Tesco's 'Minority Report'?

Rolling out Amscreen's ad-generating facial-recognition software at 450 U.K. gas stations

Tesco Petrol station Amscreen

LONDON -- Tesco PLC has forged a partnership with Amscreen and dunnhumby that will provide customer messaging and digital advertising opportunities across all 450 of its "petrol" stations in the United Kingdom via facial-recognition technology that even its developer likens to dystopian sci-fi.

The implementation across the Tesco network represents the first-to-market national rollout of Amscreen's audience measurement technology, OptimEyes, a system that determines basic demographics such as gender, age, date, time and volume, all of which can help to deliver more measurable campaigns for advertisers, as well as more relevant on screen content for the Tesco customer.

The software collects data on shoppers' appearance to "guess" their rough age and gender. By matching that information with data on their purchases, Tesco can tell that a middle-aged woman buying gas in suburban London at 11:00 a.m. on a weekday might be in the mood for a coffee, while a man in his early 20s would probably prefer a soft drink, said a Bloomberg BusinessWeek report.

The technology is similar to what snack and candy maker Mondelez International is using fin the United States or its "smart shelf" initiative that uses facial-recognition software to determine what product a customer might want to buy.

London-based dunnhumby will further enhance the opportunity with market leading customer insight, to help build right time, right place, and right message customer engagement.

Amscreen's media sales team will sell all of the content on the network; the companies expect that content to appeal to a broad range of digital advertisers.

The real-time digital media network will deliver engaging and dynamic content to a weekly audience of more than 5 million adults.

"We're extremely excited to call Tesco a screen network partner. We believe it's our flexibility, reliability and measurability that has helped us secure this partnership. For potential advertisers, this means we can now offer various digital advertising solutions to reach the sought-after Tesco shopper," said Lord Simon Sugar, CEO of Amscreen, London.

Sugar told the BBC that the company's scanning technology is "like something out of Minority Report, the 2002 dystopian science-fiction film about a future society that includes constant surveillance by an optical recognition system that serves up targeted ads.

"We're always looking to work with partners who provide innovative ways to enhance the customer shopping experience," Peter Cattell, category director for Tesco gas stations, said. "This new dynamic screen product from Amscreen provides the perfect means for us to do this. The ability to tailor content based on time and location means it can be extremely useful and timely for our customers."

London-based Tesco is the U.K.'s largest retailer and is a major international player, with sales of $97 billion in fiscal year 2010-2011. Tesco has approximately 5,000 stores worldwide, in Europe, Asia and the United States (the for-sale Fresh & Easy chain), and employs nearly 500,000 people in the 14 countries in which it operates, running multiple retail formats, including hypermarkets, supermarkets, metro and express convenience stores.