China is applying facial recognition technology to monitor pigs amid an African swine fever outbreak.

Developed by Yingzi Technology, a company based out of Guangdong, the technology allows farmers to track pigs by scanning their faces using a smartphone app. Once scanned, details about the pig appear on screen including age, breed, diet, origin, growth process and movements from farm-to-farm and through the pork supply chain. This data is intended to improve food safety measures in the country.

As a leader in facial recognition technology and as producer of half the world’s pork supply, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, China has recently culled over 900,000 pigs amid African swine fever fears. Although not harmful to humans, the African swine fever is extremely contagious and deadly for pigs, resulting in a hemorrhagic fever. With no known cure or vaccine, the disease has implications for economic and production losses, according to reports.

Facial recognition technology is considered by farmers to be an easier method to track their pigs as it requires virtually no physical contact, whereas current tracking methods like radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags and barcodes do.

There are some obstacles inherent in facial recognition for pigs; most pigs look exactly alike and cannot be compelled to pose for the camera. Likewise, the pigs spend considerable time in dirt and mud, masking their features and making identification more difficult.

However, facial recognition technology is also being applied to other livestock in China and was used to collect data on roughly 300,000 animals in 2018 alone.

A well-documented leader in facial recognition software, China is applying the technology to nearly every facet of daily life in that country, from nabbing suspects at crowded events, monitoring school children in the classroom or catching folks in the act of jaywalking.

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