Artificial intelligence (AI) that can detect if a person is wearing a face mask or similar protective face covering has been launched for deployment in public and private locations.

Developed by Aerialtronics, a subsidiary of French civilian drone manufacturer Drone Volt, the AI is compatible with all forms of cameras, including surveillance cameras and those equipped in drones.

It is designed to identify faces and classify them as either wearing or not wearing a mask, and can provide real-time notifications to the operator of people who are not wearing a suitable protective face covering.

The technology is intended to be used in areas where a face mask is required, such as in transit zones such as airports, and on public transport, as well as in spaces such as construction sites, shopping centres and sports venues, to assist security with the enforcement of  mask wearing policies.

Artificial intelligence to provide support for face mask policies

The development of the artificial intelligence technology comes as many countries and private organisations are mandating the wearing of face masks in areas where the concentration of people is high, as part of ongoing efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus beyond lockdown.

In the UK, for example, face masks will become mandatory to be worn on public transport from 15 June, while over 50 countries have now made the wearing of such face coverings mandatory in public spaces.

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However, enforcing the wearing of face masks is immensely challenging for police and other security, giving this artificial intelligence product particular promise.

“The objective of this solution is to simplify the mission of security services through effective real-time monitoring of faces with or without masks,” said Olivier Gualdoni, chairman and CEO of Drone Volt.

“This tool contributes to both the health challenges involved in the fight against viruses such as the coronavirus and to the prevention of occupational risks.”

As with any technology that involves identifying faces, the installation of such a technology is likely to be met with privacy concerns.

In a bid to alleviate this, Aerialtronics has included an optional face blur to protect users’ faces from being recorded. However, in large-scale environments or spaces where enforcement is through after-the-fact fines, this will not be an option.

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