Beijing Hospitals Fight Off Scalpers with Face Recognition

By Edoardo Donati Fogliazza, February 27, 2019

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In recent years, Biometric AI emerged as the new frontier in law enforcement in Chinese cities. Facial recognition in particular has been used for a variety of purposes from the streets to, well, the toilets

Now the Beijing Government’s Health Commission is planning to harness the power of face-recognition algorithms for the benefit of patients. On February 22, the city government organ has announced that visual data on 2,100 suspected hospital scalpers had been shared by security systems across 30 Beijing hospitals, as reported by Beijing Daily

READ MORE: Facial Recognition Set Up in Beijing Dorm to Keep Female Students Safe

The face IDs were collected through a collaboration with the city’s public security bureau, involving the recording of behavior patterns of individuals who seem to register for a large number of appointment tickets. The system aims to automatically identify and monitor the activity of the suspected to catch them in the act. 

The presence of scalpers in Beijing’s hospitals has been a long-lasting problem. Given the huge number of people who try to access the city’s healthcare system every day, scalpers who collect appointment tickets to then resell them can ask desperate patients for large sums to avoid the wait. One patient told China Daily that her husband spent RMB3000 for an appointment ticket that would have normally cost RMB200. 

READ MORE: These 3 Metro Stations Now Use Facial Recognition in Guangzhou

The city has been tackling the phenomenon with a city-wide crackdown that led to 900 arrests in 2018 alone, according to Beijing Daily. From now on, scalpers who are caught will also be susceptible to have their social credit points cut, thus potentially preventing them from boarding flights or acting as legal entities. 

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Appointment tickets seized by the police near Beijing Children's Hospital. Image via China Daily

Together with facial recognition, some hospitals have been introducing mobile applications or other electronic systems to avoid the problem. For instance, Chaoyang district’s China Aviation General Hospital emits personal microchip cards as the only way to register for an appointment, thus binding tickets to a single patient’s identity. This set of measures, though, risks leaving less tech-savvy segments of the population out of the picture. 

As Beijing’s war on hospital scalpers continues, hospitals may have finally found a brand-new weapon to use against them.

READ MORE: Ningbo Bus Ad Busted for 'Jaywalking' in Facial Recognition Blunder

[Cover image via Global Times]

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