Transport workers in Japan required to take daily smile scans

In an effort to improve “customer relations” a Japanese transportation company is forcing over 500 employees to take a daily smile test measuring the degree and brightness of worker smiles.

According to the Mainichi Daily News, the Keihin Electric Express Railway Co. has instituted the new computer scanning program designed by Kyoto-based precision equipment maker Omron Corp. “The device analyzes the facial characteristics of a person, including eye movements, lip curves and wrinkles, and rates a smile on a scale between 0 and 100 percent using a camera and computer.”

Workers are required to carry around the picture daily. The News writes, “They will print out and carry around an image of their best smile in an attempt to remember it.’ We aim to improve our services to make our customers smile,’ says a company official.”

Employer mandated smile scans seem to be a growing trend in Japan, reports the London Daily Telegraph. “A growing number of service industries are reportedly using the new Omron Smile Scan system for 'smile training' among its staff.”

The new technology may be an effort to boost company profits during recessionary times. Smartplanet.com commenting on the company profile notes, “Omron based in Osaka is famous for sensor-based electronics from timers for joggers to blood pressure monitors. The facial scanning system is called Okao Vision. For its part, Omron has not had much to smile about recently because FY09 revenue nosedived 17.8 per cent from the previous year.”