Smart cameras at Big Y, a New England supermarket chain, are learning how to identify “sweethearting”–when cashiers and their confederates pass free goods past the till by obscuring the bar code, passing two items at once, or slipping items past the scanner.
According to the AP, the implications for the algorithms involved are tremendous, if a little frightening. The city of Chicago will reportedly announce this week that it is using similar technology in cameras in its popular Navy Pier district to engage in “anamoly detection,” and report directly to the city’s emergency headquarters.
Big Y’s technology is built by StopLift, Inc., a security company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. StopLift’s cameras work by looking for certain human gestures that might intimate something shady. Big Y expects to save companies about $3 million annually with the technology.
This kind of algorithmic magic has broader implications for terrorism prevention. Researchers in the U.K. have been testing a system on airplanes that can analyze a passenger’s face and torso and look for signs of increased stress like profuse sweating. Of course, whether or not that will identify potential hijackers or merely those with claustrophobia remains to be seen.