back to article Facial-recognition tech now used to greet hotel guests

Facial recognition technology has long been a holy grail for security agencies, and a bogeyman for privacy lovers and libertarians. One company, however, says that reasonably priced face-recognition tech has uses outside the security field: in particular, in the service sector. At the Counter Terror Expo this week in London, …


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  1. b
    Jobs Halo


    95% of shoplifters are heroin addicts. The governments continuation of the worst policy failure over the last is the cause of this crime and the excuse for the implementation of the next policy failure, ie mass surveillance for all.

    We deserve better than this...

  2. John Macintyre

    wonder where they got that idea from

    minority report perchance? When the day comes that shopping malls direct adverts to you personally I'll stop going to them :s I always thought hotels were great because they were personal, if you outsource the greet to some machine where's the fun and interactiveness?

    Doors are ok? There's a reason the disney store got annoying. When you enter a posh hotel you don't have to get much interaction beyond a friendly nod to the concierge, the door loudly saying 'welcome back mr jones' would get annoying after a while surely?

    Negativity aside though I'd be interested to see where this does work. Everyone slated microsoft surface but used in the right environment (ie hotels) it can work wonders. I'm sure there's a great use for this that doesn't intrude on people and at the same time provides an actual benefit but right now I can't think of it

  3. Hollerith

    Whereas with an experienced concierge...

    ... you get 100% recognition, because the man is good at his job. I would be less impressed by an oily greeting by a doorman if I thought his handheld had prompted him to give me that 'warm personal welcome' I, as a VIP, so prize. It's liek having a barman know what I like and setting up my drink prompted by the system, instead of really being known and valued.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    So with this new system

    shop lifters and terrorists will need only a pair of sunglasses to defeat security. But if you have the misfortune to have an evil twin you will be constantly harassed where ever you go.

  5. alain williams Silver badge

    Jacqui Smith

    The sort of thing that she would love. Maybe it is now time for us to all walk around with Ms Smith masks on .... especially when up to no good!

  6. Onionman
    Thumb Down

    Statistics lesson

    Let's assume an 85% hit rate under perfect circumstances. Let's also assume that one in 10,000 people in the UK is a known shoplifter.

    So, a million people walk through the door of your shop in a year. 15% (150,000 of them) are inaccurately identified as shoplifters. Out of the million people who walk in, 100 are actually shoplifters. So you have 1,500 false alarms per shoplifter correctly identified (approximately; I've simplified the maths).

    Thus, your store detectives take no notice whatsoever of your warning system. Useless.

    By the way, the same maths works for terrorists at airports, etc.


  7. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: Statistics lesson

    This also applies to VIPs. They don't have three heads or anything, so there *will* be false positives. Still, if you look a little like some celeb (either naturally, or after a little effort) you can now get VIP treatment at the posh hotel, at least until they catch on. Nice!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Hotel blues

    It could be somewhat embarrassing if Mr & Mrs Jones check in and are greeted with 'Welcome back Mr Smith'.

    Paris, because I'm sure Hilton would like to buy a slab of biometric data

  9. N1AK

    @John Macintyre

    "the door loudly saying 'welcome back mr jones' would get annoying after a while surely?"

    Indeed it would, but fortunately the designers as anyone who read the article are aware, did not suggest this, instead proposing that the front desk staff might be made aware who was approaching.

  10. Richard Large

    Surely a BOFH tool

    Just think of the uses at work... a voice calling out "You're a wanker" to the boss in an empty stairwell or corridor.

    Closing of strategic doors to cause the longest run around possible on vindaloo day?

    Locking the Mac users away from the adults computers?

  11. Chris C

    re: Statistics lesson

    The problem with your model is that you assume the system is going to match a profile to every single person. If the system has an 85% hit rate, that means it will identify the right person 85% of the time. It does not mean it will "identify" the wrong person 15% of the time. There's always the third possibility -- that it won't recognize the person and hence won't be able to identify them. I'm not saying there won't be false-positives, but your method is not the way to calculate those.

  12. raving angry loony

    @AC blues

    I'm guessing the first instance of that happening would pretty much put an end to that hotel, especially if Mr Jones is very well heeled and Mrs Jones is very jealous.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm gives me idea.

    Go to a hotel where posh / rich peope stay with a paper mask on I bet the door system would trigger and alert in a minions office "Daniel Craig is back" , whip off the mask and check out the bewildered staff/ repeat with difference cut out masks until bored.

  14. Graham Marsden

    "Doors are OK"?

    "Glad to be of service, Mr Smith..."

    Mine's the one with the list of people to be first against the wall when the Revolution comes...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The last thing I want is to enter a shopping centre and a personally targetted advertising campaign displayed on large screen in front of me to kick into life.."Welcome Mr. Jones...let me show you some ladies lingerie, whips and adult toys".... generated from my browsing habits captured by Phorm....

    Not that I wear ladies lingerie I hasten to add.....

  16. kain preacher Silver badge


    The last thing I want is to enter a shopping centre and a personally targetted advertising campaign displayed on large screen in front of me to kick into life.."Welcome Mr. Jones...let me show you some ladies lingerie, whips and adult toys".... generated from my browsing habits captured by Phorm....

    Not that I wear ladies lingerie I hasten to add.....

    If you have to add that last statement it makes me wonder ..

  17. Anonymous Coward

    dun dun duuuun

    I'm moving to Cuba.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Not new, just improved

    My brother worked at a casino that had a similar system over ten years ago. It alerted security if a "banned" punter was trying to sneak back in. It was woefully unreliable but as it just served as a heads-up for the human guards, it was still useful.

    Looks like this one has improved the FAR slightly -- by about 5% -- so it will take several more decades before it is good enough to remove the man in the loop.

  19. skeptical i

    Actually, a bit LESS friendliness would be nice.

    I had to stay at a high-end hotel for a work- related training and while the staff seemed genuinely friendly, I honestly did not need to hear so many "hi, welcome back" and "good to see you"s after my morning wander'round (not that it was unpleasant so much as unnecessary and obviously part of the employee training to personally greet each and every body that comes through the door with a smile and at least three words because a simple nod "hello" simpy Will Not Do). Hearing "Welcome back, Mr. Jones" and "Good to see you again, Mr. Jones" would be too damn much.

    Getting the Artificial Cheer Deflector out of my pocket ....

  20. Steve

    Assistive Face Recognition

    Interesting comments above.

    Facial recognition will without doubt be used more and more as time progresses, lets be clear on one thing; as computing processing power and fast access storage rages forward at a considerable rate of knots, millions of split second comparisons of more facial points than ever will be possible. An unreliable face recognition system mentioned earlier, used in a casino some ten years ago, will have suffered among other things as a result these poor processing ills. Would you be happy to have the displeasure of a using desktop PC of some ten years old in a modern office environment? See my point.

    The basis behind CCTV and the Big Brother issues is a huge debate, one that has been ongoing for decades. Strange that all the continued kicking and fighting has not stilled or blocked any progress or limited the utilisation of intrusive technology in these fields. (Albeit the introduction of certain governing guidelines within the Data Protection act) Like it or not, facial recognition is here to stay.

    Facial recognition is not at the moment the ‘golden egg’ to end all personal identification issues, let’s leave that to the R and D departments of the technologists.

    Where this technology lands at the moment is within areas of use that ‘assist’ existing methods of screening. For example: The possibility of a known shoplifter being on site could be relayed to a CCTV operator who had not noticed the similarity.

    It would be up to him to act on an alert. The alert would be advising that within a preset percentage, the potential of this ‘known’ target being on site was far greater than if he went undetected by the human eye on the monitor bank in the control room. I am sure it was never intended as generating instructions to arrest directly detected people on sight, but only to highlight the possibility of a known persons presence.

    Site security officers and trained CCTV personnel do this level of screening on a daily basis anyway, peering intently into walls of monitors hoping to get a glimpse of the regular who often steals from stores or takes unsuspecting shoppers purses. Once he has been alerted to this person on site, he will follow him on camera until he further identifies him as ‘unwanted’ or alternatively relays the whereabouts of the suspect to his fellow officers on the shopping floor. Why wouldn’t an electronic assistant be of value in these circumstances? I can think of many other instances outside that of shopping centres where similar benefits could be obtained.

    The hotel use is a perfect example of how this technology has uses outside crime detection. It could be used to pre-empt information on a concierge or bank tellers VDU as you approached, as to whether the information tendered is used in a manner that ‘appears natural’ is open to interpretation and indeed the education of the people working and delivering the service. Without a doubt, once the detected person has confirmed his identity at the desk, immediately all booking information, previous stay info etc is all there as communication prompts. Imagine being asked if you enjoyed your previous stay at XYZ hotel and if you would prefer the room service breakfast that you had enjoyed on previous visits. Its complex I agree, but the limits to how it is used falls at the discretion of the person assimilating and utilising the information. Surely its information that’s better to have than not for a customer service point of view.

    Lets see what the next five years brings, I have heard rumours it has already been agreed that each hotel in the Dubai will have this type of equipment installed for the registration of visitors and guests as a local requirement, so it will be interesting to watch how or how not it benefits the business.

    Its here to stay, like it or loath it !

  21. Damien Thorn
    Gates Horns


    "the system was working great until,

    It greeted a Mr Smith and his wife Sylvia Smith as

    Welcome back Mr Smith we hope you and Miss Jones like your room"

    Cant happen? well think about leaving a decent tip next time you leave a hotel using such tech, and be nice to everyone of there staff - a disgruntled employee could easily "change" a greeting and you know what spouses are like "WHO THE .... IS..."

    don't you just love tech?

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