Insights & Analyses

Walmart exploring facial recognition software to identify unhappy customers, adjust staff

July 21, 2017

Attention Walmart shoppers: Smile.

Dealseekers who are unhappy could be identified by the retail giant’s camera systems, according to a patent application filed by the company and spotlighted by The Wall Street Journal. The proposed system would use biometric data to better serve customers.

The filing made with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes a video feed that could automatically generate customer service actions, like alerting a representative or calling in additional staff, if the customer is identified as unhappy.

But the system would potentially go even further, as Walmart’s filing also describes connecting a shopper’s mood with their

purchase habits. Walmart says it would determine changes in typical shopping patterns based on the customer’s mood.

“Changes in purchase habits, such as a loss of a customer, may be used in combination with the biometric data to establish thresholds of biometric data used to generate customer service actions,” the filing reads.

The booming facial recognition market is expected to be driven in the near future by surveillance uses and government investment. One recent estimate forecast that facial recognition technology will bring in $6.84 billion per year by 2021.

While biometrics are commonly used for identification purposes, the technology behind them is advancing to the point where companies can identify not only who a person is, but how they are feeling.

And so if you’re not excited by Walmart’s latest price rollback, you may not need to speak to a manager, especially when it’s written all over your face.