Facial recognition software to protect $250 million worth of diamonds
Latest facial recognition technology helps spot known criminals at gem expo
It seemed like a scene from a movie: Stern-looking men huddled around screens scrutinising faces flashed on closed circuit televisions (CCTV).
Suddenly, one of the officers freezes the footage and zooms in on a face on the screen.
Within seconds, photos of known criminals are brought up. The software automatically matches the suspect's face with those on the list, with a percentage number indicating the level of similarity.
It is not a movie. This is being played out daily at the Singapore International Jewelry Expo 2014 (SIJE) at Marina Bay Sands. The expo started yesterday and will end on Sunday.
The facial recognition technology is part of stringent security measures to safeguard the US$200 million (S$250 million) worth of fine jewellery, gemstones and watches on display.
The CCTVs monitor the three entrances to the exhibits.
Besides the usual metal detectors and infrared sensors, the facial recognition system is the most sophisticated security system in place.
It was set up by the Asia-Pacific wing of Axxonsoft Asia, a video surveillance and security solutions company based in Russia.
Every visitor who passes through the three exhibition doors is scanned and checked against an extensive watch list from various sources such as the Singapore Police Force and organisers of previous high-security events.
Mr Durairaj Gireraj, the Asia-Pacific director of Axxonsoft Asia, said: "The system works by scanning the facial features of the people who appear on camera, and is designed to match and scan faces regardless of gender, age or race."
The software recognises suspects even when they try to disguise themselves, including using fake moustaches or sunglasses.
"The system is able to recognise and match anyone on the watch list, short of them undergoing plastic surgery," said Mr Durairaj.
There are three levels of alert: Green, yellow and red.
The green level indicates that none of the faces scanned exceed a 50 per cent match.
A yellow alert occurs when there is a 50 to 80 per cent match in facial features.
Red alerts occur only when the system flags a person with a facial resemblance of more than 80 per cent.
A security team will immediately be dispatched to nab the suspect and hand him over to the police.
Alerts would also automatically be sent to all security personnel.
When The New Paper was in the security room yesterday, a yellow alert was triggered by a woman in her 50s.
She had a 59 per cent match with one of the male suspects on the watch list.
But a quick glance by security officers confirmed that they were two different people, though there was some resemblance.
Said Mr Steven Tan, the general manager of CEMS-Conference and Exhibition Management Services, the company hosting the exhibition: "This exhibition is different from something like a food fair where vendors can dismiss something like a bag of coffee powder being stolen.
"Diamonds cost so much more and are also easier to hide due to their small size.
"When you are in charge of an exhibition with US$200 million in jewellery present, you will do anything necessary to ensure that everything stays in place."
"With such technology, I am at least able to sleep better," he said with a laugh.
He recalled a theft last October at a similar exhibition, when a $400,000 ring was stolen at the Singapore Jewel Fest at Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza.
"We have talked about that and analysed the possible lapses of security to ensure that the same thing does not happen at our event.
"A show like this without incident is a good show," Mr Tan said.
Rare diamond at expo
It is not one in a million - more like one in 100 million.
That is how rare the 50.55-carat diamond at this year's Singapore International Jewelry Expo is.
The white diamond from DeGem sparkles with clear brilliance and is nicknamed The White Fire for its colourlessness and purity.
Ms Au Yeong Siew Pheng, marketing manager of DeGem, explained why such a large diamond is rare: "It is not easy to get a rough, unformed diamond that is large enough to cut a 50-carat diamond."
Rough diamonds can lose about half their weight after cutting.
"You can work 10 years in the industry and not be able to hold such a big diamond of this quality," she said.
Diamonds of this size are usually set as pendants or on crowns. The one from DeGem is set as a ring and is retailing at US$10 million (S$12.5 million).
On the cutting process, Mr Yosi Fozailoff, an experienced diamond-cutter, told The New Paper: "My factory in Israel receives diamonds from a London syndicate, which controls around 70 per cent of the diamonds from around the world.
"They pass us a sack of diamonds every month and we don't know what is inside. We just trust them. Then we sort the diamonds and decide what shapes to cut them into."
The 66-year-old, who is president of Fozailoff Jewelry, learnt how to cut diamonds from his father when he was 15.
FLAWS DETERMINE SHAPE
The shape of the diamond depends on where flaws are located. These flaws, known as inclusions, can be cracks or tiny embedded minerals in the diamond.
"We also cut the stone according to the market as people have different tastes for shape and colour," said Mr Fozailoff.
"It is also important to cut the diamond to minimise wastage. Then we cut the facets and polish the diamond."
This process can take a day, for a one-carat diamond, or, for larger diamonds, years.
"You can do it quickly, but you won't want to. You want to ask for different opinions (on how to cut the diamond), " said Mr Fozailoff.
It is usually "serious diamond and gem collectors" who buy such large diamonds to add to their personal collection.
Said Ms Au Yeong: "They might keep it in a safe, for investment, or as a heirloom piece. Even if it is worn, it would be for special occasions."
But wouldn't it be a pity if such a beautiful diamond was not worn often?
"I don't think so. There is personal satisfaction in looking at the diamond and appreciating it," she said.
You can work 10 years in the industry and not be able to hold such a big diamond of this quality.
- Ms Au Yeong Siew Pheng, marketing manager of DeGem, on the 50.55-carat rare diamond on show at the Singapore International Jewelry Expo