NEC providing facial recognition for automated check-out in Japan convenience store pilot

Seven-Eleven Japan is planning to open a “cashierless” convenience store leveraging facial recognition technology from NEC for customer self check-out, amid a deepening labor shortage, Nikkei Asian Review reports. The store will serve preregistered NEC employees.

The pilot store is expected to open in December in a Tokyo building containing NEC group offices, with just over 10 percent of the floor space of a typical Seven-Eleven location. Registered NEC employees will by authenticated by scanning company ID cards or facial recognition to enter the store, and then again after scanning item barcodes for purchase. Payments are automatically deducted from the employee’s salary, according to the report.

Stock is ordered and shelved by human employees of the store, but in addition to making shopping faster, the automated checkout process reduces the staff necessary to run the store from two or three to only one.

The Nikkei Asian Review reports that there are 1,000 unstaffed stores already operating in China, run by about 70 companies, including some online retailers.

The report notes that while cashierless stores normally require customers to be preregistered, this is challenging for convenience stores which count children and senior citizens among a very broad customer base.

NEC is deploying its facial recognition technology for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as well as a trial at Japan’s busiest airport next year.

Differences in payment infrastructure, cultural context, and other circumstances make Asia more likely to have production roll-outs of facial biometrics for retail in the near-term than North America or Western Europe, SensibleVision CEO George Brostoff told Biometric Update in a recent interview.

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