Hockey fans at the season opener of the Tri-City Americans will have a chance to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security improve its facial recognition capabilities. Video will be taped by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Sept. 21 game in a portion of the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
It is planned to be used by the U.S. government to test the capabilities of facial recognition software that is available or in the prototype stage.
Eventually, state-of-the-art facial recognition technologies could be used to identify terrorists and criminals in public areas, according to the national lab in Richland. The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate works to make technology available to agencies ranging from local police offices to the U.S. Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
PNNL previously has collected video at the Toyota Center for work with the Department of Homeland Security. But past video either has not captured members of the public or has been too low resolution to identify faces.
Hockey fans who don’t want to be on the video will be given options to avoid the cameras.
No video will be shot in the arena and signs will be set up in the corridors around the arena to direct people to areas without cameras. PNNL staff will be available to answer questions.
PNNL has purchased 46 seats at the arena to make sure walking areas are clear for those who don’t want their video captured, said PNNL engineer Marcia Kimura. Information explaining the project also has been mailed to season ticket holders.
“If they didn’t want to be videotaped, they could very easily not be videotaped,” said Nick Lombardo, a PNNL project manager.
Multiple cameras, bought off shelves in the Tri-Cities, will be set up in the main entrance, the hallway between sections S and W and at the concession stand at section W.
It’s not the public’s faces that PNNL is interested in capturing. Rather, they’re trying to detect PNNL staffers in the crowd. “Basically the crowd is background,” Kimura said.
Twenty PNNL staff members will be at the game to see how many times the detection software can find them and match them with already-shot still photos of them.
Half have been told to just do what they’d normally do at the game. But others have been given instructions to walk in a particular direction around the concourse at certain times or stand in line at a concession stand.