New military applications for facial recognition technology

science | Sep 02, 2012 | By Martin Barillas


Security is as important at gatherings such as the recent Republican National Convention as it is on the battlefield. In Tampa FL, while the Republican elephants were herding, behavior recognition was used by the security team there as they surveyed a meeting of politicians and political activists that was rife with possibilities for terrorists and others seeking to interrupt the proceedings.  As surveillance using CCTV and drones becomes more accepted by the public, law enforcement, and the military, behavior recognition technology figures as an integral part of burgeoning panoply of tools and weapons that are changing public life, and the battlefield.
Facial recognition technology is a sub-set of the behavior recognition utilized at GOP convention, and it is being used in various forms by the United States military in theater. ACAGI Inc., a Maryland-based defense technology firm, has a system that is lightweight, versatile and ready for deployment, according to its originators. In an interview with Spero, Jim Gavrilis of ACAGI spoke about the possibilities of facial recognition technology developed by his company that has met with a favorable reception in testing by the armed forces of the U.S. and allied countries. 
ACAGI calls its facial recognition technology 'Image Acquisition and Exploitation Camera System', which uses biometrics to identify the faces of potential terrorists, for example. The camera can be part of the a soldier's optics on his weapon, while the battery, central processing unit and soft keypad are attached to the soldier's armored vest.
The ACAGI facial recognition system has a portable database, entirely self-contained, that can be carried by a soldier and which contains over 1 million faces, said Gavrilis. The special ops veteran said that the system does not require any bandwith to reach back to a database.  The system can scan through one million faces within a matter of seconds, said Gavrilis, and can be used to determine which are friendlies and which are foes. “You don’t necessarily know all of the bad guys,” said Gavrilis, “you can put in friend or foe. So you can check who are the friendlies.” So in the case of village stability operations, or base security, personnel can be checked against the faces in the system to determine who is friendly or not.
Gavrilis would not identify the specific technology or algorithms used to check the coordinates of the faces registered in the system.  The ACAGI system uses video to enhance accuracy said Gavrilis and has a stand-off capability not found in other systems. ACAGI’s facial recognition system reaches out to 500 meters and can be used with small arms, artillery, or from airborne drones.  Checkpoints at base camps, said Gavrilis, are frequently targeted by suicide bombers and are a major factor in fatalities. Soldiers using the ACAGI system at checkpoints would thus be able to save some lives, said Gavrilis.
Gavrilis said that the Pentagon has issued requests for improvements of current biometric technology but has yet to issue a specific request for the long-range facial recognition technology produced by ACAGI.  Gavrilis said that his company is working with the Defense Department to develop a requirement for a system like ACAGI’s, while the system has been tested and favorably viewed by an allied military that Gavrilis would not identify. 
Describing the system’s versatility, Gavrilis said that it is “…camera agnostic, power agnostic, display agnostic,” going on to say that it can be energized by solar panels, wall current, and batteries.  Laptop computers, droids, camcorders, and telescopic lenses can be used with the system, too.  One of the configurations for the ACAGI system, said Gavrilis, is for a sniper/spotter team, “where the spotter for the sniper  looks through a scope and then he can recognize this person, and positive identification is one of the things that soldiers on the battlefield must have in unconventional fights when you don’t known who the enemy is because is not wearing a uniform…so a sniper with a spotter assistant next to him  can say  ‘yes, I’m getting a 98 percent accuracy that this is the individual we are looking for.'”
Gavrilis said that ACAGI has systems ready for deployment by the military and other government agencies, which can be tweaked to fulfill requirements determined in the field. ACAGI is based in Frederick MD, while its CEO is Peter Spatharis - a former officer in the Hellenic Army and telecommunications executive. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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