Asda has revealed details of a trial of automating age checks for alcohol purchases, using self-checkout cameras and ‘age estimation software’ to determine whether a shopper looks over 25.
From this week, customers can take advantage of the technology to speed up alcohol purchases in Asda’s Pudsey and Stevenage stores, the supermarket said.
Asda is one of five major supermarkets taking part in Home Office trials of ‘digital age verification technology’, the others being Tesco, Morrisons, Aldi and Co-op, as reported by The Grocer last week.
Asda’s trial uses ‘facial age estimation’ software provided by Yoti to assess whether a customer looks over 25 before deleting the image. If the software decides they look under 25, they can prove their age via the Yoti ID app, which requires scanning a government-approved form of ID. Alternatively they can use the Post Office EasyID app.
Shoppers can also opt to show physical ID to a member of staff.
Digital age verification pilots are also underway at other supermarkets in the Home Office trial. Co-op has been piloting the technology since November at a staff branch in its head office In Manchester, and Aldi is understood to be testing it on a self-checkout at a Cambridge store. Morrisons is due to conduct trials in three stores in Yorkshire from this month. Tesco has not revealed details of its trials.
The pilots are the result of a ‘regulatory sandbox’, according to the Home Office. Regulatory sandboxes enable businesses to test new approaches in real-world situations without some of the usual rules applying. They are funded by private enterprises and as such tend to attract ideas that could result in a return on investment.
The Home Office sees potential in the technology to allow people to establish their age without presenting physical ID, as required under existing licensing laws. It intends the trials to be “small-scale”, agreed with local authorities and police, and to run until the end of May this year.
Geri Hebberd, Asda senior director of retail innovation, said: “We know how time-pressed some of our customers are, so we always want to make things quicker and easier for them when they shop with us.”
Asda was “looking forward to seeing what our customers think of the trial”, Hebberd said, adding: “The use of this software will enable colleagues to focus on serving customers and make sure they have an excellent experience whilst in store.”