Facial Recognition in Retail and Hospitality: Cases, Law & Benefits

facial-recognition in retail

Facial recognition technology is essentially a form of biometric artificial intelligence which executes identity verification by comparing digital images or video frames and matching them to the faces in a database based on skin texture and facial features.

It is immensely popular at the moment, given that it is has become a common fixture in today’s digitized world. The market for this facial recognition technology is growing exponentially. A research report by Component estimates that the facial recognition industry will is expected to grow to $7.0 billion by 2024 in the U.S alone.

The face recognition market is driven mostly by the need to increase productivity by digitizing mundane activities to save time and minimize human interference. From maintaining security at airports to its application in mobile technology and social media to law enforcement to targeted marketing campaigns, the application of facial recognition technology has permeated modern society and culture and is inevitably part of our future.

Facial Recognition Software:

Facial recognition software is advancing far more quickly than regulation can handle it as it is increasingly used at venues, airports, shopping centers, and even in law enforcement. It allows you to get invaluable insights on your ad campaigns, helps you gauge and understand audience interest levels, and allows you to create effective ad campaigns and to supercharge them where necessary.

However, although people are getting more used to the application of facial recognition software, there are concerns about potential infringement of privacy. Some privacy advocates who understand its place in our lives point out that a proper balance between achieving convenience and being constantly monitored should be struck and maintained.

The implication for facial recognition software is that imminent regulatory activity and the ever-increasing pro-privacy movements might work against the future of facial recognition software.

So predicting the shape and direction of the market is a very difficult task. Just as our opinions and perspectives tend to sway over time, so also will the acceptance of facial recognition software and technology in the mainstream. One certain thing is that there is still room for growth even when the pace of adoption varies based on region and industry.

Another clear thing is that there are great marketing opportunities for facial recognition technology.

Facial recognition software refers to software that maps facial features using mathematical mapping techniques and deep learning capabilities to execute identity verification.

Software tools can be grouped into thermal face recognition, 2D facial recognition, and 3D facial recognition. The adoption and development of facial recognition software are greatly driven by the interest of governments and governmental agencies.

Take the U.S., for instance; it’s U.S. Department of Defense is facing a lot of opposition from the public over its steadily increasing investments in facial recognition tech.

Across the globe, China is still the undisputed leader in the facial recognition industry as it fills ten times more patents than are filled in the U.S. For starters, Chinese startups in the industry are raising hundreds of millions of dollars in investments in addition to expansions that will lead to a situation where there will be a camera for every five citizens.

That translates to over 500 million CCTV cameras in China alone! Software tools are segregated into thermal face recognition, 2D facial recognition, and 3D facial recognition.

Facial Recognition in Travel and Hospitality:

In spite of the lack of regulation and the risks thereof, the travel industry has recently begun to exploit the plethora of benefits that facial recognition offers in the provision of services. It helps speed up the processes involved in dealing with the tons of customers that travel from one place to the other.

More importantly, security is key in this industry, especially at hotels and airports. That’s where facial recognition comes in. It helps with identifying security threats and restricting access to sensitive areas.

Besides improving security, it also serves to improve customer experience via personalization. When faces are matched against a database, companies in the industry can create services that meet specific needs.

Take hotels, for example, facial identification allows the staff of hotels to add a personalized touch in their rendering of services to customers. It also helps customers get rewards for repeated patronage.

With facial recognition, crime prevention becomes easier as criminals, and other security threats could be identified as soon as possible and managed before they pose a threat. Then there is the quality of data that it avails those concerned.

The importance of such data is that it provides the insights necessary to improve their business operations and helps to simplify authorization and streamline payment processes.

Facial recognition is already being applied in some hotels in China, where guests use it to check-in without standing in a queue. With authorization and access control through facial recognition hotels, guests no longer need to bother about the hassles of identification, and they can get services tailored to their unique needs.

This streamlines the way guests enjoy their hotel experience.

Another example can be given with face recognition access and verification of guests. If a guest, for example, wants to go to the gym, their hotel room, or any other facility, they can do that by simply scanning their faces.
Several hotels use facial recognition to identify their VIP guests the minute they arrive at the hotels so that they can give them preferential treatment.

They use face recognition technology to improve concierge experiences and provide customized services to guests while achieving personal engagement with them. One of the hotels where facial technology is applied is Marriot International.

Although only a few of its hotels in China currently apply facial recognition, Marriot Hotels have plans to use facial recognition systems in all its 6500 properties.

Some airports eliminate the need for boarding passes by making tourists verify their identity by simply standing in front of a camera. Malaysia, France, and UAE are some countries where facial recognition software is already being used at airports.

Face recognition technology has the potential to transmute the hospitality industry into a more secure and efficient version.

Facial Recognition in Healthcare:

The healthcare industry has been able to merge facial recognition practices into their operations quickly. The sensitive nature of hospitals, in particular, makes it imperative that access controls and security be improved at all times.
With facial recognition, the problem of duplicate records that can come at great costs greatly avoided.

This enables hospitals to manage their patients much better in addition to managing security and access restriction.

Improving self-medication is another means by which facial recognition is enhancing the healthcare industry. At-home medical devices that dispense drugs based on schedule and prescriptions are better equipped by facial recognition tech to dispense these drugs safely.

AceAge, which produces such devices, has begun the incorporation of facial recognition tech into their devices so that the drugs are only dispensed upon facial recognition of the owners of the devices.

There are no facial recognition wheelchairs that could be controlled with as little as eyebrow movement. Facial recognition has also improved diagnostics as there is a system in the U.S. where the analysis of facial features helps with identifying genetic conditions.

Doctors are now able to identify people with rare genetic combinations using applications on their phones.
Improved health monitoring via the combination of AI-powered tools, appliances, and facial recognition technologies is another means by which facial recognition technology has improved the healthcare industry. Take the latest innovation, known as Lucent.

This is a mirror that is designed to scan facial features to identify possible genetic risks. Facial recognition tools aid healthcare technology developers to provide more for patients in assisted living situations.

Privacy and Security Concerns:

There many concerns about the use of facial recognition. They are privacy, safety, and legislations on facial technology.

While facial recognition technology is of immense relevance to diverse industries, there are still lots of people who believe that this technology is overly intrusive since it deals with the collection of biometric data that could be abused or misused by the wrong hands.

The major reason for these fears is the state of facial recognition regulation. There are simply not enough checks to control the way biometric are handled, especially as databases of biometric data that are often targeted by identity thieves. Having biometric data in the hands of the wrong people can be disastrous as the damage caused by the loss of biometric data is dangerous.

Then there is the issue of the inaccuracy of facial recognition software owing to its relatively early phase of development and the trial and error approach associated with this face. The inaccuracy of such information could lead to misidentifications, wrong diagnoses, wrongful convictions, and false arrests. The reactions against the application of facial recognition technology are such that many cities in the U.S. have outlawed certain aspects of its use. Beyond the damage caused by the inaccuracy of such vital information, there are concerns that it affords hackers unlimited access to ultrasensitive parts of people’s lives.

As worries that facial recognition technology threatens basic human privacy continues to grow, governments and organizations are increasingly pressured to enforce stricter rules and regulations to prevent its abuse.
In the U.S. and San Francisco, to be precise, city officials in San Francisco voted against the use of facial recognition tools in law enforcement (eight-to-one). Across the Atlantic, a Cardiff court in the U.K. concluded that there should be a tightening of the regulations surrounding facial recognition technology.

This is in addition to a warning from the U.K.’s Science and Technology Committee that privacy and security issues about live facial recognition technology should be resolved before it is deployed by law enforcement agents in Britain.
Despite the lack of a specific code of practice, several steps need to be taken by companies that are developing or using this software. One such steps are the data protection assessment that helps identify risks like discrimination and lack of proportionality that need to be eliminated. Another such step is the inclusion of different ethnicities and genders in the development process.
Laws and regulations on facial recognition must be constantly reviewed and updated to ensure consumers’ protection.

Facial Recognition in Retail

Facial recognition has been an integral part of the retail industry for a while now. Facial recognition software has been used in the prevention of the losses incurred from theft by criminals and employees. One of such technologies is Fraud-IQ which is deployed by some U.S. retailers to combat returns fraud based on its mode of operation.

It recognizes the faces of people in its search for faces that entered the store with the object of the returns claim. JD.com, one of the biggest retailers in China, uses facial recognition for automated shopping. Shoppers who patronize their stores are identified, and their accounts charged as they leave. No need for attendants or cashiers.
Facial recognition technology also improving customer experience by providing real-time customer experience and preferences to retailers who are looking to stay ahead of the competition.

Retails can now use facial recognition to analyze the behavioral patterns of customers while shopping at their retail stores. It allows them to understand what customers feel and how they behave and act while in their stores. This understanding makes them smile to the banks as they make more profits by providing services that suit their customers’ unique needs.


Facial recognition technology is something of a paradox that is believed to pose serious threats to civil liberties, yet remains a booming business. Today, facial recognition is in high demand in hotels, retail stores, schools, airports, summer camps, and even law enforcement. So do the concerns over security and privacy outweigh its benefits? The truth is that these fears are justified; they can cause serious damage when applied badly. Yet, facial recognition tools are a great arsenal to have when used correctly. A balance has to be struck by laws and regulations which prescribe and manage its use.

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