Retail has been getting a major upgrade recently. First robotic shop assistants. And then virtual reality furnishing. And now facial recognition technology. This technology is arguably the most personal retail technology has been so far.

Japanese technology giant NEC and California based company FaceFirst have broken into this market. They offer systems that use cameras places at the entrances of shops to identify people as they walk in.

Joel Rosenkrantz, FaceFirst’s chief executive explained the technology saying, “Someone could approach you and give you a cappuccino when you arrive, and then show you the things they think you will be interested in buying.” Sound unreal? See for yourself.

However this technology does have some setbacks. For one, your average Joe Bloggs won’t be recognised by the system. You need to be an existing or important customer. Otherwise the system won’t recognise you or you won’t be important enough to recieve special attention.

Also there are concerns about breeching privacy. Online Brands opinion is,

“Not everyone wants to be watched for marketing purposes! Also some technology may rely on stealing personal pictures, say of Facebook fans profiles. But fears of privacy can be bought easily it seems. Stores may offer discount coupons to customers who enroll for the face recognition technology.”

FaceFirst’s technology has a major redeeming feature. Just as privacy breeching is reasoned off for terrorism protection, facial recognition breeching is reasoned off for shoplifting. The technology enables retail staff to spot thieves as soon as they enter the store. Mr┬áRosenkrantz believes the technology can cut stock shrinkage by 25%.

Even if the technology can’t be used to identify everyones details, it can identify important marketing data. This includes a customer’s age and sex. This is useful for companies such as Mondelez International which is working on “smart shelves” to show messages based on customers demographics.

This technology is already in use to a degree. Retailers use Bluetooth devices that detect the location of smartphones with the retailers app installed. They then can send special discounts or vouchers to tempt a purchase.


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