Government-backed supermarket trials of AI-powered self-checkout cameras for shopper age checking have been extended for a month, to the end of June.
Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Aldi and Co-op, along with a number of smaller convenience retailers, have all been involved in trials using digital age verification technology to approve sales of alcohol.
The trials, the first of which began late last year, were expected to end this month. However, Home Office approval has been extended for all parties involved until the end of June, The Grocer has learned. A final evaluation of each project is expected by the Home Office by the end of August.
The trials are intended to test how the technology might strengthen age checking, as well as reduce violence against staff.
The Co-op, which was among the first to begin testing the technology, in its head office store in Manchester in November last year, has now rolled it out to four more branches across the city – in Angel Street, Oxford Road, Piccadilly and Spinningfields.
The system relies on ‘facial age estimation’ rather than facial recognition software, and images are not stored. Customers can also opt not to use it and have an assistant verify they look over 25 instead.
“Shoppers can choose whether to use the technology – which is not facial recognition, and does not store or retain images,” said James Beane, Co-op operations innovation and continuous improvement lead.
“The pilot forms part of trials aimed at further improving or enhancing compliance with the licensing objective to protect children from harm by reducing the risk of underage sales.
“Asking for ID can also be a flashpoint for frustration for some shoppers and become a trigger for the unacceptable levels of abuse and anti-social behaviour faced by frontline shopworkers.
“In addition, we envisage this could make shopping quicker, easier and more convenient for customers, especially at busier times.”
Other supermarkets have not provided an update on their trials. Earlier this year, Asda said it was trialling digital age verification in partnership with software provider Yoti in its Pudsey and Stevenage stores. Aldi was due to trial similar technology on a self-checkout in a Cambridge store and Morrisons was due to conduct trials in three stores in Yorkshire. Tesco has provided no details of its trials.