Bestway Wholesale takes part in pioneering age-verification technology trial

Bestway Wholesale, a UK independent food and drink wholesaler, has partnered with Innovative Technology to pilot the Convenience channel’s first use of age verification technology.

The regulatory ‘Sandbox’ trial, which is part of a Home Office programme, will run until May 2022 across three Bestway Retail stores in Leeds, namely:

  • Bargain Booze in Otley
  • Wine Rack in Roundhay
  • Tippl in Garforth

Developed by Innovative Technology, the ICU age verification technology is the most accurate independently tested system worldwide and is tailored to help retailers avoid selling alcohol and tobacco products to underage customers. While the trial will still require humans to check customers ages, the technology has exciting potential use cases in retail, particularly when it comes to protecting staff from abuse.

Mike Hollis, Retail Director at Bestway Wholesale said:

“We’re proud to be pioneering the use of age verification technology in our 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.”

“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.”

Dr Andrew O’Brien, ICU Product Manager added:

“We are delighted to be accepted into the UK Government Sandbox scheme and see all our hard work undertaken over the past few months come to fruition. Our team have liaised with local licensing authorities, local police officers and local councils to ensure our solution (ICU) is safe, legal and meets the criteria of the scheme. ICU age verification technology will now be piloted in several Bestway Retail stores in Yorkshire, and we will closely monitor our test sites to ensure we support the retailers’ and collate the relevant data throughout the trial.”

The ICU technology is non-intrusive and uses leading accuracy, edge AI that incorporates spoof detection technology. ICU’s specially trained algorithms can detect photographs and videos to prevent fraud attempts and takes place in the background without affecting the user experience. ICU does not require internet access and scans the face completely offline in seconds. The technology is fully GDPR compliant, as once the face scan is processed, all related data to that subject is permanently deleted.

The ICU verification technology can be installed alongside Point Of Sale with the screen facing the customer and the screening outcome visible to staff. Once a customer is scanned, the screen will flash green if above 25 or red if 25 or under, alerting staff that further age verification is required.

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