Breathalyzers with Facial Recognition Help Monitor People on Probation

BOSTON (WHDH) - “I lost quite a bit,” says Ray.

“I have four children I haven’t spoken to in fifteen years.”

Ray is a recovering alcoholic.

“I lost a lot.” he admits.

Ray was stopped from going to jail by agreeing to take a breathalyzer test three times a day.

But it’s no ordinary breathalyzer.

This device has a built-in facial recognition system, and is now being used by the Massachusetts Probation Department to monitor low risk offenders like Ray.

While Ray blows into the machine a tiny camera takes a high-resolution photo which is matched with the system’s facial recognition software to confirm his identity.

And all of that information ends up at the Massachusetts Electronic Monitoring Center.

“It helps me make better choices.” Ray acknowledges.

Here’s how it works:

People like Ray who are on probation agree to have their eyes and features mapped with what the company calls “government security-grade” facial recognition software.

Once their specific features and photos are uploaded into the system, the user will get a cell phone text message warning him of an upcoming test time.

Minutes later the device itself sends an alert.

While Ray blows into the machine a tiny camera takes a high-resolution photo which is matched with the system’s facial recognition software to confirm his identity.

The device also maps the location where the test is being taken using GPS navigation.

All of the collected information ends up at the Massachusetts Electronic Monitoring Center.

Probation officers say the device has revolutionized their work.

“What it’s done for the probation department, I don’t have to go to his house, He doesn’t have to come to me.” says officer Frank Audy.

“I get printed test results three seconds after the test is done and sent to my computer.”

If the person on probation fails the test, his probation officer is alerted.

And if it’s a serious violation, the police are alerted too.

Ray, fortunately, hasn’t had that experience.

“I’ve lived two-thirds of my life fighting this,” he says.

“So I want to spend the rest of what I have left healthy and sober.”

About seven hundred people who are on probation are currently being monitored across the state using this new breathalyzer.

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