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For the first time, facial recognition technology will ever be used at the Olympic Games. A large-scale facial recognition system will be used to identify over 300,000 people at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, including athletes, volunteers, media, and other staff.

NEC has announced that it will be providing the system for the events. Their system is built around an AI engine called NeoFace, which is part of the company’s overarching Bio-IDiom line of biometric authentication technology.

The Tokyo 2020 implementation will involve linking photo data with an IC card to be carried by accredited people. NEC says that it has the world’s leading face recognition tech based on benchmark tests from the US’ National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Tokyo 2020 presents new security challenges that will require speedy identification. Unlike many previous Games, Tokyo 2020 won’t have a single Olympic Park where people can move freely between several venues and facilities; instead, events will be spread out across the metropolitan area, and people will need to authenticate themselves at each, according to theverge.com.


The facial recognition system is expected to speed up the authentication process up as much as possible, with the dangers associated with long wait times in oppressive summer heat also a concern.

The technology was demonstrated in Tokyo, showing how athletes and other staff wouldn’t be able to enter venues if they were holding someone else’s IC card. The company even brought out a 208cm-tall former Olympic volleyball player to demonstrate that the system would work with people of all heights, though he certainly had to stoop a bit.

It worked smoothly with multiple people moving through it quickly, the screen displaying the IC card holder’s photo almost immediately after.