Supermarket self-service machines will use facial recognition to approve alcohol and cigarette purchases

Supermarket customers may no longer need a member of staff to approve the purchase of cigarettes or alcohol at self-service checkout machines (Photo: Shutterstock)
Supermarket customers may no longer need a member of staff to approve the purchase of cigarettes or alcohol at self-service checkout machines (Photo: Shutterstock)

Facial recognition software is soon to be used in UK supermarkets to verify the age of shoppers buying alcohol and cigarettes.

Set to be rolled out at self-service checkouts by the end of this year, the pilot scheme aims to reduce the need for staff to approve purchases, allowing an artificial intelligence scanner to validate a person's age instead.

High-tech shopping

The software will be implemented by leading US technology company NCR, which makes self checkout machines for a number of UK supermarkets, including Tesco and Asda.

The company will integrate a camera on the checkout machines which will be used to estimate the age of shoppers when they are buying age restricted items.

The scanner will assess the customer's face to determine their age, after which the sale of a product will either be accepted or denied.

Robin Tombs, chief executive of digital identity app Yoti who have partnered with NCR on the scheme, told the Telegraph: "Waiting for age approval at self-checkouts is a source of frustration for many shoppers, who just want to get home as quickly as possible.

"Our integration with NCR delivers a frictionless and innovative way for customers to prove their age in seconds.

"It's a simple process that helps retailers meet the requirements of regulators worldwide."

Hassle-free service

The facial recognition system aims to provide an easy and hassle-free shopping experience, cutting down the length of queues and freeing staff from spending time intervening at self-service checkouts.

The technology does not require shoppers to register their identity in advance and any visual information about users will also not be retained after they have made a purchase in store.

NCR announced earlier this week that it will introduce the software in its 'FastLane' tills in the next few months, and it could be applied more widely in 2019.

The tills are currently used by a number of UK retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer, Boots and WHSmith.

Speedy service

Regular shoppers will also be able to speed up the checkout process by using a smartphone app to prove their age at the till.

Although the app, which is also made by Yoti, does require users to register their ID document and face with the company beforehand.

While Yoti are yet to confirm which supermarkets will use the technology initially, the company have said two of the big four supermarkets - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda - will be piloting the technology later this year.

A Sainsbury's spokesperson did confirm the store would not be trialling the software, leaving Tesco, Morrisons and Asda to decide whether or not to give this new technology a go