Symbol Technologies, the company which helped develop self-scan checkouts for Tesco and Asda, has lodged a patent for a programme which monitors a lot more than the shopping in your basket.
The technology takes into account whether the store is located in a bad area; the time of day; shopping history and queue length before determining if it is likely a shopper has stolen items.
It claims to ‘maximise the potential for catching pilferage.’
Recent research showed that shoppers are stealing more than £1.6 billion worth of items from supermarkets every year.
Fruit and vegetables are the most likely items to be taken, with customers confessing to stealing on average £15 worth each of goods every month.
One in five people admit pilfering items at the checkout, but the results suggest people steal regularly once they realise they can get away with it – the majority admitting they first took goods because they couldn’t work the machines.
Supermarkets have become increasingly vigilant, installing CCTV, weighted bagging areas and attendants at self-service tills.
The new programme claims to use ‘a statistical basis’ to determine how likely a shopper is to steal food, although it could only work if the shopper was identified through a store card.
It recommends making more spot checks in stores ‘located in areas with a high risk of pilferage’ and on new customers.
“Customers who shop frequently at the store are likely to be more honest and should be audited less,” it suggests.
“Different regions of the country or the world will have different likelihood of theft. Regions with a high theft level may require more stringent security so the level of auditing should be higher in those regions.”
It also would flag items which are known to be stolen more often than others. High value small items such as batteries and razor blades are traditionally shoplifted more often than watermelons, the patent claims.
However both Tesco and ASDA assured customers that they have not adapted their scanners to profile customers and are unlikely to in the future.
The British Retail Consortium said it was ‘unaware’ of the technology but would be monitoring the situation closely for any future developments.