TorchMedia | Can facial recognition technology really help you choose your macaroni?


Can facial recognition technology really help you choose your macaroni?

15 Feb 2013, Posted by TorchMedia in Blog, Grocery

As brands and retailers seek advanced technology to target more effectively and personalise their consumer offers, facial recognition technology is still a tool on the table for discussion.  While it’s not a new technology, the applications for its use are alive and flourishing, and we’re starting to see some advancement globally in the retail sector.

We’ve seen the successful use of facial recognition technology in law enforcement, security and casinos for years.  Recently facial recognition cameras scanned fans walking through the turnstiles into the Super Bowl, running the results against a database of criminal mug shots (aptly dubbed the ‘Snooper Bowl’ by some).

But while it might be useful for spotting trouble, can this advanced technology really help consumers in the retail environment?

Back in 2008, Budgens supermarket in the UK introduced facial recognition cameras into its stores to stop underage drinkers purchasing alcohol (again, a trouble-spotting application for those little rascals).  But in 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported Kraft Foods’ quest to use facial recognition technology in order to help market its products in the supermarket environment.  At that time, Kraft was in discussions with a supermarket chain to embed facial recognition into digital kiosks, in order to help consumers make the right product choices. “If it recognizes that there is a female between 25 to 29 standing there, it may surmise that you are more likely to have minor children at home and give suggestions on how to spice up Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for the kids,” Donald King, the company’s Vice President of Retail Experience told the Los Angeles Times.  We have yet to hear how these trials were received by consumers, or how successful they were for Kraft.

Despite the constant questions over the invasion of privacy, particularly with storing images and data, facial recognition technology is still on the agenda for many.  Intel is one company who has applied this technology to the retail environment.  Known as Audience Impression Metrics or AIM, it’s being used in digital signage at malls in New York, San Francisco and Chicago to provide more targeted consumers offers.

Towards the end of 2012, PayPal Australia launched point of sale software that uses facial recognition to let customers check in at stores and pay for goods, while NBC News recently reported NEC’s rollout of its facial recognition technology in Japan to help retailers ‘fine tune their marketing pitches and in-store displays’.

Despite all these recent trials, the rollout of facial recognition in Australian supermarkets is elusive. Time-poor shoppers would love a little more help to find the ideal recipe for tonight’s dinner, but it remains to be seen whether facial recognition can truly help you choose your macaroni.

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