Hockey See Something

Hockey fans in Kennewick, Wash., will be among the first to test facial recognition technology, which eventually could be used to identify criminals and terrorists.

The experiment unfolds Sept. 21 at the home opener for the Tri-City Americans at the VenuWorks-operated . Researchers with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are testing the technology for the Department of Homeland Security, the Tri-City Herald reported Sept. 12.

Twenty volunteers will be the only people the cameras are trying to identify. Hockey fans who want to opt out can follow corridor signs to areas without cameras. “If they didn’t want to be videotaped, they could very easily not be videotaped,” said Nick Lombardo, a PNNL project manager.

PNNL has purchased 46 seats for the test, and information explaining the project has been mailed to season ticket holders.

The test will attempt to match faces of PNNL staffers in the crowd, not of those in the crowd itself. “Basically the crowd is background,” PNNL engineer Marcia Kimura said. Hockey fans’ faces could be incorrectly identified, but no personal data will be collected.

Staffers will wear monitoring ankle bracelets that will signal when they are close enough to a camera to potentially allow their face to be recognized. It’s not the first time the Toyota Center has worked with DHS or PNNL in recent years.

Lower-resolution video was collected at hockey games in 2008 for DHS to develop a screening for explosives. The current project could provide valuable information as facilities are designed to better handle crowds, said VenuWorks executive director Cory Pearson. “It’s in everybody’s best interest.”