State-of-the-art facial recognition technology, powered by artificial intelligence (AI), could be introduced in Bahrain to crack down on criminals and further boost security.The Southern Municipal Council has unanimously approved a proposal to launch the system as they believe it would be a game-changer by helping identify offenders without the need for an investigation or direct police intervention.The hi-tech cameras are currently being tested by the UAE’s immigration, customs, and traffic authorities, they said.The proposal will be forwarded to Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture Minister Wael Al Mubarak, who will refer it to the Interior Minister for review.The councillors want providers of the new technology to test it at immigration checkpoints at Bahrain International Airport, King Fahad Causeway and Khalifa Bin Salman Port in Hidd, besides Bahrain’s main highways and roads.

Ministry officials have been requested to calculate the costs of setting up the new detection system.Live facial recognition cameras scan faces of the public in specific locations and compare these with people on ‘watch lists’ who may be wanted by police or the courts in association with crimes.“The world has changed and it has thrown up more challenges with terrorism, smuggling, forgery, security breaches and even traffic violations on the rise,” said council chairman Abdulla Abdullatif.“Current detection methods are acceptable.

By and large, they get the job done, mostly because they are handled by alert and dedicated security officials. However, there have been instances when it has not yielded the expected results,” he said.“Criminals and terrorists have become smarter and hence a new detection system is needed to reflect the advances in technology.“Facial recognition software is the only solution in which an artificial intelligence-powered system can detect each and every individual at any place or time.”Mr Abdullatif said top providers in the field of AI should be asked to bid for the service across the country.“We are not looking for cheap providers; we want a system that’s responsible and at the same time effective, something that is similar to the technology highlighted in the popular American television series Person of Interest a few years ago,” he said.

The series centred on a reclusive billionaire who developed a computer programme for the federal government known as ‘The Machine’ that could collate all sources of information to predict terrorist acts and identify people planning them.The council chairman said companies that provide the technology would be asked to set up a comprehensive database, which will be linked to all ministries and government bodies.“The facial recognition system should be used by government departments, for example, the Labour Market Regulatory Authority inspectors, municipal inspectors and policemen on patrol to nab offenders,” he said.“Other providers will be approached for the desk equipment needed under the system, while yet others will be asked for portable devices similar to what LMRA inspectors use today to scan smart cards, but more advanced.”Mr Abdullatif said the system could be linked to other countries in the GCC to expand the database.

Council member Hamad Al Zoubi, meanwhile, suggested that the facial detection system could be first installed on a pilot basis at the Gulf of Bahrain Avenue.“The area is witnessing numerous traffic violations by individuals and, I believe, police presence here is not enough,” he said. “When people realise there are no cameras or heavy security presence, they tend to break the law. “Those artificial intelligence detectors wouldn’t give them space to breathe. It should be installed in Gulf of Bahrain Avenue before implementing it in other parts of the country.”

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