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UK supermarkets could use facial recognition to check ID

UK supermarkets could use facial recognition to check ID

These days, many of us prefer to use the self-service checkouts at our supermarkets. Whether for efficiency, privacy (for those embarrassing purchases) or the fact that you just want to avoid human interaction, the self-service checkouts that angered shoppers on launch day have become an integral part of our supermarket shopping experience. Despite this, there are some limitations to our friendly self-service assistant that still make them at a disadvantage to human checkout staff.

In the UK, age restrictions apply to the purchase of both cigarettes and alcohol, so those wanting to purchase these items must currently use a manned checkout (that’s with a real human being) and go through a physical ID check first. Even if you’re just grabbing a bottle of red to go with your steak dinner, you may need to go to a manned checkout, wasting your valuable time waiting in the queue.


US company NCR, who supplies the big UK supermarket chains with self-service machines, wants to combat this inefficiency and is developing an in-built camera to determine the age of customers using self-checkout. The camera will be integrated into a new range of self-checkout machines, using AI technology and facial recognition to determine the age of the customer buying restricted items and then decide whether to approve or deny the purchase.

Although the new technology aims to encourage more customers to use self-service checkouts, the system will still require human intervention. If the AI denies a request, the purchase may need to be verified by a human assistant (especially for those who look younger than their age) and most spirits are fitted with an anti-theft device which will also need to be removed by a member of staff. Despite the flaws, the new technology could certainly free up some time for checkout staff and customers alike. NCR is looking to start piloting the new machines in the UK in 2019 – watch out for the technology in a supermarket near you soon!

Source: The Telegraph