Digital signage is a common feature in retail businesses across the world, be it giant digital billboards or smaller, poster-sized displays on store walls. Modern digital signage systems take advantage of cloud computing and Internet of Things to enable them to display high-quality visuals and animated content while also being able to change them at a moment’s notice thanks to real-time data exchanges and control systems. More recently, digital signage has begun to implement another emerging technology, that of viewer recognition systems.
With recognition systems being implemented to digital signage in retail, store managers and administrators are gaining access to huge amounts of data about their customers and their behavioral patterns that were, until now, inaccessible. Now that these systems are slowly but surely being implemented around the world, both the applications of this technology and the kinds of data it can gather will likely continue to be developed and implemented so as to allow the retail industry and others to experiment with this new technology and work out how it could best be put to use in their businesses and organisations. In order to understand how recognition systems in digital signage could benefit the retail industry, we’ll need to look at what recognition systems are as well as how they’re being used today. So, let’s now take a look at what recognition systems are and the roles they play in digital signage for retail.
What Are Recognition Systems?
Recognition systems are computer applications that are able to identify a person or individual, their gender, or age from the frames of a digital picture or video source. In order to do this, recognition systems gather and process data from the image and then use it to identify an individual or their age or gender. Recognition systems have a multitude of applications across several industries including manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare, however, their use in digital signage is, so far, mostly limited to the retail sector. There are several types of recognition systems being deployed today, either as a single unit or individually, these are:
Facial recognition systems are both the oldest and most mature technologies of the three main recognition systems used in digital signage. One of the most common ways for facial recognition systems to detect faces is to focus on specific facial features from the image, then compare and contrast them with a database of facial imagery. The system can then be programmed to produce a list of potential matches for the face from which a human operator could then make the final selection. Facial recognition systems are currently being used for both targeted advertising and security applications within the retail industry.
Age recognition systems are some of the more recent developments in recognition systems. Age recognition is slowly becoming seen as more and more essential in digital signage for retail due to the insights into the age ranges of potential customers. These systems work by analyzing the features presented by an individual and processing data with regards to the positioning of facial features such as the nose and chin, the gauntness of one’s eyes, and the levels of grey measured within an individual. Age recognition systems will typically group ages ranges for ease of access, for example, Child (Ages 1-15), Young (Ages 16-25), Adult (Ages 26-59), and Senior (Ages 60+).
Gender recognition systems within digital signage for retail are also fairly new on the block, with retail outlets only recently beginning to implement this new technology. Gender recognition systems will typically take a digital image of an individual, smooth out the imperfections in the image using a 2D Gaussian Smoothing tool, then describe and make a template of the face in question. Feature extraction then takes place where the system will make note of any distinguishing features that could differentiate between two genders. This data can then be sent to support vector machines (SVMs) for the gender classification.
What Are the Benefits of Facial Recognition Digital Signage?
Now that we understand how facial, age, and gender recognition systems work, we can start to look at the benefits these systems can provide for digital signage within the retail sector. One of the biggest benefits of using recognition systems within digital signage for retail is the vast swathes of data these systems give retail businesses and organisations access. Being able to identify key demographics in a retail chain’s customer base is an ideal way for stores to analyse which age groups or gender is purchasing what and where. Identifying the interests of your potential customers using a combination of facial, age, and gender recognition systems allows retailers to generate better targeted advertising.
Targeted advertising in itself has seen various transformations over the past few years, however, using recognition systems in digital retail signage gives the retail industry the ability to target specific groups of people with adverts most likely to be of interest to them, thus enhancing the likelihood of converting this attention into a sale. Gender recognition systems, for example, allow signs to react to the different genders of people passing them by showing adverts targeting either men or women. Combining age and gender recognition systems would allow retailers to target men or women that fall into a specific age range. This also brings the additional benefit of using data to understand the individual behaviors of customers of different age ranges and sexes, an insight which has only recently become quantifiable through advances in both technology and marketing and advertising.
In an age where digital signage and recognition systems are both undergoing transformative periods driven by the increasingly expansive artificial intelligence, the potential applications of these two technologies seem to be on the increase. While their combined use hasn’t quite reached peak levels just yet, it would appear sensible to expect steady and continual growth in their implementation. In order for advertising to achieve optimal results, bespoke, targeted digital signage, such as the systems described above, would need to be practical and financially feasible in order for businesses and organisations to buy, implement, and then manage as the data they generate creates increasingly deeper profiles of their customer base, an essential commodity in the age of Big Data.