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Facing up to retail security challenges

Thursday July 19 2012

Facial recognition technology has undergone major developments in recent years and, as a result according to security expert Atul Rajput, is increasingly being used for identification and verification in traditional security applications. He says now retailers are too beginning to realise the benefits of this technology beyond for just loss prevention and surveillance

Facial biometrics genericFacial recognition technology has undergone major developments in recent years and, as a result according to security expert Atul Rajput, is increasingly being used for identification and verification in traditional security applications. He says now retailers are too beginning to realise the benefits of this technology beyond for just loss prevention and surveillance

 

Facial recognition technology has for many years been seen as the Holy Grail in the surveillance sector, with both its feasibility and reliability often questioned. However, Atul Rajput business development manager for retail at Axis Communications (pictured below) contends that, as with all technology, it has evolved and matured over time moving from an industry catchphrase to a real-world deployable solution.

 

“Novel technology and powerful new algorithms have facilitated a range of advances in facial recognition systems, which have led to improved accuracy in retail CCTV applications and a host of other new uses,” he said.

 

Improvements in IP surveillance

 

Improvements in network camera technology and the versatility that comes from IP networks have also driven the update of this technology. Rajput continued: “In a retail context, loss prevention managers still have challenges with legacy analogue cameras capturing clear, usable images at the store entrance due to variable light conditions.

 

“To address this challenge, today’s IP [internet protocol-based] surveillance cameras offer HD [high-definition] resolution quality and stunning dynamic capture capabilities that produce exceptional clarity and sharpness in challenging environments. A spin-off benefit of enhanced image capture is that it complements the accuracy of facial recognition solutions making identification even simpler and more accurate.”

 

Due to the flexibility of open standards based IP surveillance systems, he also said that the analysis of video footage was also moving from the confines of a control room onto mobile devices such as tablets, enabling retailers to implement smarter loss prevention techniques.

 

Getting face to face with shoplifters

 

So how are retailers benefitting from these advancements? Rajput said that facial recognition technology is transforming the way retailers can tackle shoplifting instore.

 

He explained: “Today’s IP or networked CCTV technology is enabling many different applications for both live and retrospective facial analysis. The technology can extract faces in real time from CCTV footage and match against a database of known shoplifters, enabling quicker, more effective identification by proactively notifying staff via a mobile device when a known shoplifter enters their store.

 

“With statistics indicating that a retail theft occurs every minute, this could provide a proactive approach to loss prevention, complementing initiatives such as Facewatch, where UK retailers already upload and share images of known shoplifters.”

 

Improving retail operations

 

Atul Rajput Axis CommunicationsThe technology is capable of time stamping when individuals are detected between known camera locations to provide highly accurate information on customer flow, such as average queue times. This, he added, is helping retailers to monitor peak trading times, ensuring there are sufficient staff and resources available to meet customer demand.

 

This technology is also being integrated with instore media for ‘intelligent advertising,’ as Atul pointed out: “Retailers are now using interactive advertisements that integrate facial recognition technology to capture demographics of customers as they observe instore displays. The advertisements then shown are tailored to that individual so that retailers can be far more targeted in their marketing efforts.”

 

So what is next for this technology? Rajput concluded: “The processing capabilities of network video and the sophistication of analytic applications are improving all the time. We therefore expect to see more and more retailers adopting this technology and using it to reduce shrinkage, manage instore operations and improve customer experience.”