Facial recognition technology is nearly everywhere in China, and now marathons are no exception.
This year, the Hangzhou International Marathon, held on 4 November, is making use of the technology to crack down on race cheaters. The software will be used in an attempt to prevent fraud—presumably from runners who swap bibs or wear ones that aren’t theirs— and highlight the advantages of modern technology, according to race organisers.
The Alibaba Group, a Chinese e-commerce company whose sports division Alisports will be in charge of the software, has been testing facial recognition software in everything from paying with a smile to checking in to a hotel, so using the software to catch cheaters in a marathon is no stretch. Yang Yong, general manager of the road race project at Alibaba Group’s sports division Alisports, said Hangzhou will increase the use of technology in this year’s race, according to a statement on China.org.cn.
Last year, facial recognition software appeared at the Beijing Half Marathon—20,000 participants got their biometrics scanned leading up to the race, The Telegraph reported. Runners had been hiring ringers and switching bibs to better their times, partly because of the “fear of failure” that runs rampant in this social-media age, according to the report.
There has been no word yet on whether facial recognition software will make its way to U.K races, but don’t wait until it does: just run your own race—beginning to end.
A version of this article appeared on Runner's World US.