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Large retailers afraid of implementing facial recognition, study finds

Large retailers afraid of implementing facial recognition, study finds

Biometrics and other video technologies are commonly focused on delivering deterrence, providing reassurance, ensuring compliance, undertaking reviews, informing and enabling business decisions, carrying out monitoring, generating a response, and identifying, detecting and alerting, in-depth research conducted by the ECR Retail Loss Group on top retailers based in the U.S. and Europe reveals.

The global video hardware market and software in the retail sector is estimated to reach $2.2 billion by 2023.

Actively used in security and safety applications and business intelligence, video analytics software is quickly evolving to support wider deployment opportunities for retail functions. The technology is mostly used for crime prevention and detection, but this is rapidly changing due to increasing acceptance in society. Not only is it a tool for enhanced security, but it also helps business profitability through AI and ML intelligence, according to the report.

Cutting-edge biometric facial recognition enhancements automatically identify shop criminals, but also come with challenges. The report found respondents have very different opinions on facial recognition technologies. While some believe it is critical to prevent theft by automatically detecting offenders, others are worried how it may affect their brand, or having a hard time grasping the cost-effective retail opportunities.

“It would be amazing and enable us to track people around the country – open up a whole new method of doing this which is currently very manual,” reads one of the responses.

Although retailers appear excited, store customers might not feel the same, and instead consider the technology “intrusive.” This is a major concern among top brands who said “the reality is that we are not going to be the first to do it because the brand reputation aspect is so damaging,” “… the business is terrified of it,” and “the Lawyers have said no,” because of the negative publicity surrounding the technology, mostly due to the way it has been used in China. Similar controversy was sparked decades ago by CCTV use in public spaces and RFID.

Many respondents were concerned about information ownership, data sharing and “the veracity of shared watch lists,” while trying to also understand how the data can be used. A major concern is the cost, with some finding it “super expensive” and “not worth it.”

Others have used video analytics for business intelligence to improve customer services and boost profitability. Some attempted to analyze customer dwell times and store heat maps analysis, as well as people counting and queue monitoring, but found it “Difficult to see the financial return.”

Even though video surveillance is now widely deployed in retail, the report concludes a definitively identifiable ROI alone is often not enough to justify investment in video technologies, which may also be clouded by “blurry and imprecise expectations.”

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