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NEC surveillance system detects soccer hooligans at Colombia stadium

TOKYO -- NEC's facial recognition systems are in place in some 40 countries, mostly for immigration controls at airports. Recently, the Japanese electronics giant introduced one of the systems for the first time in a sports arena, in Colombia.

The soccer stadium in Medellin, the country's second-largest city, has a 45,000 person capacity. The arena has occasionally suffered hooliganism, and thousands of boisterous, sometimes violent, fans have been apprehended by security staff.

The operator of the arena takes photos of such hooligans when they are detained, and has compiled a "blacklist" so they can be identified if they return to the stadium. NEC's system will be able to match the faces of individuals captured by the surveillance cameras at entrance gate with those on the blacklist.

When the system recognizes matching features from the database, using the composition of eyes, nose and mouth, a warning message pops up on the screen at the stadium's surveillance center. That information is shared immediately with security officers at the stadium, who then act accordingly -- by either asking the blacklisted person to leave the venue, or increasing monitoring near the person.

The city office of Medellin plans to obtain more photos of hooligans from other local governments and sources to expand the pooled photos on the database, from several thousand faces at present to 200,000 or so.

As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games approach, NEC hopes the system will be used to increase security in and around the Olympic venues. Chairman Nobuhiro Endo said his company hopes to help promote safe and reliable operations at the event. 

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