This software can spot a celeb's face in a store

The new technology aims to improve the shopping experience for the rich and famous. Its benefits for stores, however, may be minimal at best.

By Jason Notte Jul 23, 2013 9:13AM
Jewelry store (© Baerbel Schmidt/Getty Images/Getty Images)It's bad enough that the average, relatively faceless consumer has his or her Wi-Fi signal tracked during trips to Nordstrom (JWN).

As NPR reports, it gets even tougher when that customer happens to be a celebrity and facial recognition software offered by NEC IT Solutions tips off store management to her presence. More commonly used to identify terrorists and criminals, the ID technology analyzes footage of people's faces as they walk through a door, takes measurements to create a numerical code known as a "face template" and checks it against a database.

For celebs, according to London's Sunday Times, if a face is a match, the program sends an alert to staff via computer, iPad or smartphone, providing details like dress size, favorite purchases or shopping history.

The dozen stores and hotels in the U.S., U.K. and Far East where the system is being tested use the software as a customer-service tool, but far more is at stake than keeping the stars happy.

As everybody is well aware, the global economy is a bit dicey right now. The retail and hotel sectors can use a boost and have become less ashamed about using the same tactics that casinos and strip clubs commonly employ. When high rollers are in the room, all hands are on deck to make sure they're happy -- and as much of their money as possible stays in-house.

The technology is similar to that found in Google (GOOG) Images, which allows users to find photos that look like other images, but it comes with the same potential pitfalls that resulted in facial-recognition technology being removed from Google Glass. Chris de Silva, vice president of IT Solutions at NEC, told The Sunday Times the company looked into its own privacy issues and found that most high-profile customers are "quite happy to have their information available because they want a quicker service, a better-tailored service or a more personally tailored service."

Basically, if you've already traded so much of your privacy in exchange for fame, why draw the line at the store when it could actually improve your shopping experience? Maybe because searching for big spenders has far less merit and return on investment than using Wi-Fi data to map out the spending patterns of your everyday customer.

Industry experts have already referred to the technology as gimmicky and costly, countering that customized coupons and improved store layouts have much greater impact on sales than alerting the staff to the presence of Flo Rida in Aisle 5.

More on moneyNOW

Jul 23, 2013 12:01PM
Connect a face to a credit card, an you have yourself a system better than those loyalty cards in tracking your deomgraphics.
Jul 23, 2013 10:09AM
For the little people who are not famous, I wonder where it gets the face reference?
Not everyone is on facebook and my cell phone is an old brick, but I guess that works too.

It's funny when you think about the words: "face book" - yeah, so millions of people have made it easy for surveillance software by tagging their own pictures with their name.

Don't worry folks, even if you're not on facebook, your credit cards have an encoded strip on them and those cards have your real name. I'm sure there's technology to obtain your identity, and even your level of credit when you walk into a store if you're carrying a credit card or maybe even just your driver's license.

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