2020 Tokyo Olympics to boost security with facial recognition technology

At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next summer, hundreds of terminals from NEC and Intel will scan the faces of athletes, volunteers, sponsors, and other accredited people.

If you are an athlete, sponsor, volunteer, or journalist at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, you will be using a facial recognition system from chipmaker Intel and Japanese electronics giant NEC to get where you need to be.

According to Ricardo Echevarria, general manager of Intel’s Olympics program, Intel and NEC are collaborating to provide a large-scale face recognition system for the Olympic Games. He said that the system was designed to help Olympics organizers ensure smoothly secure verification for more than 300,000 people who would be accredited at the games. They will register with photos from government-issued IDs.

Facial recognition has developed by leaps and bounds with the arrival of the sophisticated pattern-matching abilities of modern AI technology called neural networks. However, many are alarmed about pervasive computer surveillance, leading cities such as Somerville, Massachusetts, San Francisco, Oakland, and California, to bar police from using the technology.

Intel made no comment on the data retention aspects or privacy of the technology while NEC said that’s the purview of the Tokyo Olympics organizers, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Intel and NEC said that it won’t be a wholesale replacement for the old ways as accredited personnel at the Olympics will still have to wear traditional ID lanyards. However, the facial recognition system will be required: if someone tries to get access with one that’s stolen or loses their lanyard, the facial recognition system will block them, according to NEC.

Intel is also helping to run a global esports gaming competition in parallel with the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Players from a group of 20 countries will compete in the videogame event, also including participation from gaming companies Epic Games and Capcom.

It is building virtual reality training realms which organizers and athletes can use to visualize arenas and other facilities.