Here’s a fun game: next time you’re hanging around the office water cooler, casually ask your work colleagues if they’ve filled in their time sheets, then count the seconds before one of them throws a stapler at your head. Nobody likes filling in time sheets. Nobody. But what if you could be rewarded for the arduous task with an ice-cold beer dished out by a fridge that can recognize your face? Intrigued? I’ll explain.
A pioneering digital ad agency in South Africa has devised a cunning ploy to motivate staff to log their hours. Like most good ideas, this one starts with beer. The team set up a fridge at their Cape Town office and rigged it with facial recognition technology. When an employee saunters up to the beer fridge come Friday, a camera scans their face and identifies the eager drinker. It then connects wirelessly to a database to verify that the staff member is up to date with their time sheets. If they’ve clocked the necessary hours for the week, the fridge unlocks and beer access is granted.
Techsys Digital is one of the first agencies in South Africa to embrace the use of facial recognition technology to motivate staff, and the pioneering project seems to be working. “The system has improved the time sheet completion rate significantly, and made it a more enjoyable exercise,” says Techsys Digital Managing Director Andrew Walmsley. “As tech lovers, the staff love the novelty and simplicity of the idea, and there’s always a laugh when using it.”
While this is probably the first time that facial recognition tools have merged with beer and classical conditioning to help motivate staff, the tech has been tinkered with before. Back in 2013, Colorado-based company, ShelfX experimented with a cutting edge vending fridge capable of facial identification. The intelligent fridge was designed to help make the buying process super easy for customers by instantly recognizing their faces and charging their accounts for goods purchased. And in 2014, Coke improved sales in Australia by rolling out smart fridges that used facial recognition tech (among other things) to help them target ads more effectively. Yes, Big Brother is watching – he’s in the fridge and he knows what you drink.
German beer company Astra Bierre have also delved into the world of facial recognition technology with a series of digital adverts designed to market their wares specifically to female drinkers. Using built-in cameras and facial identification technology to identify consumers by their sex, the smart ads were able to deliver personalized content tailored for women.
For Techsys Digital, the “Fridge of Motivation” is not just about timesheets and kicking off Friday work parties. “There are a myriad of applications for the tech both inside and outside the office,” says Walmsley. Facial recognition software allows marketers to identify key consumer traits and tweak their campaigns in real-time. “We anticipate the technology being used in malls, underground parking and Ubers soon, and we are excited to make those happen,” he adds.
The future is here. And it brought beer.