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Facewatch biometric retail theft prevention trial concludes with endorsement from store operator


Biometric facial recognition technology from Facewatch has been endorsed by convenience store operator Paul Wilks following a successful trial at his store in Jubilee Square near Aylesbury, England, which reduced shoplifting and abusive behavior, according to News Anyway.

Wilks found higher incidence of shoplifting at his third store location, shortly after opening it five years ago. Items targeted were higher value items such as steak and wine, and in coordination with the local police, it was determined that the thefts were consistent with organized crime, rather than impulsive behavior. The vendor decided to operate the first trial of Facewatch’s new facial recognition system, which launched in mid-2018.

Wilks was initially impressed by the technical capabilities of the system, but found the watchlist data it captured from the store’s existing CCTV camera were insufficient quality to return a biometric match.

“We discussed this challenge with the Facewatch team and very quickly a very powerful solution was found,” he explains. “The newly installed facial recognition camera was also used to capture CCTV footage of incoming customers and as it was being used in a dual mode for CCTV and facial recognition, we were lawfully allowed to look at these images for 30 days before destroying them. We now have a system that rarely gives us a false match as every image of a thief is almost a perfect headshot.”

The store displays signs to inform customers of the system’s use, and he says none have expressed concern about it over the past year. The deterrent effect has been noticeable, according to Wilks. The decrease in criminal activity has also led to a more relaxed and positive working environment for staff, as well.

Facewatch says its system, which is GDPR compliant, is simple to deploy, using a standard HD camera and Intel NUC, which is a 4 by 4-inch minicomputer. When a match is made, the system sends an alert with an image of the individual entering the store to a designated smartphone.

Retail theft prevention is one of the applications detailed in a recent CB Insights report on the growing use of biometric facial recognition.

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