Biometric scanning to be introduced at your local supermarket

Tesco is set to introduce the OptimEyes screen, throughout it’s 450 petrol stations in the UK for a five-year deal, allowing the system to scan customers’ eyes to determine age and gender, and then run tailored advertisements.  The screens are predicted to reach a weekly audience of more than five million adults.

The system was developed by Lord Sugar’s Amscreen, will also adjust adverts depending on the time and date, as well as monitoring customer purchases,  Now it’s not as if the supermarkets don’t already know enough about their customers through the use of loyalty cards.  After all if you’re shopping habits change say the alcohol goes down, sushi goes off your menu, you stop buying the cured uncooked meats from the deli counter and there is a sudden increase in the purchase of whole-grain or enriched breads and/or cereals then this change of diet could indicate a pregnancy, after all this is the sort of change of diet a doctor would recommend.  The supermarket might then start promoting to you baby products after a while.

Now not sure on the name of this new system, I guess Simon Sugar, chief executive of Amscreen couldn’t be bothered to come up with a decent name since there are several companies (Optimeyes – Somerset NJ, Optimeyes Vision Care – US, OptimEyes Optometry – US, Optimeyes Consulting – Atlanta and a Swiss firm Optimeyes who are the World Leader in Bio-mechanical Simulations of corneal refractive surgery) guess the lawyers can sort that one out….

Anyway back to this new system.  Just how does it work out age and gender classifications?

To quote from their website:-

Determining age and gender uses a similar technique to face detection. The Technology detects intensity variations within human faces and analyses variations that indicate different age or gender categories. For example, women typically have higher cheekbones than men, so the presence of a higher bright spot in the cheek region could be a strong indicator of a woman. Similarly, a dark region right above the lip could be a moustache, which is a strong indicator of a man. The combination of various facial features such as eye positioning, nose shape, cheek bones, and overall facial structure are among the variables that are taken into consideration during this process.

Now just to play the devils advocate here, but I’ve seen a lot of older women out and about over the years with ‘a dark region right above the lip could be a moustache’ and just how is it going to cope with those who are transgender, transsexuals, transvestites or intersex.  Not sure the system getting their identity wrong and displaying ads for say ‘Old Spice’ or ‘Tampons’ or going to go down too well.

Privacy campaigners say the system puts forward a “huge consent issue”.  Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said: “Scanning customers as they walk through the store without customers ever giving permission for them to be scanned in that way… There’s a huge consent issue there.”.  ”If people were told that every time they walked into a supermarket, or a doctor’s surgery or a law firm, that the CCTV camera in the corner is trying to find out who they are, I think that will have a huge impact on what buildings people go into,” he said.

Now, while they say the current technology is not going to store images of people, it’s not going to be long before someone take the step to link this to the store’s loyalty cards and previous images and they can start suggesting that odd little chocolate ‘treat’ you might not of had in a while, or perhaps a coffee if you look a bit tired…