AI, Tech

Beijing Subway To Consider Bio-Recognition Technologies To Improve Transport Efficiency

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Long lines outside of busy Tiantongyuan subway station in Beijing.

The Beijing subway system plans to introduce bio-recognition technology this year to reduce heavy passenger flow that sometimes lead to kilometers of long lines outside of busy stations, according to China Daily.

A senior manager at Beijing subway told China Daily that two bio-recognition technologies including facial recognition and palm touch are considered.

Facial recognition technology can track passenger movements with cameras connected to online networks that recognize passengers who enter the station. The technology potentially allows passengers to bypass traditional ticketing. But how passengers will pay for tickets remains an unsolved issue.

Starting in April, passengers in Beijing subway was able to use mobile QR codes in mobile payment platforms including WeChat Pay and Alipay, rather than queuing to buy tickets. The usage of one-way ticket reduced about 20% to 600,000 from 800,000 after the introduction of QR codes, therefore helping to reduce lines at ticketing stations.

In Shanghai, passengers can swipe their hands to enter the stations. The hand images can be compared with records in the subway system’s database within seconds.

Facial recognition is widely applied in public service in China. Police in Shenzhen installed AI cameras to identify and single out jaywalkers. Also, patrol officers in the city of Zhengzhou used facial recognition sunglasses to spot criminal suspects during the busy Chinese New Year travel season.


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  1. I think poor planning in the subway department created huge logjams at key subway stations. In fact, why do most subway stations have only two escalators taking people each way? In crowded stations, especially transfer stations, the lineups to connect with other subway lines or merely to exit the subways are excessively frustrating. Also, many subway stations don’t have their escalators working in the morning before 8am. That’s the time when thousands of commuters are forced to climb the stairs, many of these people are out of breath when the reach the top.

    The subway planners must think more of the 10,000,000 daily commuters in Beijing when they plan new subways. Perhaps it’s now too late for that.

    Finally, what will bio-recognition to ease the congestion? Or is this simply a ploy to scan everyone who uses the subway for government use at a later date?

  2. Dear David, we feel your pain and feel the same every time we take the subway in Beijing too. But hopefully, you are not living in Beijing because of its gorgeous grey skies and convenient public transportation:P

  3. Agreed with the other David: these stations are laughably low-capacity. Planners may not have considered the loads the stations will have to deal with when at somewhere near full build-out. Something like the Spanish Solution (two platforms, one for exiting the train, one for entering the train, and the doors open on the Exit side first) would have helped immensely. This can be retrofitted onto stations with center platforms but would require closing stations with side platforms, like Tiantongyuan.

    Comprehensive planning would have gone a long, long way to making this work better.

  4. Great comments. The conditions of the Beijing subways are like the Chinese economy: so many outrageous mistakes could have been easily avoided, highly inefficient, and yet somehow it manages to transport tens of millions of people, albeit at great pains of those who use it.

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