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Five UK supermarkets to trial AI age recognition tech

Would you like your age to be verified by a computer? That’s what UK retailers Coop, Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons will be trialing as part of a government-backed pilot to make age verification of alcohol sales smoother and swifter.   

Image: istock

As reported first by the Independent, the five retailers are participating in a government backed trial over the next few months which allows the technology to be tested in a real world setting, but without some of the usual rules.

The trial was supposed to be launched last year in a selection of retailers and hospitality outlets, but was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. The pilot was launched by the Home Office and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, aiming  to test new technology to improve the process of ID check during the sale of alcohol and other age restricted items. It will now run from January to June this year.

Consumers who consent can take part by having their photo taken by a camera embedded in the trial stores’ checkout. The software, from digital id firm Yoti (which is used by the the NHS for their staff digital ID cards) will then use a complex algorithm to determine their age, enabling them to buy alcohol if over 18, before automatically deleting the photo.

Yoti says its highly powered AI tech can give an accurate age estimate for those aged 16-20 within 18months, or just over 2 years for those aged over 20.

However, the technology also allows customers who are deemed younger than the approved age, to add their birthday anonymously, which is connected to the Yoti app, which can be linked to their id. Alternatively they can request a person can check their id by hand.

However during the trial, retailers will still be required to carry out physical age-checks alongside the digital checks in order to comply with the law, which requires the presentation of a physical identification card with a holographic mark or ultraviolet feature upon request.

Launching the proposals last year, Baroness Williams of Trafford, said that having a robust age verification system was absolutely critical in preventing the sale of alcohol to children and the harm under-age drinking causes. “These pilots will allow us to explore how new technology can improve the experience of buying and selling alcohol, both for the consumer and the retailer,” she said.

However it is also hoped that is may reduce the levels of abuse suffered by workers in licensed premises when challenging for proof of age.

The Coop already uses Yoti’s id verification technology to vet applicants for their community co-operate platform.






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