A monitor screen at the Yizhuang comprehensive governance network command center tracks the age, clothing, gender and other information about pedestrains. (Photo: Liu Xuanzun/GT)From a huge monitor screen in the comprehensive governance network command center of Yizhuang town in Beijing, public servants can clearly track video feeds sent by all security cameras in the town. Key indicators gathered by sensors and generated with big data include population density on the streets, volume of vehicles, temperature, humidity and PM 2.5 pollutant concentrations of different locations, all shown in real time.
If an anomaly occurs, it will be immediately located on a map on the screen and trigger an alarm. Staff members will quickly notify related authorities and people in charge, who will arrive on the scene and solve the problem.
This can be done thanks to the recent deployment of a new mass surveillance network in Yizhuang in October 2017 named Xueliang, or Sharp Eyes.
Headed by the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the Sharp Eyes project is an extension of China's Skynet surveillance network and uses extra cameras, artificial intelligence, facial recognition and big data.
Sharp Eyes can not only provide security, but also be used in comprehensive governance including tasks like solving traffic problems and fighting corruption, the Yizhuang government and experts said.
Under the Sharp Eyes project, the 18.18-square-kilometer town has installed 2,243 high-definition security cameras, 277 vehicle recognition cameras and 267 facial recognition cameras. Six patrol vehicles equipped with mobile cameras and enforcement officers carrying video capture devices also send live video streams to the control center, Wang Sen, secretary of the CPC Yizhuang committee, told the Global Times in a written report.
The video feeds can also be received by normal citizens as long as they download an application on their smartphones or televisions. Normal citizens can report any anomaly remotely with one press of a button, and the control center will be alerted.
Burglary and vehicle theft cases have decreased by 76.4 percent compared with the same period before Sharp Eyes was deployed, with criminal cases overall seeing a reduction of 38.6 percent, Gai Zheng, the deputy chief of Yizhuang town, told the Global Times.
"Sharp Eyes is expected to do behavior recognition in the future, which can predict vicious events by analyzing behavioral signs shown by people and take responsive actions in advance," Gai said, adding that the more data the system accumulates, the more accurate it will become.
Sharp Eyes has practical uses beyond safeguarding people's safety.
For example, the cameras will help the control center identify illegal parking and unlicensed peddlers occupying the streets, which are major causes of traffic jams. Enforcers can be quickly alerted to handle the problem.
Vehicle recognition cameras can also help China's anti-corruption campaign, as they can easily spot the usage of government cars for private purposes.
"Sharp Eyes has evolved from a pure public security system to a comprehensive governance system, thus creating an effective network that better serves the people," Yang Zheng, the head of brand department of Zhejiang Uniview Technologies Co Ltd, the supplier of the Sharp Eyes project in Yizhuang, told the Global Times.
"Citizens' demands are miscellaneous, and comprehensive governance via technologies is delivering good results meeting these demands," Yang asserted.
Data in safe hands
People don't need to worry about the data Sharp Eyes has gathered, because the government and the technology suppliers are making their best efforts to make sure the data is used in a safe way.
"Data safety and privacy are ensured using both an authorization system and technology," said Zhu Bing, the main architect at Uniview.
Access to the Sharp Eyes system is strictly limited, according to Gai. As an example, Gai said that even though he is the deputy chief of the town, he is not authorized to use the system to track a suspect. Only the police can do that, he said.
Zhu said that the data is stored in an intranet, protected by security measures, passwords and watermarks, and it is very unlikely that the data would leak.