Facial recognition technology is something that most of us take for granted. We've casually noticed that our smartphones now organize photos by people, or that Facebook somehow always knows the right friends to tag. But until recently, most people haven't realized that this technology is less of a "cool trick" and will actually significantly shape the way we do business in the next five to ten years.
The technology is already being tested out in many different industries for vastly different purposes. For example, security scanners at the airport use it to allow e-passport holders to clear customs more easily; as facial recognition improves, Customs and Border Protection will be able to weed out travelers with fake passports more easily. Also, facial recognition is now being rolled out to further government facilities and businesses that require a high level of security clearance. Through use of this technology, security professionals can easily run realtime criminal searches using CCTV.
If you're constantly buying online (like me), it may have been a while since you stepped into your local mall or a mainstreet store, but large retailers are now using facial recognition to step up their game and compete with online shopping shopping sites by using intelligent technology to instantly recognize customers and target offers based on their buying preferences. They can also use it to catch shoplifters in the act, a system that Walmart has already implemented in several of its stores.
If it's the first time your noggin has appeared on their screens, they will begin to build up a profile for you based on your in-store actions. For example, the amount of time you spend in a certain area, your path around the store and the items you pick up.
The entertainment industry, casinos and theme parks have also caught on to its uses. They can hand tourists photos of themselves during their stay, or keep an eye on customers and any suspicious activity. And we're just at the tip of the iceberg as to what facial recognition can do for industries like banking and fintech.
NTechLab is one of the prominent players in developing artificial intelligence algorithms and more specifically, facial recognition technology. In fact, at the end of 2015, they beat Google and nearly one-hundred other teams around the world in the University of Washington's MegaFace competition. I recently had a chat with Artem Kukharenko, CEO of Ntechlab to learn more about how Facial Recognition will innovate new avenues of marketing and advertising. And it's starting to feel like we're in the middle of a science fiction movie.
"Facial recognition will allow marketers to effectively know their customers better," he said. "Visitors' photos may function as cookies referring to the identification and storage of user settings. In other words, loyalty cards will become obsolete. As soon as you walk into a store, the staff will already know what you bought last time, thanks to the camera's footage and our technology."
This is certainly an advantage for retailers struggling to keep up the pace with internet giants like Amazon and online stores offering targeted deals and fast delivery. Facial recognition technology can also be used to retarget customers with personal offers. "Imagine that you walk into a supermarket, and examine a coffee maker but do not buy it, in a few days you could be shown an Internet ad of the same item with a discount or receive a personal message on social media with relevant information about such products," suggests Kukharenko.
Obviously, having a strong data backup strategy certainly plays a strong role when it comes to the way we collect, store and utilize data of any kind. But the question on most people's minds, is what about the possibility of errors? Where the technology picks up a face that isn't the right one? According to Kukharenko, this is unlikely. This technology is improving almost daily and, being applicable to so many different industries, growing up fast: "We have found a special type of internal architecture for neural networks, that perfectly fits the face recognition tasks," he says. "That internal architecture removes the possibility of error."
As this technology becomes more accessible, it will be not only be used for security or retail giants, but by progressive marketers and advertisers as well. This means that the one-directional, sweeping message of the billboard will likely be a thing of the past. Every advertisement you see, whether you know it or not, will be 100 percent targeted to you and your interests.
When marketers can use Big Data, whether through online transactions or in store preferences, they can create almost entirely targeted campaigns, down to a single customer. We're not just talking about re-marketing here, but an AI technology that can pretty much read your mind - well, your face at least.