The company that installed the UK’s first self-service checkout is working on a new camera-based system that could put an end to the “unexpected item in the bagging area” message.

Checkout specialist NCR, which first installed a self-scan system in a Marks & Spencer store in 2002, is looking to develop technology that will use cameras to identify when a customer has inadvertently rested their wallet, phone or umbrella in the bagging area. This will allow the till to continue the checkout process without the need for a member of staff to intervene.

NCR retail division’s general manager of self-checkout solutions, Dusty Lutz, told The Grocer the system was about a year away from being rolled out.

“At the moment, the systems are generally quite one-dimensional and only work by recognising the weight of the products that are supposed to be in the bagging area,” he said. “It would really speed up the process if we had a camera which could quickly spot whether the extra weight was a customer’s purse rather than these false alarms.”

As well as traditional self-scan systems, which are designed for smaller, mainly basket-based shopping trips, NCR has developed bigger systems that allow shoppers to place a full weekly shop on a conveyor belt and use 360-degree scanners to process the full order at once. The tech is currently being trialled by Tesco and Asda.

However, Lutz said it would be at least a further four or five years before such systems became commonplace in UK supermarkets.

In a report into the use of attitudes towards self-scan tills, NCR found 89% of UK shoppers used self-scan checkouts to some degree and 39% either strongly agreed or agreed that retailers offering self-service checkouts provided better customer service.