Face it: Future tech has arrived for city retail  

Face it: Future tech has arrived for city retail  

Chai Point, Church Street uses AI. The cashier does not take the customer's contact details as the device at his counter automatically recognises their face. DH Photo by S K Dinesh

A device scans your face, identifies you and lets you through without any human intervention. This is the new technology the city’s Kempegowda International Airport is introducing next year. The objective is to reduce time spent on queues.

Bengaluru isn’t new to such technology: a tea-shop chain is already using it. Chai Point, with branches across the city, says artificial intelligence (AI)-based facial recognition technology has reduced queues at its billing counters.

Earlier the cashier would also ask for a mobile number as a unique identifier. This would add a few seconds to the ordering process.

But with the integration of the new technology, a customer who has visited the store earlier just has to look into a camera and his details are automatically updated.

“While face-recognition technology is more common, by making it AI-based we are also able to read the customer’s emotions and facial expressions. Based on that we can suggest products from the menu. This ensures much faster, friction-free billing,” says Neha Gupta, head of marketing, Chai Point, who says they were to first to bring the technology into the food business.

For Chai Point, the technology has reduced billing time by 60 per cent. “It also depends on the time of the day. It may not make much difference when there’s no long queue but in the peak hours it really helps,” says Neha.

Two of Chai Point outlets in Bengaluru - at Church Street and Indira Nagar- are using the technology. “We would previously take 30-40 seconds for an order. Now we save 15-20 seconds with this technology. The customers are also relieved as many don’t like to repeat their mobile numbers every time,” says Sangamesh B, cashier at the Church Street outlet, launched a month ago with face-recognition billing.

Chai Point says it developed the technology through its in-house cloud-based software ‘Shark’ with support from Amazon Web Services.

So what are the privacy implications? “We value the customer’s privacy. When we take images we commit to the customers that the data will not be shared or used for advertisements. We store the data on Amazon’s cloud service which is used by most high-end companies,” Neha said.

While AI and face recognition has been introduced in 10 stores across the country, the company plans to take it to all outlets in a month or two. Their upcoming branch at the Bengaluru airport will also have this technology.

What AI does for retail

Scan face and identify customer

Speed up ordering and billing

Detect facial expressions

Determine customer’s mood

Suggest products accordingly

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