China’s new 500 Megapixel Surveillance Camera

October 2, 2019 | 10:08
Xiaoyang Zeng in front of his ‘Super Camera’. Image: Fudan University.
Xiaoyang Zeng in front of his ‘Super Camera’. Image: Fudan University.
Scientists at Fudan University and the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics and Physics in China have developed a camera with the extreme resolution of 500 megapixels. The super camera is equipped with artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition, real-time monitoring and cloud computing technology to enable it to recognise individual faces in a crowd of thousands.
This new camera system is not the highest resolution camera in the world; a 570 megapixel camera was developed in 2018 for serious research applications in physics in the search for dark energy. The Chinese super camera, on the other hand, has been developed specifically to match facial details of a single person in an image containing thousands of faces such as might be taken of a crowd in a stadium, busy urban metropolis or during a civil-unrest event.
At the International Industry Fair in China, the camera was presented by Xiaoyang Zeng, a researcher involved in its development. Details are scarce but a picture of the camera shows it’s made up of a 4 x 9 array of individual cameras.  Image information from these 36 cameras is combined to produce one picture. Technically, this software-intensive approach seems like a good compromise to achieve the necessary image resolution. A single sensor with the required pixel density would be much more expensive as would the lens arrangement.
The camera sends data from its 500 megapixels to the cloud where an AI-based real-time facial-recognition system extracts individual faces within a crowd of more than one thousand people. The camera can even record videos at this resolution, but this is sure to vastly increase the volume of data shuttling around the system and reduce response times.

Keeping tabs...

Experts reporting in the Far-Eastern press have hailed the new camera’s capabilities for its potential applications in the fields of military, defense, and public security.
Although this surveillance camera has been given the name ‘Super Camera’, 2019 also happens to be the seventieth anniversary of the publication of the prophetic novel entitled ‘1984’. Maybe the camera could be renamed in honour of one of the characters in George Orwell’s story…
Routine citizen surveillance is already an everyday reality in China, this powerful new camera with its AI-assisted facial recognition capability and cloud connectivity will make it even less likely that people will be able to go about their everyday activities unnoticed.
And finally: Can you guess just how many surveillance cameras are already operating in China today...

See next page for the answer...

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