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Biometrics in Retail

Though most are loath to admit it, retailers across USA already make extensive, behind-the-scenes use of biometrics to track employees, nab shoplifters and improve store security. Does this also occur in Australia?

In late 2018 a New York Magazine article titled, “Smile! The Secretive Business of Facial-Recognition Software in Retail Stores,” detailed the extent of the technology’s behind-the-scenes use at retailers, stadiums and other event venues. Some companies can “match a face against the database of 25 million people in just under a second,” and includes hundreds of department stores, grocery stores, pharmacies and the like.

A recent report by Biometrics Marketing found that despite these concerns, retailers are exploring biometric technology, including behavioural tracking and facial and voice recognition, for advertising and promotional targeting. These systems can identify and track shoppers in stores and learn their preferences, like how online retailers use cookies. The information can then be used to interact with them via their phones, in-store signage or in other ways.

For example, VentureBeat reported in September 2019 that Microsoft had launched Dynamics 365 Connected Store, a software application that enables retailers to track their customers in stores using computer vision, cameras and internet of things (IoT) sensors. The system has the capability to create personalized recommendations based on browsing and buying habits.

“Once companies are using this type of technology for crime prevention purposes, there’s no reason why they should not be using it for upselling their customers,” Arturo Falck, CEO of startup, told Biometric Update in November 2018

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