Hundreds of terminals from Intel and NEC will scan the faces of athletes, sponsors, volunteers and other accredited people at the next summer Olympics.


(Credit: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation)

If you’re an athlete, sponsor, journalist or volunteer at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, you’ll be using a facial recognition system from Japanese electronics giant NEC and chipmaker Intel to get where you need to be.

Intel is collaborating with NEC to provide “a large-scale face recognition system for the Olympics,” said Ricardo Echevarria, general manager of Intel’s Olympics program. The system is designed to let Olympics organizers “ensure smoothly secure verification for the over 300,000 people at the games who are accredited,” he said. People using it will register with photos from government-issued IDs, he added.

Facial recognition has grown by leaps and bounds with the arrival of the sophisticated pattern-matching abilities of modern artificial intelligence technology called neural networks. But many are alarmed about pervasive computer surveillance, leading cities like Somerville, Massachusetts, and San Francisco and Oakland, California, to bar police from using the technology.

Intel didn’t comment on the privacy or data retention aspects of the technology, and NEC said that’s the purview of the Tokyo Olympics organizers. Those organizers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

NEC will deploy hundreds of facial recognition systems around the Olympics facilities, a move that should speed up ID checks for accredited people, Echevarria said. It’s the first time the Olympics have used that facial recognition technology.

It won’t be a wholesale replacement for the old ways: Accredited personnel at the Olympics will still have to wear traditional ID lanyards, Intel and NEC said. But the facial recognition system will be required: if someone loses their lanyard or tries to get access with one that’s stolen, the facial recognition system will block them, NEC said.

“Facial recognition improves security and efficiency by being able to confirm a picture ID against the face of the person seeking to enter a facility with greater speed and accuracy than human staff,” NEC said.

Intel will be involved in other Olympic-related moves, too:

  • It’s helped develop a technology called 3DAT (3D Athlete Tracking) that broadcasters can use to boost instant-replay videos with data about player movements. An AI system processes video data rapidly to generate the overlay graphics.
  • Intel also is helping to run a global esports gaming competition in parallel with the Olympics in Tokyo. Players from an initial group of 20 countries will compete in the videogame event, which also includes participation from gaming companies Capcom and Epic Games.
  • It’s building virtual reality training realms that athletes and organizers can use to visualize arenas and other facilities.


By 27 August 2019

Facial recognition technology burst into the headlines this month following an exposé in the Financial Times about its use in London’s King’s Cross.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has launched an investigation into the use of the technology, which scanned pedestrians’ faces across the 67-acre site comprising King’s Cross and St Pancras stations and nearby shopping areas, without their knowledge.

It is the latest controversy to embroil the technology. Manchester’s Trafford Centre was ordered to stop using it by the Surveillance Camera Commission, which works for the Home Office.

Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham said after details of the King’s Cross scheme emerged that she was “deeply concerned about the growing use of facial recognition technology in public spaces”.

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all”

Elizabeth Denham, information commissioner

“Scanning people’s faces as they lawfully go about their daily lives in order to identify them is a potential threat to privacy that should concern us all,” she maintained.

“That is especially the case if it is done without people’s knowledge or understanding. My office and the judiciary are both independently considering the legal issues and whether the current framework has kept pace with emerging technologies and people’s expectations about how their most sensitive personal data is used.”

The European Commission is also understood to planning new regulation that will give EU citizens explicit rights over the use of their facial recognition data as part of an update of artificial intelligence laws.

What’s it for?

So what does that mean for retailers that are either already deploying or are considering a roll-out of facial recognition technology in their stores?

Given the level of concern and scrutiny from regulators and public alike about how such technology is used, can retailers deploy it in a way that adds value to their business and without risking alienating customers?

Innovation agency Somo’s senior vice-president of product management Tim Johnson says: “There’s a very wide range of things [facial recognition] could potentially be used for. It is a very significant technology and a really seamless process that provides a strong form of identification, so it is undeniably big news.

“But at the moment it is a big muddle in terms of what it is for, whether it is useful or too risky and in what ways. We’ll look back on where we are now as an early stage of this technology.”

One area where facial recognition technology has been piloted by retailers is in-store to crack down on shoplifting and staff harassment.

“The only information held is on those who are known to have already committed a crime in the store previously”

Stuart Greenfield, Facewatch

According to the BRC, customer theft cost UK retailers £700m last year, up 31% year on year, while 70% of retail staff surveyed described police response to retail crime as poor or very poor.

Against that backdrop, retailers such as Budgens have rolled out tech from facial recognition provider Facewatch to stores across the South and Southeast, after a trial in an Aylesbury shop resulted in a 25% crime reduction.

Facewatch marketing and communications director Stuart Greenfield explains that clear signage is displayed throughout any store where the platform’s technology is used, and any data is held in Facewatch’s own cloud platform, not by the retailers.

“The only information held is on those who are known to have already committed a crime in the store previously, anyone whose face is scanned by the system and does not correspond against our existing watchlist is deleted immediately,” says Greenfield.

He believes it is the “combination of marketing, in-store signage and the system itself” which acts as a deterrent to shoplifting and staff harassment in stores where Facewatch’s technology is used.

Shopping centre operator Westfield has teamed up with digital signage firm Quividi, which analyses passersby’s facial data based on their age, gender and mood to determine which adverts are displayed as a means of driving customer engagement and sales. Shoe specialist Aldo and jeweller Pandora also work with Quividi overseas.

Quividi chief marketing officer Denis Gaumondie argues that the platform’s technology is not facial recognition – rather it is facial analysis, because it does not store any data on passersby and would therefore not recognise a repeat customer, or link their data to purchases.

He adds that it is the responsibility of Quividi’s retail partners to inform shoppers that the technology is in use.

Hot potato

However, DWF partner Ben McLeod, who specialises in commercial and technology law, says even using facial recognition or analysis technology in-store as described above could land retailers in hot water.

“There is a general prohibition on processing special category data [which may, for instance, include racial or ethnic origin] unless a specific exception applies,” he points out. “Many of the exceptions relate to the public interest which doesn’t really apply to retailers, particularly where the primary purpose for the use of the technology is marketing or to prevent stock loss.”

“Processing is possible where the data subject [the customer] has given explicit consent, but in practice, this will be difficult to demonstrate, as merely alerting customers to the use of facial recognition technology will not suffice.”

“Given that the basis on which the police are using surveillance technology is also currently subject to legal challenge, retailers are advised to tread carefully,” he cautions.

Opting in

Facial recognition technology is prompting controversy

Facial recognition has also been tried out by the Co-op to verify the purchase of age-restricted products such as alcohol at self-service checkouts. Customers found to be over 30 were allowed to complete the purchase without the need for verification by a member of staff.

Johnson believes such use of facial recognition technology would be welcomed by many customers because it would require their specific consent to use it, as was the case with the Co-op, as would verification of the purchase of a whole shopping basket using biometric data.

“People are comfortable with using facial identification on their own device [such as Apple’s Face ID], so using it as a means of verifying purchases in-store feels like a logical next step. It would speed up the check-out experience.”

Capgemini principal consultant Bhavesh Unadkat also points to the roll-out of Amazon Go stores in the US, which verify shoppers’ purchases and link them to their Amazon account using biometric data including facial recognition technology.

He explains that shoppers who download the Amazon Go app and then go into one of the checkout-free stores understand what technology is being used, and how it is benefiting them by providing an efficient shopping experience. The trade-off is clear and there is an “opt-in” to use the technology.

“I don’t think [retailers] can ask customers to opt out of facial recognition technology being used in-store, or just alert them to it being there,” he says.

“They need to ask shoppers to opt in and sell them the benefits they would get, such as a cashless checkout, more rewards, personalised offers to your mobile as you enter the store. Don’t go down the route of assuming people will never opt in and not communicating effectively, because if you get it wrong then the trust is broken.

“Right now we are making a mess of [facial recognition technology] because people are already paranoid about sharing information online and now feel like they are being victimised in a bricks-and-mortar environment as well.”

McLeod concurs with that view.

He says: “Amazon Go is the kind of thing where people are making a choice upfront by downloading the app. That is different from walking into a shopping centre or having the technology foisted upon you in a way that isn’t transparent.

“It becomes far more pervasive in that setting, but the more fundamental issue is there isn’t a strong legal grounding for the use of the technology.”

Right side of the law

Greenfield emphasises that Facewatch is working with the ICO to ensure its technology remains compliant with current and incoming regulations.

“We are pushing like mad for legislation as quickly as possible,” he says. “We want to do everything that is good for the technology because the reality is we cannot put the genie back in the bottle; [facial recognition] is out there and it will be used by someone, so we should have legislation to ensure it is used properly.”

Johnson advises retailers to collaborate closely with engaged suppliers and legislators, and tread carefully when deploying facial recognition technology, but does not believe that current controversies should deter retailers from using it for good.

He says: “I absolutely think [retailers] should still be exploring it. The current environment should make them fully aware of the risks, but it isn’t going away and the potential rewards are large, from crime prevention to age verification and flagging relevant products to customers.

“We’ll hopefully see a period of innovation which shows people what [facial recognition] is useful for.”

By 5 September 2019 Convenience store magazine

Workers in the retail and wholesale industries continue to suffer from the highest levels of crime out of all key business sectors, with retailers who experience crime being targeted more often than in previous years, new Home Office data shows.


The crime rate in the retail and wholesale sector has risen every year since 2015, from 12,400 incidents per 1,000 premises to 27,400 incidents in 2018, the latest Commercial Victimisation Survey (CVS) reveals.

The number of assaults and threats has also continued to rise year on year, up to 1,600 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2018, a marginal increase on 2017 but significantly up from 500 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2016.

Theft accounted for 82% of all incidents reported in 2018 and almost three-quarters (71%) of all incidents of theft was theft by customers, with 19,300 incidents per 1,000 premises in 2018.

Theft of food or groceries accounted for over a quarter of stolen items in 2018.

The repeat victimisation rate for theft specifically has almost doubled in recent years, from 49 incidents per victim in 2012 to 92 incidents per victim in 2018.

The overall rate of repeat victimisation has also risen from 32 incidents per premises in 2012 to 69 per premises in the 2018 survey.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) said the survey highlighted the need for a more targeted approach to dealing with repeat offenders.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “These findings show that businesses are being repeatedly targeted by criminals that are not only committing thefts, but are also being abusive and violent towards retailers and their staff.

“We need targeted action to deal with repeat offenders who are currently being all but ignored by the justice system.

“The increase in the number of assaults and threats is especially concerning, as no one should have to face violence or abuse in their work but it is being seen as just part of the job for many in the sector.

“We continue to urge retailers and their staff to report every incident when it occurs to ensure that the police are aware of the full extent of the problem.”

Figures from the 2019 ACS Crime Report show that retailers believe 79% of crimes are committed by repeat offenders, with around half of those offenders being motivated by a drug or alcohol addiction.

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As the world’s first case against the controversial technology concluded, two leading judges dismissed the case brought by human rights campaign group Liberty on behalf of Ed Bridges, a Cardiff resident whose face was scanned by South Wales Police during a trial of facial recognition.

Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, sitting with Mr Justice Swift, concluded that South Wales Police’s use of live facial recognition “met the requirements of the Human Rights Act”.In a three-day hearing in May, Mr Bridges’ lawyers had argued that South Wales Police violated his human right to privacy by capturing and processing an image taken of him in public.

The judges also ruled that existing data protection law offered sufficient safeguards for members of the public whose faces were scanned by facial recognition cameras, and that South Wales Police had considered the implications.

Liberty lawyer Megan Goulding said: “This disappointing judgment does not reflect the very serious threat that facial recognition poses to our rights and freedoms.

“Facial recognition is a highly intrusive surveillance technology that allows the police to monitor and track us all.

“It is time that the government recognised the danger this dystopian technology presents to our democratic values and banned its use. Facial recognition has no place on our streets.”

A spokesperson for the Information Commissioner’s Office said: “We will be reviewing the judgment carefully.

“We welcome the court’s finding that the police use of Live Facial Recognition (LFR) systems involves the processing of sensitive personal data of members of the public, requiring compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018.

“Any police forces or private organisations using these systems should be aware that existing data protection law and guidance still apply.”

The Facewatch team will be exhibiting at the Retail Week conference in Leicester on 3rd October.

Taking place at the Leicester City Football Club stadium it is a free conference and exhibition for retailers.

To arrange a meeting with Geoff Gritton please email: or call him on Mobile 07711 756754



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