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UK age estimation trials and beyond: Innovative Technology

UK age estimation trials and beyond: Innovative Technology
 

For the second in our series on participants in age estimation and digital identity trials for the purchase of alcohol in England we turn to Oldham-based Innovative Technology. Since its involvement in the Home Office sandbox trials, it has improved its offering which has been bought by its retail partner, and a gin bar is now using it.

The British Retail Consortium is hoping to use the success of age estimation to push for legislative change to allow its use outside the trials for buying alcohol.

Scheme

Innovative Technology worked with Bestway Retail to run trials of its ICU age verification technology in a branch each of three of its chains Bargain Booze, Tippl and Wine Rack, all in Leeds.

All shoppers in these stores underwent a check with the standalone ICU hardware at the checkout. A camera captures the shopper’s image and runs the firm’s age estimation software based on their face biometrics. A finding of below 25 (the age already used in the UK as a gauge for purchases requiring a customer to be 18 years old) would alert the till operator to undergo a manual check.

No images are stored on the device.

Outcome

More than three quarters found the device acted as a deterrent for under 18s trying to buy alcohol, but staff safety was a more interesting outcome. More than half the staff questioned in an ACCS-validated survey at the start of the trial said they had previously suffered some level of abuse when asking for ID.

62 percent said they felt the technology helped them prevent confrontation during the trial. Three quarters of staff would like to continue using the devices.

“The till operator was still the final decision maker, but what we found was 1) operators felt the tech certainly helped in estimating age 2) gave them more confidence in challenging for ID (since the device is prompting the ID check) 3) acted as a deterrent to underage customers 4) helped to reduce confrontation,” Andrew O’Brien, biometrics product manager at Innovative Technologies told Biometric Update via email.

The trial helped Innovative Technologies develop its product leading to its newer MyCheckr, which includes Presentation Attack Detection to spot attempts of using video or images instead. The Bestway stores using the ICU tech upgraded to MyCheckr.

“Building on this we can also offer an autonomous solution, where the device can make the decision.  We have been independently certified by ACCS to be deployed in a challenge 25 scenario – i.e. we would set challenge age to 25,” explains O’Brien.

“If a customer is above 25, then transaction would automatically be allowed, if below then additional ID check would be required. I’m confident we will start to see this solution rolled out in self-service check outs, gaming kiosks and vending machines this year.”

Gin & Bionic

MyChecker has also been trialled in Germany and France. The Greater Manchester-based firm supplies ICU Lite devices to hospitality service provider Lolly for age-estimation at POS.

Liberty’s Gin Bar in Warrington is now using the MyCheckr to assist with age checks. The bar owner, Ken, explains why and provides some insight into English drinking habits: “We decided to try MyCheckr to help our younger bar staff members who aren’t always confident in asking customers for ID. Ensuring that underage customers are prevented from buying alcohol is essential, so anything to assist our staff is welcomed.

“Quite often underage customers will come into the pub, not to buy alcohol initially, but to build relationships with the staff and then attempt to purchase alcohol at a later visit. This device not only gives staff confidence to ask new customers for ID, but automatically highlights anyone who appears underage too.”

The indication of green for go and red for a manual check is proving popular as a way to keep identity checks somewhat at arm’s length for staff.

“Our customers have reacted positively to the technology, and we have had no complaints at all. Bar staff feel 100 percent more confident, especially the younger members who can be reluctant to ask people who are a similar age to them for ID,” adds Ken.

“It is now company policy that all customers must present themselves in front of the device for an ID check unless they are known to us, enabling us to adhere to age check regulations and our licencing obligations.”

 

Success of age estimation, digital ID trials in UK lead to pressure for changes to the law

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