Walmart is developing facial recognition technology so it can identify the shoppers who appear irritated or just generally unhappy, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.
The corporation reportedly plans on using the biometric data that it collects to ensure that potential customers who are displeased at any given moment are thoroughly and quickly accommodated for.
Walmart originally filed a patent to use similar biometric functionality for spotting shoplifters, but apparently has since changed the technology and its intended purpose.
“It is much easier for a merchant to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new customer through advertising,” reads the official patent, which was filed in 2012 and granted in March 2016. “However, it can also be very expensive to maintain sufficient staff to provide great customer service. It can also be difficult to establish an appropriate staffing level that will provide proper customer service without excess staffing.”
Walmart says it’s utilizing biometrics, the statistical analysis of genetic data — from the face, to the eyes, to the finger — because it is a struggle to determine if customer service is inadequate in the first place. Consumers, for example, may have already been lost by the time management is able to analyze data or naturally detect any discontent.
“With so much competition, a customer will often simply go elsewhere rather than take the time to make a complaint,” the patent concedes.
Walmart is likely ramping up its technological capabilities because of specific competition.
Just as it did with flying warehouses, Amazon was granted a patent at the end of May that details a mechanism in which an employee at a location can monitor nearby internet activity and intercept any browsing requests for certain websites or search terms. The unique feature appears to show that the e-commerce giant doesn’t want in-house shoppers comparing its prices to other retailers and service providers. (RELATED: Walmart, Amazon Feud Heats Up)
Amazon’s growth, much to the chagrin of Walmart, is epitomized by its growing cloud computing service. Walmart reportedly notified tech companies in recent months that they aren’t allowed to run apps through Amazon if they want to do business, citing the fact that it doesn’t want its “most sensitive data” to “sit” on a competitor’s platform.
Overall, facial recognition technology has been employed by several organizations aside from the private sector. Law enforcement agencies have been using the capability as a surveillance tactic to ultimately catch criminals, despite objections from civil rights groups.
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