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The coming biometrics revolution in retail

We spoke to Tristan Bailey, managing director of New Zealand-owned and operated security company, Vision Systems, who gave us some insight on biometrics technology in the retail industry.

There seems to be a growing segment in terms of retail: marketing apps and biometrics that are using facial recognition, finger scanning or voice identification on consumers. Tell us about what your company does here.

One application we sell is used to manage contractors onto and within sites. We use biometric technology to record the contractors’ fingerprints which allows them access onto the site via an access controlled door. This could be something the retail industry could introduce into their own sector in terms of security. Additionally we use biometric technology in the education sector to manage attendance. Both of our systems were developed in New Zealand, for the New Zealand markets, and are now starting to get recognition on a global platform. This technology has been around for close to 10 years. When it was first deployed, the technology wasn’t great, and there were major issues which scared a lot of companies away. Now technology has caught up and biometrics in security is a proven product.

Will biometrics have a substantial influence on the future of retail?

 I feel that biometrics will be the leading way for transactions in the retail sector within the next three years.

Expanding on this, how do you think biometrics will be applied over the next three years?

Depending on the uptake within the consumer markets, I feel that biometrics will be the leading way for identification and payments, surpassing the current Eftpos system.

Primary integration of these systems is the first mountain new tech companies need to consider, and it would take big corporations to successfully implement them in order to gain the reliability they need in the New Zealand market. The credibility of the Apple brand, the ease of access and the thirst for novel innovations are some of the primary drives behind the budding influence of biometric technologies.Technology is integrating with consumers’ daily routines more and more, opening the doors for greater access to the customer for retailers. Many customers feel conflicted around disclosing biometric data; however, the gateway to the acceptance of biometrics has been the popularity of Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor on both the iPad and the iPhone.


Chris Wilkinson, managing director of First Retail Group, shared his thoughts on the place of biometrics in the Kiwi market.

What kind of retail corporations are leading the way in innovation? Is there a trend of larger business making the first moves?

On a global scale, larger retailers are definitely the ones making the first moves in terms of biometric technology. These will be absolutely necessary in New Zealand due to the added level of connectedness, the removing of barriers and the customer engagement. Payment is also a vital aspect in retail, and biometrics looks at making this whole process faster and more efficient.

Isabelle Moeller, CEO of the Biometrics Institute, told Essential Retail: “We are seeing an increased interest and take up of biometrics in the commercial/consumer markets,” which was also confirmed by the Biometrics Institute Industry Survey 2013. Would this be a statement you would agree with in terms of New Zealand? Have you noticed a growth in this particular area of technology within retail stores?

The back ends of retail stores are currently using this already. Supply chains and other corporations are all using finger print or iris-scanning check ins and I would say this would be the same for most big retail chains who employ a large number of staff. The biggest challenge for biometrics will be implementing it into the customer role.

Do you think biometrics will become more important in terms of facial recognition and security or in operation activities and support marketing?

I think very much so in terms of security and risk management. This is very important; however I also see it moving very quickly in terms of what’s going to be palatable for the consumer.

Are biometrics something that New Zealand retail and consumer stores should look at investing in?

Certainly, in terms of risk management and security. In terms of relationships with customers, companies are still working on the technology and it will be the bigger corporations that can afford to take more of a chance with it. It’s a big animal to work with but I think they will definitely become a part of the retail industry in the years to come.

This story first appeared at The Register.
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