AI is used to prevent shoplifting. (Provided by Earth Eyes Co. and Vaak Inc.)

Two start-up firms are using artificial intelligence to help retail outlets zero in on suspicious-acting customers and prevent shoplifting before it occurs.

The AI systems accumulate huge volumes of data about the movements of suspicious individuals to alert store employees to the presence of possible shoplifters.

One of the start-ups, the Tokyo-based Earth Eyes Co., has developed a system combining security cameras with AI in conjunction with NTT East Corp.

Supermarkets and other retail outlets around Japan have already installed about 2,000 devices developed by the project. The contents of training manuals compiled by veteran security officials who have experience in spotting shoplifters have been included in the system to heighten the accuracy of the AI.

Any detection of an individual wandering around the store or keeping an eye out for their location will be passed on to employees who can then approach the person to ask if they need assistance.

"Rather than arrest shoplifters, what most retail stores want to do is reduce losses from shoplifting," said Saburo Yamauchi, 53, president of Earth Eyes. "That led to my thinking of having shop workers talk to the individuals as one way of preventing shoplifting."

Another system, the video analysis system developed by Tokyo-based Vaak Inc., is projected to be installed in about 60 convenience stores and other outlets.

The AI system can quickly detect common traits displayed by shoplifters after learning about those mannerisms in going through huge amounts of data recorded by security cameras about how individual customers walk about the shop, where they focus their eyes and how they move their limbs.

Late in 2018, the VAAK system installed at a convenience store in Yokohama automatically detected the suspicious actions of a customer. The video recorded by the outlet was handed over to police, which led to them arresting an 80-year-old man.

Ryo Tanaka, 30, Vaak president, said the system "would decrease not only the amount of loss, but also the time needed to deal with matters after an incident has occurred."

According to the annual white paper released by the National Police Agency, there were about 110,000 confirmed shoplifting cases in Japan in 2017.

According to the National Shoplifting Prevention Organization, retail outlets around Japan suffer about 500 billion yen ($4.5 billion) in losses from shoplifting annually.