Tesco will install the the OptimEyes technology at all 450 of its UK petrol stations

Tesco to install face-scanning advertising technology

Screens that scan customers' faces so advertisements can be tailored to suit them, will be installed at Tesco petrol stations.

The retail giant will introduce the OptimEyes screen, developed by Lord Sugar's Amscreen, to all 450 of its UK petrol stations, in a five-year deal, according to The Grocer.

The screen, positioned at the till, scans the faces of customers to determine age and gender, and then runs tailored advertisements. The technology also adjusts adverts depending on the time and date, as well as monitoring customer purchases, The Grocer said.

The screens are predicted to reach a weekly audience of more than five million adults.

Simon Sugar, Lord Sugar’s eldest son and chief executive of Amscreen, told the industry magazine: "Yes it's like something out of Minority Report, but this could change the face of British retail and our plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible.”

Amscreen claim that the OptimEyes technology is non-intrusive and differs from biometric face recognition systems by being completely anonymous, as it does not record or identify personal images and meets with privacy and data protection requirements.

The technology uses a video processing technique to detect, track and classify human face, by spotting the pattern of a human face – two eyes, a nose, a mouth – in the video before extracting enough features to tag it with a gender and an age class.

But Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch is not convinced.

"Scanning customers as they walk through the store without customers ever giving permission for them to be scanned in that way,” he said. “There's a huge consent issue there."

Pickles said facial recognition technology is getting more advanced all the time, adding that you could be queuing to pay for groceries and a CCTV camera could be "literally scanning who you are". He said companies and stores using this system must tell their customers.

"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.

Pickles said the only way the systems can be ethically deployed is if consumers opt in to have their image stored and their behaviour tracked, rather than there being no choice in the matter.

Peter Cattell, category director for Tesco petrol stations said: "We’re always looking to work with partners who provide innovative ways to enhance the customer shopping experience. This new dynamic screen product from Amscreen provides the perfect means for us to do this.

“The ability to tailor content based on time and location means it can be extremely useful and timely for our customers.”

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