FacePay biometric payment system and 5,000 facial recognition cameras will be installed on the Russian subway

Facial recognition systems are increasingly used around the world. An example of this is the Moscow Department of Transport, which has just announced the start of a series of tests for the implementation of a facial recognition-based collection system that will operate at all train stations in the Russian capital. The first testing stage began last September 1st and will be active throughout the month. 

In a statement, the Department disclosed some aspects of these systems: “The FacePay system will allow users’ faces to be scanned for payment automatically; at the end of the testing phase we will prepare the reports that allow us to continue with this program.”

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Moscow authorities believe these systems can also help control the safety and occupancy of trains. The information collected will reach users’ mobile applications so that they can determine which trains have the most available space, which will help maintain social distancing recommendations for pandemic containment.

The Department continues its message by mentioning that one of the main references for the implementation of these systems is the work done by the Beijing government, which began with the installation of surveillance systems for the care of potential medical emergencies in its public transportation systems, which could also be implemented in Moscow if the facial recognition program is successful.

During the month of September, around 5,000 facial recognition cameras will begin work at Moscow Metro stations, requiring only a few seconds to get passengers to identify. These cameras will be connected to a central video analysis system, which will also be useful for law enforcement institutions. A few months ago it was reported that the implementation of these tests would require an investment of close to 1.3 billion rubles.

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One of the first cameras to be installed is located at Sukharevskaya Metro Station. To log in, users require a mobile app installed on their devices where they can register by entering only a selfie and their bank card. The Moscow government is collaborating with Sberbank and VisionLabs at this testing stage.

Once registered, users must enter the station through a special tourniquet equipped with a camera; users should only look at the device to verify their identity, allowing access to the user. The cost of the trip will be charged directly to the card registered by the user in the FacePay mobile app, as explained by Maxim Liskutov, director of the Moscow Department of Transport.

Liskutov also mentions that the large-scale implementation of these systems for now is not a realistic option, as great tests of FacePay’s operation are required, especially at peak times and at highly crowded stations: “If everything is going as expected, by the end of 2021 we could have results on which we can work safely,” the official adds. If the pilot successfully concludes, the authorities will extend the program to all Moscow metro stations, with the possibility of being implemented also in other means of transport.

As Moscow government officials mention, this recognition software was developed by the technology company VisionLabs. Alexander Hanin, the company’s director, confirmed this information, mentioning that VisionLabs develops solutions focused on the safety of people in public places such as transportation stations, shopping malls and companies. A similar system is located at Sberbank headquarters, which performs access control functions through facial recognition, specialists mention.

Cybersecurity experts mention that this is the realization of a project that the Russian government has been trying to implement for some years, as they consider the streamlining and strengthening of security within public transportation systems a priority.