatwave this year.
There are fears that such temperatures could cause even more harm within the slow-moving queues of a high-security event.
“This latest technology will enable strict identification of accredited people compared with relying solely on the eyes of security staff,” said Tsuyoshi Iwashita, the Games’ executive director of security.
It “also enables swift entry to venues which will be necessary in the intense heat of summer”, he added.