Bhavesh Kumar

Senior Correspondent, IFSEC Global

March 2, 2016

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Facewatch Trials Facial Recognition Technology at UK Retailers

Several UK retailers are road testing facial recognition technology to help identify of shoplifters as part of a new scheme.

Facewatch, an online platform through which businesses share CCTV images of shoplifters and other offenders with the police and other local businesses, can now send alerts whenever a customer’s face matches with one of its database of images. Businesses create and share shoplifters’ or bag thieves’ images with other local businesses and can quickly upload footage of a crime to help police with prosecutions.

Several businesses are testing the facial recognition technology by uploading images of their employees to a sample database.

Simon Gordon, a wine-bar owner who founded Facewatch in 2010, told the BBC that about 10,000 premises have joined the scheme so far.

During a live demonstration given by Gordon, however, the face-recognition technology failed to recognise the BBC reporter whose image had been added to the database. Gordon suggested that the reporter’s glasses – which he hadn’t been wearing in the database image – accounted for the failure and said that the software was a work in progress.

Glasses have been a recurrent blind-spot for the face-recognition technology during tests. To guard against the converse – false identifications – once a visitor’s face matches an image in the database an alert is also sent to store staff for manual verification.

NEC Neoface

NeoFace facial recognition technology by NEC in action

Bag thefts have become rare at Gordon’s Wine Bar since Facewatch was launched. Gordon hopes to integrate Facewatch with all major facial recognition systems.

Gordon insists that merely being on the database does not automatically lead to blacklisting, which requires prosecution and conviction in court.

Police have also been testing facial recognition technology. In one trial NeoFace, facial recognition software developed by NEC, was deployed at the Download music festival in Donington Park, Leicestershire.

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