Aldi Employs Age Estimation Tech For Alcohol Purchases At Checkout-Free Store
By Mikelle Leow, 25 Jan 2022
“Guess how old I am” is one of the most infuriating icebreakers and often concludes with no winners—but might artificial intelligence beat humans at that game? German-owned grocery chain Aldi is betting its money on the machine at its first contactless concept store in Greenwich, southeast London, where age-estimation technology is being trialed.
The no-checkout outlet runs similar to the “just-walk-out” Amazon Go stores in the US, which are app-assisted and detect products that customers have picked up and exited the locations with, automatically billing them for the purchases. This eliminates the need to go through a cashier line or for human contact altogether.
The new Aldi Shop&Go store, which opened last Tuesday for public tests, will even have a platform to predict shoppers’ ages and verify that they are old enough to get restricted items like alcoholic drinks and cigarettes, according to inews.co.uk. The technology comes from digital identity firm Yoti, which is also in use by the UK’s National Health Service.
The platform relies on a machine-learning algorithm to scan photos of faces for their ages. It’s not to be confused with facial recognition, as the system deletes the images and forgets about them soon after completing the process.
Yoti claims that its age assessment tool is more accurate than human checks, with an average accuracy of 2.2 years, while predictions for youths aged 16 to 20 are slightly more precise. A 2021 whitepaper by the platform noted that there’s only a 0.05% probability of a 17-year-old bypassing the system.
The technology has the support of the British Retail Consortium, which believes that the AI could reduce incidents of employees receiving abuse from underage shoppers for denying them age-restricted purchases. However, patrons who wish to be verified the traditional way can do so as human personnel will still be deployed at the store.
Yoti’s age estimation service will be tested in self-service kiosks at the Greenwich location from January through May.
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