Facial Recognition, Is it coming to a cannabis shop near you?

Facial recognition, is it coming to a dispensary near you!

Why Cannabis Stores Are Investing in Facial Recognition Technology

If there’s anything TV drama has taught us, it’s that cannabis may be fun, but the weed business is a potentially dangerous one. Even with many states having already legalized the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes, federal laws still make it difficult for dispensaries to make use of banks to collect their revenues. To help bolster the security of what has become a predominantly cash-based business, more and more dispensaries are turning to new tech.

The fact is that facial recognition technology is not really a new development. Mathematician and scientist, Woodrow Wilson Bledsoe, laid the foundation for facial recognition technology back in the 1960s. He developed a system that could record the coordinate location of specific facial features like lips and eyes. In later years, other scientists added to this system or developed other coding techniques for dimensional representation of facial images.

The first major test of facial recognition technology was at the 2002 Super Bowl. While authorities claimed to have detected several petty criminals in the audience, the results were plagued by false positives. The fiasco proved that the tech was not quite ready to be rolled out for commercial use. In more recent years, law enforcement has been able to use forensic databases to cross-check images of suspects with DMV photo archives to make more arrests.

This technology is now used at many airports and retail stores to match data collected by cameras to databases of known criminals and help in the real-time detection of threats. Closer to home, facial recognition has become part of the security features offered on smart devices like the iPhone X, and to assist in photo tagging on Facebook. If you are fond of skipping church, pray that the clergy opts to remain old school rather than upgrade to Churchix, a facial recognition app designed to help track attendance.

How You Get Recognized

To have your facial data collected, your face needs only be turned at least 35° in the direction of the camera. This explains why many instances in movies, the character always wears a hoodie and sunglasses, while looking down to obstruct the view. Detection is when the camera picks up on what appears to be a face. The next step is normalization, where the captured image of the face is rotated and scaled. The geometry of the face is then mapped, taking into consideration such features as the size and space between eyes, the thickness of lips and so on.

This data is used to create a facial signature that is converted into a unique code. This code is then compared against the databases of previously-stored facial recognition data. If a match for the code is found, the details are then brought up on the screen.

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Why Cannabis Stores Are Investing in Facial Recognition Technology

As already mentioned, the cannabis retail business has been a predominantly cash-based affair thanks to federal regulations that make it problematic for banks to support them. This has made them more vulnerable to robberies targeting both product and cash.

Facial recognition software has helped such businesses weed out potential threats by running checks on databases right from the moment a potential customer arrives at the door. In some instances, the door is automated and will not open if there is a match, or a person is attempting to obstruct the camera's view. Further image analysis helps pick up on anomalies such as weapon concealment. Some businesses also use data to identify repeat customers and offer incentives such as coupons.

It is not just the retail end that is employing this innovation. Growers, processing plants, and distribution centers are also taking advantage of the technology to safeguard their businesses, product, and employees. Combined with other security apparatus as access cards, fingerprint recognition scans, and RFID tags on products, it becomes easy to track and control human and product movement along the supply chain. With ‘inside jobs' being a big part of the problem for cannabis businesses, this tech helps cut down on insider crime.

While the benefits of facial recognition in the cannabis industry cannot be denied, there are challenges present which still need to be address by the players in this sector. Consequently, regions such as San Francisco and Massachusetts have banned their use for now. Data security breaches are also a concern thanks to previously successful hacking attacks that have led to the leakage of customer data including dates of birth and contact info.

Such concerns mean that even as the cannabis industry moves forward with the use of advanced technologies to develop their business, it is important to ensure these innovations do not end up harming the customers they are meant to protect, as well as the sustainability of the business.