How Facial Recognition is Transforming the Retail Landscape

Not so long ago, we looked at the merits of artificial intelligence as a powerful technology that can prevent crime and safeguard property.

From crowd monitoring and crime analysis, to access control and drone and robot patrols, there is so much value to be had from artificial intelligence. And when it comes to the retail sector, that value increases even further, especially where facial recognition is introduced. Here we explore the multiple benefits of AI and facial recognition in retail, looking at how they have the potential to transform the landscape in so many ways.

Scan and track

Facial recognition technologyBranches of Co-op in the south of England have been using real-time facial recognition cameras to scan shoppers entering stores, with a view to looking for potential shoplifters.

In total, 18 shops from the Southern Co-op franchise have been using the technology with the aim of reducing shoplifting and abuse against staff. As a result of the trials, other regional Co-op franchises are now believed to be trialling facial recognition systems.

Each time someone passes the threshold of one of the shops, the CCTV cameras scan their faces. The images are converted to numerical data and then compared against a watch list of suspects with a history of theft or anti-social behaviour. If a match is detected, staff at the store receive a notification on their smartphones. This allows them to keep a closer eye on the suspect, or decide whether to refuse entry.

Theft monitoring

Facial recognition and AI are a useful upgrade to theft monitoring surveillance cameras. On top of real time scan and track alerts, these cameras use machine learning to develop context–aware alert systems. These could involve detecting and flagging anything from shoplifting, to threatening body language.

So, for example, if a shopper is detected attempting to conceal an item under a coat, then the AI-powered CCTV will pick up the action and send an alert to a member of staff so that they can confront the potential shoplifter.

More sophisticated capability comes in the shape of facial recognition that can detect specific expressions, perhaps that would indicate aggression.

Point of sale and self-service checkouts

Already popular overseas, CCTV with facial recognition is being used as part of a digital wallet system. Instead of paying with a credit card or smartphone app, shoppers scan their faces at the point of sale terminals during checkout.

This makes for the ultimate contactless technology, and can make virtually unmanned stores a possibility, especially when combined with facial recognition access control that only unlocks a store’s doors once it has confirmed that there is no threat or past history of crime using scan and track technology.

In the UK, retail outlets are already working with tech companies to integrate facial recognition at self-checkouts in order to verify age for alcohol purchases.

Generally, freeing up staff from checkout functions means there is more time to spend on customer service, which could help enhance the reputation of the retailer, as well as cut expenditure and therefore boost the bottom line.

Customer loyalty programmes

Facial recognition can open up access to a wide range of data on individual retail customers.

Retailers are able to identify individual customers and link them to existing loyalty programmes and purchase histories using advanced point of sale systems. This has the potential to open the way for generating tailored marketing, such as discounts or other special offers, as well as making personalised recommendations, which could prove fruitful in terms of cross-selling and upselling.

Emerging technologies = potential teething troubles

Whilst facial recognition technology offers massive potential for the retail industry, it is important to bear in mind that it is still in its emerging stages, and that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

COVID-19 for example has thrown up a core vulnerability in that where customers are wearing face coverings, facial matching systems are considerably less accurate. If mask wearing eventually becomes a permanent fixture, it could present hurdles.

The pandemic however has revealed more of the technology’s advantages, especially in terms of contactless payments and access control. So there is something of a balance of benefits.

All today’s technology, from a security specialist with a long history of expertise

At Barry Bros Security we have always made sure we stay ahead of emerging technologies so that we can provide our customers with all the latest, cutting-edge security solutions.

If you would like to learn more about how artificial intelligence and facial recognition technology could benefit you in the retail industry, you are welcome to get in touch. Our experts are on hand to provide you with fully tailored advice.

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