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Brief Published: 29 Nov 2012

Facial Recognition Tech Charts Shoppers' Behaviour, Japan


Japanese information technology company NEC has developed new facial recognition software that will allow retailers to pinpoint who is visiting their stores and track shopping habits.

Dubbed NeoFace, the technology scans shoppers’ faces as they enter a store or shopping centre via CCTV cameras and uses a powerful face detection engine to determine approximate age, gender and whether or not they have visited the store previously. If they have, it will also show the frequency, duration, which areas they engage with and how much they have spent. The software then analyses trends in customer behaviour, such as the specific times or dates that certain demographics tend to shop.

The idea is that retailers can harness this information to fine-tune their sales strategies, co-ordinate promotions and better target their offering. For example, events or maybe even the music being pumped out could be tailored specifically to the demographic that tends to pass through the shopping centre in that particular timeframe.

NEC spokesperson Motohiro Iwao explained: “This service is mainly intended for retailers that have several stores. It gives a better understanding of who is visiting your stores and how they interact with them.”

Previewed at Japan’s C&C User Forum & iEXPO 2012 earlier this month, the software will cost around $880 a month. Although the benefits it offers retailers is clear, many consumers may be concerned about a perceived invasion of privacy – indeed, a number of news stories have already likened NeoFace to the dystopian science fiction movie Minority Report.

For more on facial recognition software and its implications, see The Science of Recognition and Big Brother Advertising.