Face Recognition, via Cell Phones

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Telecom equipment maker Motorola, Inc. says it plans to embed face recognition technology into Java-enabled mobile phones.

Motorola said the application was being developed specifically for law enforcement agencies. The Chicago-based company is partnering in the project with Wirehound LLC and Visionics Corp., a maker of identity verification systems for physical and network security.

The announcement, made at the JavaOne Developer Conference in San Francisco, said the application would use Visionics' FaceIt ARGUS as the delivery platform for facial recognition capabilities.

Motorola would also install Wirehound's Birddog software on the its i95cl phone, a J2ME technology-enabled mobile phone with a color display.

The FaceIt ARGUS system would automatically find faces in a field of view and search them against a mug shot database. "Upon finding a match, the Birddog component generates a wireless alert to the phones used by mobile law enforcement officials, who are then able to verify the identity of the subject," the company said.

Motorola said the cell phones would store multiple images. When a new image arrives, the phone would sound an alert. Non-matched images would be automatically discarded from the system.

"By teaming with Motorola and Wirehound, we are now providing a compelling solution for on-the-spot criminal recognition," said Joseph Atick, CEO of Visionics.

While the use of the biometrics face recognition technology in law enforcement circles has gained momentum, especially after the events of post-September 11, the unreliability of the software has been criticized by civil right advocates.

Visionics has already faced criticism by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the technology can be used to track innocent civilians and give people a false sense of security.

Following the events of September 11, airport security officials have rushed to install the face recognition technology but, because the system can be outsmarted by a pair of sunglasses, critics have had a field day dismissing it as useless.

The criticisms have not stopped Visionics from scoring lucrative deals to install security systems in airports throughout the U.S. The company, which maintains headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., provides identity fraud applications, and identity verification systems for physical and network security, travel and banking.

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