Customer Tracking

By Larry Barrett Print this article Print

Non-obvious relationship awareness" (NORA) software probes databases in any language, searching for obscure matches between relevant information. Anonymized data (ANNA) software uses the same technology to investigate data that has been encrypted.

Customer Tracking

Loyalty cards, facial images, and even radio-frequency tracking tags built into gaming tables and chips allow casinos to analyze their customers' every move.

Casinos are the ultimate practitioners of customer- relationship management. The more data they can capture about how their customers gamble—and how much—the more likely they are to keep them coming back for more. "Comps"—complimentary meals, room upgrades and even free nights in luxury suites—are used to lure high-end customers back again and again, for the efficient removal of their remaining cash.

The gaming industry's "player card" systems—such as the Caesars Entertainment "Connection Card"—tie together transaction information gathered everywhere from the casino floor to food service to guest rooms on the spending and gambling habits of repeat customers, across all of their properties.

"Casinos with loyalty programs certainly have amazing amounts of analysis of the success patterns for particular players," says Jerry Brady, chief technology officer of Guardent, a security firm in Waltham, Mass. "They can choose whales [gamblers with big bankrolls] carefully—the ones that are least damaging to their organization—for comps." The big-time gamblers who consistently leave their money behind at the tables get better treatment, while those that have a tendency to win too much might not see much of anything—and might even be asked to leave.

Recently, casinos have gained the ability to track customer behaviors even more minutely. They record players' movements on the casino floor, the time spent at slot machines and blackjack tables, and even individual bets. They do this by tying their customer- and casino-management systems to the same facial-recognition technology used to watch for "bad guys."

Casinos are pushing providers of card tables and slot machines to put cameras in place that can snap shots of every player that visits. "If you sit at a slot machine, you're already the perfect distance away for a facial-recognition shot," says Jim Pepin, vice president of Biometrica Systems, a unit of identification systems maker Viisage of Littleton, Mass.

Even betting chips are no longer inert. Casinos are starting to deploy chips with embedded radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags in them. The casino can monitor betting patterns and detect attempts to cheat—such as moving chips after all bets have been placed.

How This Applies to Domestic Security: Biometric identification has wide application in ports of transit, from air to sea to rail. Radio tags embedded in "smart" passports could lead to security checks throughout a terminal, not just at the Customs stand. States might also apply the technology to driver's licenses.

This article was originally published on 2004-04-04
Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.
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