It’s taken a while but airlines might finally be getting truly serious about enforcing their rules surrounding the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. According to tech companies that provide AI-powered video detection solutions, some carriers are seriously considering using surveillance technology that can identify passengers who aren’t complying with their respective rules for facial coverings.
“Airlines are having a tough time allowing passengers to feel a level of comfort that it’s safe to fly,” said Mahesh Saptharishi, CTO of Motorola Solutions, a company whose face mask detection technology is also being considered in areas such as education and retail. “Airlines, at least the ones we have spoken to, are fully invested in actually enforcing mask-wearing in general,” Saptharishi continued to Forbes. “So they want to insist that not only passengers who enter the aircraft, but those who are in the waiting area before they board, do wear masks.”
Motorola’s solution detects the real-time occupancy within a facility, how many masks are being worn and the social distance that’s happening at any given moment.
Another company, Cyberlink, offers a facial recognition software kit called FaceMe. It can tell if an individual is wearing a face mask, as well as whether or not it’s being worn properly, with both the mouth and nose covered.
“I can confirm that we’ve been having discussions with distributors that work with places like airports, hotels, restaurants and retail stores,” said Richard Carriere, senior vice president of global marketing for CyberLink.
CyberLink also plans to introduce thermal body imaging and crowd counting to its product.
Airlines could use the data they’ve gathered to enforce compliance but still be non-confrontational. For example, an airline could gather the data and then use a digital bulletin board at their departure gate to announce that 82% of travelers in the lounge are wearing face masks and that 75% are following social distancing guidelines.
Mask detection technology could also alert the required staff members if a passenger isn’t complying with the guidelines for facial coverings. That way the passenger who is using his mask as a chin guard or who has uncovered her nose could be addressed more discreetly.
Study after study has shown that (A) passengers don’t feel safe while flying, due to the thread of COVID-19 and (B) wearing masks helps to curb the spread of the virus.
Despite continued all-time lows in flying, undoubtedly in part because of feeling unsafe, U.S.-based airlines have been particularly slow to enforce mask use. At first, they just didn’t require it. Then they said you had to wear masks on planes but they didn’t really follow up if you didn’t. Now they’re apparently keeping track of who’s not wearing a mask on a plane but are avoiding direct confrontation about it and instead may passive-aggressively not allow you to board in the future.
None of these are ideal solutions.
Having this technology will be interesting and high-tech. But frankly, how well will it work to passively try to get compliance? If someone doesn’t want to wear a mask because they think it’s against their civil liberties (#rolleyes), I don’t think an electronic sign that says, “Yay, 87% of you are wearing masks! Let’s bring it up to 100%!” is going to do much. And the response to being asked or even told to put on a mask has been iffy at best.
Without consistent encouragement from the top down, which we are not going to see any time in 2020, people who don’t want to wear masks will need the incentive to wear them. Without someone having the cojones to say, “You must wear a mask or you aren’t getting on this plane. And if you take it off while you’re on the plane, we won’t allow you to fly with us again” (or whatever rule they decide to use), this technology is going to be kind of worthless.
Meanwhile, it’s a shame that airlines, who are constantly crying poverty, are having to consider spending however much on this technology when the big issue is simply peoples’ noncompliance and a battle of wills.
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary