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New Infrared Camera Tech Could Help Cops Identify Drunk Drivers

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Sign breathalyzer Dallas Auto Show

Will new infrared camera technology replace breathalizers?

New infrared camera technology that analyzes faces might eventually help police identify drunk drivers. As Liat Clark reports in the article, “Infrared-Camera Algorithm Could Scan for Drunks in Public,” for Wired UK, computer scientists Georgia Koukiou and Vassilis Anastassopoulos are working on such a system, and have written about their work in the International Journal of Electronic Security and Digital Forensics.

The two scientists, who are at the University of Patras in Greece, are working on two algorithms that focus on data gathered from a person’s face, Clark writes. One algorithm compares the pixel values on a person’s face with those in a database of scans of drunk and sober people. The comparison allows a researcher to see which faces have blood-vessel dilation at the skin’s surface, which is caused by alcohol, Clark writes.

The other algorithm maps out different areas of a face, Clark writes, explaining that when a person is inebriated, his or her nose tends to become warmer at the same time that the forehead remains a lot cooler. This algorithm helps researchers identify and differentiate between a person’s facial features to make better use of the database information that the first algorithm uses.

Aylin Zafar discusses the research for TIME NewsFeed:

The paper suggests that this system of thermal-imaging could be especially useful to police officers, who often have to rely on purely behavioral clues when stopping someone. The cameras would also come in handy for nightclubs and bars, Complex points out. Since it’s unlikely that most people carry around breathalyzers, a quick scan could be a valuable tool for bar-goers to figure out when it’s time to call a cab.

In fact, Dru Ashe writes for Complex that this new technology might make breathalyzer tests obsolete. Ashe goes on to say:

Imagine if these cameras were required after attending a bar or night club?  Nationwide drop of drunk driving incidents. I know cab drivers would rejoice if this camera is developed and distributed.

Clark points out another point of view:

Practical applications like the one Koukiou and Anastassopoulos are suggesting might save police embarrassment and avoid undue disturbances. However, it might also annoy a fair few sociable late-night drinkers harmlessly going about their business while having their bodies unwittingly scanned in an intrusive breach of personal privacy.

DrinkingandDriving.org notes that in the United States, on the average, nearly 12,000 people die every year in DUI-related accidents; 900,000 are arrested each year for DUI/DWI; and one third of those are repeat offenders.

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