UK retailer Bestway has join a British government-backed trial of AI age verification in partnership with identity tech firm Innovative Technology.

Bestway joins other retailers including the Co-op, Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons, and nightclubs, which are already taking part in the the government ‘Sandbox’ pilot scheme that was launched last month.

Trials of the ‘challenge 25’ ICU system have been installed in three of its stores in Leeds, Bargain Booze store in Otley, Wine Rack in Roundhay and its new upmarket off-licence format Tippl in Garforth.

The ICU verification technology is installed alongside the point of sale, with consumers who consent can take part having their photo taken by a camera embedded in the trial stores’ checkout. The software then uses an algorithm to determine their age – once a customer is scanned, the screen will flash green if they are above 25 or red if 25 or under, alerting staff that further age verification is required, before automatically deleting the photo. During the trial, humans are still required to check customers ages, in accordance with the law, but it says technology has exciting potential use cases in retail, particularly when it comes to protecting staff from abuse.

Mike Hollis, retail director at Bestway Wholesale told trade press the company were proud to be pioneering the use of age verification technology in its drinks led specialist stores.

“Staff abuse is rife in the convenience channel, with the Association of Convenience Stores’ 2021 Crime Report highlighting that there were over a million incidents of verbal abuse and about 40,000 incidents of violence against people working in convenience stores in the past year alone,” he said.

“We surveyed staff in our three participating stores and the responses received showed that staff abuse, particularly when it comes to the refusal to sell alcohol, is a significant issue. All participants agreed that using technology could reduce staff abuse and we believe that using the ICU screen will act as a deterrent when it comes to staff abuse.”

“It will also give retailers peace of mind and ensure that they avoid prosecutions, fines, or losing their license for the miss-sale of alcohol or tobacco products,” he added.