Digital Rise Homepage

Facial Recognition in Retailing

In the days following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, it was suggested that facial recognition systems be used to identify terror suspects at airports. A facial recognition system is basically a digital camera connected to a computer. The computer contains a data base with pictures of people’s faces. In an airport security application, the pictures are pictures of terror suspects.

When you enter the airport, you walk past a camera and the camera obtains a picture of your face. The picture is analyzed by the computer to determine whether your face looks similar to the faces of known terror suspects. If your face matches the face of a terror suspect the computer sounds the alarm and a security guard would come over to ask a few questions. So if this system is good enough to use at airports to spot terror suspects, shouldn’t it be good enough to use in a retail store?

Facial recognition in a retail store would depend on advance registration. You wouldn’t expect this system to recognize the face of a total stranger who walks  into a store, the customer would have to register before he could use the system. To register, you would need to go to the store and fill out a form. The application form would ask for your name and your bank account number. Then you’d have to get your picture taken. After your picture is taken, your picture would be put into the store’s data base. Now that you are registered, you can shop in that store,using the facial recognition system.

Let’s take a look at a visit to a store in the future. You come into the store and get a shopping cart. You push the shopping cart through the store and you put the items you want to buy in the cart. When your cart is full, you go to the cash register and start scanning the products you put in your cart. You must scan the bar-code on each product. When you are done, the cash register totals up the sale and you pay. The cash register plays a recording that you can hear through a built-in loudspeaker. The recording is a recording of a voice that says, “Please look directly into the camera.”

When you look into the camera, the camera obtains a picture of your face. The store’s computer then compares your face to the faces of registered customers. In a few seconds, your face is recognized by the computer. Then the computer plays a recording that says,”Your face is recognized.” The computer then sends a message over the internet to your bank and deducts the amount of the purchase f rom your account. You should get a bank statement in the mail at the end of the month that has a record of this transaction. The store’s cash register also prints a receipt on paper for you. When the entire transaction is completed, the computer plays a recording that says,”Transaction completed. Thank you.”        

This type of face recognition system may be common place in the future. It will  make it possible to buy things at retail stores simply by showing your face with no need to use cash, debit cards, credit cards,or other types of financial medium of exchange. The types of businesses that can use facial recognition to serve customers is virtually endless. It can be used at bowling alleys, restaraunts, movie theaters, tourist attractions, car rental agencies, health spas, tanning salons,barber shops, book stores, bicycle shops,and many other types of businesses.