Tesco among five UK supermarkets to trial facial age estimation technology

Tesco, Co-op, Asda, Aldi and Morrisons are to trial facial age estimation technology which accurately guesses a customer’s age when purchasing Challenge 25 products.

The technology is being tested to see whether it is able to facilitate alcohol sales faster and more efficiently than manual checks.

The technology is being developed by Yoti, and has been launched in Aldi’s Shop&Go store which has opened its doors in Greenwich.

Yoti, which has also been tapped by the NHS to verify identity, claims to have developed the world’s most accurate age estimation tech by training its AI-powered algorithm to check faces with an average accuracy of 2.2 years.

That figure rises to 1.5 years amongst those ages between 16 and 20.

The tech differs from facial recognition tech, which has received widespread criticism from groups and individuals all around the world over privacy concerns.

READ MORE: Aldi debuts first checkout-free store in Greenwich

It will be built into supermarket self-service checkout terminals and will take photos of consenting customer’s faces for the analysis before deleting them once the process has been completed and the age has been verified.

Yoti has said that the only data that is shared with the retailer is the age check and that no human will ever see the photo, apart from during the trial in order to abide by current laws, where an employee will need to see the standard forms of identification.

The scheme was initially launched by The Home Office in March last year, and invited tech providers, bars and restaurants and retailers to propose methods of digital checking a customer’s age, but the trials were pushed back until now.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), challenging young people for ID is one of the most common reasons for abuse of retail staff.

The BRC has claimed that many retailers would welcome the introduction of the technology.

“The major advantage from a retailer’s point of view is that these kinds of systems lead to less aggression and abuse towards supermarket workers when underage people are refused alcohol,” a BRC spokesperson told i last year.

“Retailers have been pushing for age verification technology for years because it’s helpful, cheaper and easier than a human checking a person’s age.”

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