Time line of facial recognition use in UK policing:

2002-2003 – Gloucestershire Police 

“Facial recognition technology available via the Ministry of Defence AURORA system.” 

Policing of RAF Fairford during Iraq conflict, 12.2002 to 05.2003.  Aurora supplied by CGI.

2008 – Merseyside Police

Use Colossus facial recognition pre-custody suite to determine whether persons arrested are already know to police.  (According to a recent Freedom of Information request this facial recognition system is still operational).

2009 – Metropolitan Police  – used on Custody Suite photographs

Started using biometric facial recognition in 2009 using L1 Identity Solutions ABIS (Automated Biometric Information System) Face Examiner. L1 Identity systems were acquired by Safran in 2011, a French aerospace defence and securities company, and now operates as Morpho Trust.

2014 March – UK Police National Database (PND) – used on Custody Suite photographs

Started using biometric facial recognition on 28th March 2014 using Canadian CGIhardware and German Cognitec facial recognition software.

2014 April – Leicestershire Police – used on Custody Suite photographs

Started trialling biometric facial recognition in April 2014 using NeoFace, supplied by NEC Corporation a Japanese communications company.

2015 June- Leicestershire Police – live facial recognition running via CCTV/IPTV cameras

Remote in the field ‘real time’ use of facial recognition at the Download Music Festival June 2015, system used NEC Corporation’s NeoFace Watch. “Technology was supplied free by NEC, Leicestershire Police do not own. Evaluation of the trial results not available from Leicestershire Policeas it was “a ‘proof of concept trial’ NEC have the evaluation of this product.”

2015 October – Metropolitan Police, Scotland Yard, British Transport Police plus two other UK Police Forces

SeeQuestor “which will be ready for police to trial from October [2015], takes ‘dumb’ video and makes it smart. The company has worked on three analysis tools for the first trials, but says others could be developed. “We’re engaged very heavily with the Met, with Scotland Yard, with counter terrorism in the UK, with British Transport Police — these are the largest users of CCTV,”

Facial recognition, persons of interest tracking, movement tracking.

2016/7/8 – Metropolitan Police

Use facial recognition live on crowds at Notting Hill Carnival – see here for details.

Issued to the public at the 2017 Notting Hill Carnival

Issued to the public at the 2017 Notting Hill Carnival

2017 & 2018 –  South Wales Police

Use facial recognition live on crowds at various events – see here for details.

In the pipeline facial recognition developments…

The three uses of biometric facial mapping/recognition within UK Police Forces.

Static Facial Recognition – the technology is deployed from still facial images taken from body worn cameras, social media, CCTV, etc and run through a source (reference) facial image database such as a custody suite.  This is not a real time deployment.

Live Facial Recognition – the technology is deployed in the field, running live in real time, checking faces in crowds against a reference facial image database.  Primarily, up to present day, reference facial image databases have been prepared specially for the event.

Post Video Facial Recognition Analytics– the technology is deployed on video post event – not in real time.  The potential exists for many sources of video to be amalgamated and analysed running biometric facial mapping/detecting/recognition technology.

Apart from the Metropolitan Police, South Wales Police and Leicestershire Police using Static Facial Recognition and Live Facial Recognition (supplied by NEC), Post Video Analytical Facial Recognition is not yet in use.

Future uses of biometric facial imagery by UK Police

Post Video Facial Recognition

Nationally – SCC[1]have teamed up with SeeQuestor to provide post analytical video services to over 40 UK Police Forces[2]:

“The Video Analytics (VA) solution will provide UK forces with advanced post-event video analytics allowing them to view and analyse large amounts of Mobile, CCTV and Body Worn Video formats to support the prosecution process. This service, which is part of the developing portfolio of SCC Public Safety Solutions, is underpinned by the pioneering SeeQuestor[3]platform. This will provide video ingestion, conversion, case management and an analytics capability including face, body and attribute detection, and subject re-identification.”  (January 2018)

Live Facial Recognition

Nationally – NEC (supply both Live and Static facial recognition to the Met, South Wales and Leicestershire Police) are buying Northgate Public Services (NPS) for £475m.  Northgate Public Services (NPS) supply UK Police Forces with Connect and Connect Live.  The Connect platform features an integrated police Information system using real time mobile to desktop, intelligence, investigation, custody suite case management, collaboration between partner agencies, geographic location information systems, whole data store cloud-based platform using analytics and big data.  Enabling police forces to communicate with each other on the Connect platform.

“One of the key advantages of the acquisition, the two parties claim, will be the opportunity for NPS to integrate NEC’s facial-recognition and other biometric technologies into its software products.”[4]  (January 2018)

Gwent Police – have the same access to the NEC Live (and Static (?)) facial recognition services that South Wales Police have through Project Fusion.  To date Gwent Police have not yet deployed the NEC facial recognition technology.

West Yorkshire Police – according to their Twitter feed from March 2018, there are plans to introduce facial recognition technology to their hand-held fingerprint devices that currently check fingerprints again immigration and custody suite data as part of the Home Office’s Biometrics Services Gateway Programme.

West Yorkshire Police – with a Home Office grant, are developing facial recognition for use on public space CCTV and Metro transport CCTV in conjunction with Safer Leeds, Bradford Metropolitan District Council (MDC), Calderdale MDC, Kirklees MDC, Wakefield MDC, Community Safety Partnership (CSP), Metro and Five West.  Funded by the Home Office £85k and CSP £21k.[5]  (August 2017)

Glasgow Police – Milnbank Housing Association[6]have issued Police Scotland with hand held devices equipped with “facial recognition and number plate recognition so are able to identify persons of interest and track their movements.”[7]for Police to use on the Haghill housing estate in Glasgow as part of the housing association’s CCTV upgrade.  (March 2018)

City of London Police – are looking at installing an integrated facial recognition and number plate recognition ‘ring of steel’ around the City of London via CCTV.[8]  (March 2018)

West Midlands Police – are outsourcing biometric ‘facial comparison technology’ services needed to Forensic Video Services, Key Forensic Services and the Laboratory of the Government Chemist. [9]

Use of biometric facial detection technology by UK Local Authorities

Glasgow City Council – NICE Suspect Search ‘persons of interest’ tracking programme deployed but not operational with 70 of the city’s public space CCTV.   The biometric system is not operational due to a delay in the Privacy Impact Assessment which is due to be completed by end May 2018. [10]

(See also above West Yorkshire Police’s development of biometric facial detection with local authorities on deployment of biometric facial detection for use on public space CCTV)


[1] https://www.scc.com/

[2] https://www.scc.com/news/scc-awarded-contract-provision-post-event-video-forensics-analysis-law-enforcement-security/

[3] https://www.seequestor.com/#/home

[4] https://www.publictechnology.net/articles/news/nec-agrees-%C2%A3475m-deal-buy-northgate-public-services

[5] https://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/how-new-style-cctv-could-13532881

[6] http://www.milnbank.org.uk/

[7] http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/news/16129720.Housing_bosses_have_new_weapon_in_fight_against_Haghill_gang/

[8] http://www.professionalsecurity.co.uk/news/interviews/new-ring-of-steel-proposed/

[9] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/414397/response/1022937/attach/3/7715%20attachment%2001.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

[10] https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/448094/response/1108309/attach/3/Review%20Letter.pdf?cookie_passthrough=1

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