Police in India found 3,000 missing children in just four days with facial recognition technology, wrote the Independent. Listerine developed a facial recognition app to tell blind users when the person they’re talking to is smiling, reported Fast Company.

Facial recognition technology has the potential to improve the wellbeing of citizens. Healthcare is one area where it can have a notable impact. It can be used to keep hospitals secure during a pandemic, while making the patient experience more comfortable.

Loke Siew Yeng, Vice President, Digital Business Unit, NEC Asia Pacific, discusses the potential of facial recognition and video analytics in the hospital environment. He also shares how AI technology on retinal scan can predict medical issues and lessen the strain on healthcare providers.

Verifying identity in hospitals

Hospitals are testing facial recognition technology for contact tracing, says Loke. CCTV can now keep track of staff and visitors’ faces, with or without a mask, as they travel across different parts of the hospitals. This can be done in a secured manner under strict data analytics governance, privacy laws and ethics, he highlighted.

Some hospitals use RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags for contact tracing. Issuing these devices to visitors can be a time-consuming process, and can be expensive when visitors forget to return them, Loke shares.

Facial recognition can help make the contact tracing system more efficient. The need for RFID devices is reduced as patients’ faces can be quickly registered as they enter the hospital, he shares.

The technology can also save time in the emergency wards. Hospital staff often have to login to computers, to access scans or approve drug administration, for example. This requires them to take off their gloves, type in their credentials and then clean their hands, taking up to 15 minutes, says Loke.

Hospitals can cut down this time by replacing typed passwords with facial recognition technology, saving valuable time in time-sensitive emergencies.

Hospitals can use facial recognition technology to analyse emotions as well, helping to identify times when a patient may be distressed. These could include long waiting periods or overcrowded areas, he shares.

When a patient is feeling distressed, the hospital staff will be informed on the areas of improvement through emotion analytics. Understanding the emotions of patients throughout their visit allows “the hospital to be more hospitable”, Loke says.

Japan is already using facial recognition for verifying identity on transport. It is trialling the use of facial recognition for buses, with citizens’ faces being linked to their transport card

This means that citizens will no longer need to bring a physical card for public transportation, making it more convenient. This forms part of the government’s Society 5.0 plan, which looks to create citizen-centric services using cutting edge technology.

Using artificial intelligence analysis for retinal scans 

Retinal scans using artificial intelligence (AI) is another area of healthcare technology application that NEC is exploring. It is developing technology to detect a diabetes complication that may lead to blindness if left untreated.

An estimated 19,000 people are diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes each year, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health Amrin Amin, told Parliament. Health complications occur when diabetes is left untreated, highlighting the importance of early detection.

This retinal imaging AI technology may be able to identify the troubling eye condition early and help to reduce the risk of vision impairment and blindness among people with no symptoms.

In the long-term, this will reduce the burden on the country’s eye clinics, Loke predicts.

NEC’s UK division is now exploring the detection of Alzheimer’s and kidney issues using AI based analysis of the retinal imaging, he shares. Eyes may be the window to the soul, but are now also a way to assess your health, Loke adds.

Technology cannot replace the valuable work of healthcare staff but it can make their work easier, enabling seamless contact tracing and quicker diagnosis of chronic conditions.

In NEC and our Society 5.0 campaign, we hope to work with partners in the public sector, private enterprises and the community to address complex issues using technology through human-centric platforms for a safe, secure and sustainable environment for future generations.

Click here if you’d like to find out more about how NEC is helping to develop Society 5.0 here in Singapore.