Face masks and face recognition: corona prevention in public transport

Experts and government officials are communicating more and more that we are moving towards a society in which keeping 1.5 meter distance is the norm. The Dutch government announced on May 6th, that public transport will return to regular, pre-corona operating schedule as of June 1st. What will be the effects for the people in public transport? And what measures could – or should – be taken?

Public transport problems

The 1.5 meter society that we are moving towards imposes different problems for different people. Hotels and restaurants have to figure out how to keep their guests at a far enough distance, schools and universities have to rethink how to arrange their class- and lecture rooms and offices have to change the setup of their desks.

One of the big problems of the 1.5 meter distance society is the use of public transport. Keeping 1.5 meter distance from each other in the bus, metro or train is ‘unrealistic’, according to Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in his press conference of May 6th, 2020. As a consequence, the use of a face mask is mandatory in Dutch public transport as of June 1st.

The goal of this is to reduce the ease with which the virus can spread. However, in public transport there are a lot of public, frequently-touched objects that could also contribute to that. One could think of ticket machines, door handles, ‘Open door’ buttons or check-in poles, for example. In a society that is designed to minimize the spread of a virus, measures should be taken to decrease, or even prevent, people from having to touch such public objects. In other words, public transport should be contactless.

Traveling contactless

In making public transport contactless, touching of objects should be reduced to a minimum. In this way, not only human-to-human spread can be reduced, but also human-to-object-to-human spread. To achieve contactless public transport, doors should be able to open without buttons or door handles, and people should be able to check-in without laying or pushing their card on a check-in pole.

One way of doing this is by using a facial recognition solution. When a person stands in front of a door, or is approaching it, the software could notice the person and open the door automatically. The need for touching generally very unsanitary objects like ‘Open door’ buttons or door handles is avoided.

In the same way, a facial recognition solution could be used to automatically check people in as they enter the bus, metro or train station. This solution could even prevent people from forgetting to check out when leaving the station, or for them having to wait in line for minutes when it’s busy at the check-in and check-out poles. A facial recognition solution to replace physical cards and check-in poles thus not only eliminates the necessity of contact in public places, it also improves the convenience for travelers.

One last roadblock

So, if a face recognition solution provides that many benefits, why would we wait with the implementation of it? In current times, there are many innovative possibilities, but a lot of these innovations run into the same problem: privacy and data security.

Just as the launch of the ‘Corona apps’ from the Dutch government takes longer than expected due to privacy concerns, facial recognition solutions face privacy regulations that slow down the adoption of the technology.

But what if we could lift this roadblock? What if we could make a facial recognition solution that is completely privacy proof? Which gives the user full control over their personal information and whether they can be recognized, literally with the flip of a switch…

At 20face we have done exactly that. By making facial recognition privacy proof, there is nothing standing in the way of the widespread use of facial recognition technology throughout society, including public transport.

Next stop

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