The advent of self-checkout has thrown up challenges such as how best to eliminate fraudulent transactions and ensure under-18s aren't using the automated system to buy alcohol. This led the Midcounties Co-op to investigate biometrics and it now offers a secure pay-by-touch service that uses fingerprint scanning to identify signed-up shoppers. Fingerprint ID has proved more user-friendly than iris scanning.

"Once you have a person's biometric profile, identity and age verification issues can be overcome," says Bill ­Waterson at Fujitsu. "Certain shoppers like being able to leave cash at home. Pensioners who fear being mugged are proving great advocates of pay-by-touch."

For the retailer, the benefits of cutting out cash handling are clear. Staff using fingerprint ID to log on to tills is also being looked at.

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