For the upcoming football World Cup in Qatar, FIFA revealed in August that 15,000 cameras with facial recognition technology would be used to monitor the whole event, including spectators. According to the organizers’ chief technology officer, Niyas Abdulrahiman, the cameras monitoring football fans across eight stadiums and on the streets of Doha would herald in a new norm, a new trend in venue management — calling it Qatar’s gift to the world of sport.
The facial recognition-based surveillance is a facet of Qatar’s attempts to monitor security risks, including terrorism and hooliganism, during the competition, which is anticipated to draw over 1 million spectators. The eight stadiums where the matches will be played will be under the technological command and control of the Aspire Command and Control center, which will also manage the surveillance network. All neighboring metro trains and buses would be monitored by the control center.
The College of Engineering at Qatar University (QU) has created an intelligent crowd management and control system with various aspects for crowd counting, face recognition, and abnormal event detection in partnership with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. Using data from drones, the university research team initially created a method for counting crowds that uses dilated and scaled neural networks to extract useful characteristics and estimate crowd densities. The research team has also worked on developing a face identification system that uses a multitask convolutional neural network to take into account faces in various poses. For this, a cascade structure was used to integrate a posture estimation algorithm and a face identification module. The left side, frontal, and right-side captures of faces served as the training data for the CNN-based posture estimation method. To eliminate unnecessary face information, a skin-based face segmentation approach that is centered on structure-texture decomposition and a color-invariant description (e.g., background content) has been developed.
Other security issues have been brought up concerning the forthcoming World Cup event, in addition to the usage of biometric technologies to survey attendees. Visitors entering Qatar will be required to download two smartphone applications that may jeopardize their personal privacy and data security. Access to events will be managed by the Hayya Card, a digital identification card that can only be obtained by uploading a passport scan and a clear photo of your face.
Qatar’s World Cup organizers are not just deploying facial recognition-based technology to monitor football fan activity alone. Earlier, FIFA said that the football tournament would have semi-automated offside detection technology. With the use of this technology, officials will be able to make judgments more quickly, which will assist the game’s progress.
These facial recognition-based monitoring devices have been implemented at football stadiums and clubs around the world in recent years. Valencia CF and the biometrics company FacePhi signed a contract in June 2021 to develop and implement face recognition technology at Mestalla Stadium for the following season.
A face recognition system developed by Russian technology company NtechLab was previously utilized by local law enforcement to identify and detain more than 40 people during World Cup-related activities in Moscow in 2018. NEC, a Japanese company that also provided its face recognition cameras for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, provided facial recognition stadium security for the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
Facial recognition technology has not always been successful in monitoring crowds, since there have been instances where things went wrong. At the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff, UK, facial scanning technology falsely labeled almost 2,000 spectators as potential offenders. After a court ruling, the system was shelved, only to be redeployed early this year.