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Asda trials digital ID at self-checkout

The British grocer says the tech will make it quicker and easier for customers to shop its stores
A man using the identification technology at an Asda self-checkout kiosk
Photo: Asda

Asda, one of the U.K.’s largest grocery chains, is testing age verification technology at self-serve checkout terminals with customers buying alcohol.

The software, from London-based identity technology platform Yoti, will be trialed in two stores until the end of May. It uses camera-based technology to let people pass an age threshold check in seconds without the need to have an ID document verified by an employee.

“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,” said Geri Hebberd, senior director of retail innovation at Asda, in a press release. “The use of this software will enable colleagues to focus on serving customers and make sure they have an excellent experience whilst in store.”

The system asks shoppers to look into a camera and the software estimates the shopper’s age; if the system concludes the person looks younger than 25, they can prove their age with an ID document scanned by the system.

“This privacy-friendly approach to age verification doesn’t require any personal details or documents,” said Yoti in a whitepaper released last fall. “[A]nd all information is instantly deleted once someone receives their estimated age—nothing is ever viewed by a human.”

While privacy is a growing concern for retailers around the world and in many categories, the issue made headlines in Britain in 2020 when 18 Co-op shops tested facial-recognition technology from Facewatch that “alerted staff to customers with a record of ‘theft or anti-social behaviour,’”

And, Sainsbury's tested an artificial-intelligence-enabled detector that “sent video footage to security staff if customers pocketed an item.”

In terms of accuracy, Yoti claims its software can estimate the age for 16- to 25-year olds within 2.35 years, “which is better than human judgement.”

“Waiting for age approval at the self-checkout is sometimes frustrating for shoppers,” said Robin Tombs, CEO of Yoti. “Our age verification solutions are helping retailers like Asda meet the requirements of regulators worldwide and keep pace with consumer demands for fast and convenient services, while preserving people’s privacy.”

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