Whether it is palm-vein technology, facial-recognition systems or fingerprint identification, there are a growing number of ways biometrics technology is helping the business world move in a new direction.

One of the key areas of focus for retail in the months ahead looks set to be the development of in-store analytics to understand customer behaviour in the physical retail store. Online retailers have been able to track shopper activity through the use of online accounts and cookie monitoring for a number of years, but the emergence of biometrics technology may allow for similarly comprehensive analysis of in-store customers.

Bob Willett, the former CEO of Best Buy International, recently suggested there is "a huge opportunity from a technology perspective" to improve customer service levels through monitoring shopper behaviour when they visit a retail store – and this year's RBTE in London showcased a number of the systems that can help companies meet these goals.

One company exhibiting at the event was Samsung partner Mediazest, which presented its audio-visual tools including a system that can estimate people's age based on video footage. It was marketed to retailers as a way of monitoring the type of consumer who enters a store and buys an item versus those shoppers who walk out without making a purchase.

See a video of the Mediazest technology in action below

Elsewhere, digital screen and signage vendor Amscreen announced last year that Tesco is using its audience measurement technology OptimEyes at 450 petrol stations in the UK. The system can determine a shopper's gender, age and other basic demographics, and is used in conjunction with digital signage to tailor in-store marketing campaigns to customers in real time.

It is clear that retailers are now keen to investigate ways to gather more information about their customers through methods other than loyalty schemes and email collection at the point of sale (PoS).

Isabelle Moeller, CEO of the Biometrics Institute, told Essential Retail: "We are seeing an increased interest and take up of biometrics in the commercial/consumer markets which was also confirmed by the Biometrics Institute Industry Survey 2013.

"Biometrics in retail could see two major applications: increase levels of security in the retail environment or support marketing and operations activities."

The institute last week launched its 2014 Industry Survey, which has asked its members and key stakeholders to provide their input on the current status and expected future developments of the biometrics industry. More insight into the direction of biometrics will therefore be made available to the business community when the results of the survey are published later this year.

As it stands, Moeller argues that biometrics offer a range of potential benefits for the retail industry, such as PoS payment authentication and identifying known shoplifters or violent offenders, both of which could boost security.

From a marketing and operations perspective, she added, businesses can use biometric-generated analytics to enhance interior design, plan staffing resources, align merchandise placement or create display advertising.

"Biometrics offer a convenient and additional layer of security, help prevent fraud and create a better customer experience," Moeller explained.

In the mobile technology sector, Apple's iPhone 5s launched last year with a fingerprint identification sensor, while PayPal and Samsung rolled out a new biometric feature this month that allows Galaxy S5 smartphone owners to use fingerprint authentication for mobile payments with PayPal merchants.

Despite these recent developments, the technology industry has been unable to shake off security concerns surrounding biometrics – with Germany-based Security Research Labs highlighting how both of the aforementioned products can be hacked, in the days directly following their respective launches.

Prior to the PayPal-Samsung unveiling, Eden Zoller, principal analyst for consumer business at technology intelligence firm Ovum, reinforced this message by saying that security issues could hold back the adoption of the new technology.

Ovum's 2013 Consumer Insights Survey found that 49% of respondents ranked lack of security as their main concern with mobile payments, and Zoller said that consumers already worried about the security of established m-payment mechanisms could view a new technology and process with suspicion.

Part of Moeller's and the Biometrics Institute's remit is to promote responsible use of biometrics, and the organisation exists to market the benefits and security aspects of the technology, as well as publishing policies surrounding industry best practice.

"It is essential that any implementation of biometrics first addresses potential privacy impacts," acknowledged Moeller.

Increasing consumers' understanding of biometrics can arguably help build trust, which in turn may see more systems of this type emerge within the retail sector over the coming months. As the industry continues to investigate new technologies to help their businesses grow, biometrics is certainly on the agenda.