Tesco Installs Facial Recognition Software at Petrol Stations

The technology, which will debut at the supermarket chain's gas stations, will scan customers’ faces to push specific ads.

November 06, 2013

LONDON – Facial recognition software will become commonplace at Tesco petrol stations in the United Kingdom, Petrol Plaza News reports. The technology system, called Optimeyes, will be at 450 such locations soon.

Tesco said the cameras are tucked into digital ad displays above the checkout counters and collect customer details such as gender, age and how long they eye the advertisement. The data, processed in real time, goes immediately to advertisers.

Optimeyes can switch ads depending on the date, time or customer purchases. For example, a Red Bull ad might run in the morning, while a women’s magazine ad might flash onscreen if the program “sees” females waiting in line.

The program is “like something out of ‘Minority Report’,” said Simon Sugar, CEO of Amscreen, the company that developed the technology. “This could change the face of British retail and our plans are to expand the screens into as many supermarkets as possible. Brands deserve to know not just an estimation of how many eyeballs are viewing their targets, but who they are too.”

Already, watchdog groups are predicting usage of the program beyond its intended scope. This has launched “a surveillance state by the shop door. People would never accept the police keeping a real-time log of which shops we go in, but this technology can do just that,” said Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch.

Tesco estimates Optimeyes would likely see an audience of more than 5 million each week. The deal with Amscreen will run the program for five years.