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Digital ID for nightclub entry: 1account trial results at odds with Home Office findings

With club entry taking under five seconds and a 90 percent preference for using digital ID over physical, 1account found its trial of digital ID for late night venue entry to be a successful – albeit expensive – test of its systems and identified another solid use case for its customers.

The incentive of effective free entry for those with the app could be considered to cloud the results, but the local requirement to still undergo the existing entry process of physical credential scan and photo as well as trying digital ID had already taken away any benefit for users.

Further to our reports on participation by Yoti and Innovative Technologies in the UK Home Office sandbox trials of digital ID and age estimation tech for alcohol purchase, Biometric Update spoke to 1account, the digital identity app and upcoming payment solution provider.

The UK-based firm does not agree with the initial findings from the Home Office which are limited and so far summarize results from the two categories of the trial. The summary states: “The majority of trials of digital ID apps experienced very low take up.”

Also affecting the 1account trial: “A number of trials aimed to explore if technology could reduce queuing time to enter licensed premises. Findings were inconclusive and suggest that speed of entry to venues will be dependent on practical factors such as good phone battery and Wi-Fi signal.”

Scheme

1account worked with Rekom UK, which operates 48 late night venues across the country, on a five-month trial for entry to the nightclub Tru Camberley in Surrey, in the western outskirts of London.

Clubgoers wanting to try it out needed to download the app and register with a scan of a credential and a selfie. At the club door, they open the app, tap the ‘Scan QR’ button which opens the camera to then scan the venue’s unique QR code printed on a lanyard around the neck of door staff.

A biometric check of the user, e.g. via smartphone camera, to open or activate the app is not required. Ben Keirle, CEO of 1account, explained that this is not necessary for this use case and the process maintains GPG45 Level 4 standard.

Each venue also has a unique four-digit code. Scanning the QR updates the app screen to display the user’s name, photo (from the moment of app registration), age status (YES/NO to being over 18) and the venue’s code. This screen has the current time ticking away and only lasts for 15 seconds. At present, this time setting is not configurable.

Venue codes are changed by default every 28 days, but can be updated as regularly as daily for higher-risk settings such as taking out a mobile phone contract.

The user presents the screen to the door staff who visually check it against the user as they would with a physical credential. In the trial, venue operator Rekom received the name of the guest, photo from the app and the timestamp of last entry. These were gathered into a “rudimentary dashboard” in the trial. 1account keeps a record of club entry via the app for 28 days in case of enquiry by law enforcement. In the club where it was used, licensing requirements would typically collect more data fields from the scans of credentials.

Implementation of English alcohol licensing is highly localized. The trial was granted for a club in an area where the licensing officials require a scan of physical ID credentials at the door (in this case with SCANNET equipment) and photo capture on entry. The scanners check whether a credential is genuine, and read name and age. This is checked against a blacklist of names.

Despite the sandbox trial, permission was not granted to fully utilize the functions of the 1account app without also having to provide a physical credential to fulfil local licensing conditions, except for one three-hour window.

During the trial, local authorities only allowed one window for testing the digital entry against the credential scan route on 24 June 2022. 1account was “a bit unlucky to be honest,” according to Keirle. An hour after it started, nearby mobile phone masts failed for three out of four main networks.

It should also be noted that during the trial, clubgoers were required to either buy tickets in advance and show them on their smartphones or purchase them on entry with their phones. Those using 1account digital ID did not have to purchase tickets, as an incentive.

Outcome

When fully functioning, the system got clubbers through ID checks almost three times faster, at 4.75 seconds each on average in the test window compared to 14.8 seconds on average for the scan route across the trial. Entry was roughly twice as fast with the app if comparing the same users. Those timed with the app and averaging 4.75 seconds also had to undergo ID scans which they completed in 11.63 seconds on average.

Timings were taken and assessed by the Age Check Certification Scheme (ACCS). The fastest time recorded for the credential scan route was 9 seconds.

“The majority of fights that break out at nightclubs are in the queue,” said Keirle, showing that faster entry provides a benefit similar to the findings in retail where tech-based age estimation checks could potentially diffuse situations where staff would otherwise face abuse.

There were 921 downloads of the digital ID app which led to 790 successful registrations. These were used for 839 unique check-ins. Of these, 422 individuals used the app once and 417 were repeat check-ins by 141 individuals. Three clubbers used it eight times.

“It was desperately disappointing not to let people with digital ID into the club,” said Keirle, referring to the licensing requirements. Even so, on peak app-entry nights, 27 percent of clubgoers had entered with digital ID, despite still having to go through the credential scan.

As part of the trial, ACCS also conducted a survey of 288 guests who used the app. Of them, 88.5 percent found it easy to use, and 90.3 percent would prefer to use digital ID for venue entry if available. Further, 88.9 percent would prefer to use it in other contexts.

Eight members of staff were also surveyed. To the question “For those customers who have created a digital ID, in your experience has it been easy for them to use it?” three out of five said ‘no.’ But in response to “Does the digital ID provide a clearer image of the customer and their 18+ status compared with a physical ID such as a driver’s licence?” seven said yes.

All eight staff found the digitally-presented ID easy to recognize. ACCS noted it was far brighter than credentials.

One issue was the fact the trial did not allow sole use of digital ID. Comments from staff reflected this: “When going ‘full digital’ it’ll be a lot easier,” and “If it was on trial at a venue without ‘ID Scan,’ they’d love it.”

Keirle expects that Rekom and other companies would be more likely to roll out digital ID entry where using an ID scan terminal is not a condition of entry.

1account believes it met the objectives such as providing clearer ID for low-lit environments, reducing the risk of fakes, improving the ability to know who is or was in a club in the event of an incident. Keirle says the “tone of the Home Office was lukewarm at best.”

He says that with promotional staff working each night of the trial it became an “inordinately expensive” exercise, but confirmed an in-person use case for the app which can also be used online.

An ACCS assessor at the venue found: “Our overall assessment is that this technology can facilitate the digital presentation of identification when purchasing age restricted goods or services and, as such, is capable of having a positive, if marginal, impact on achieving the licensing objectives. For future deployments, it would be important to ensure appropriate access to privacy and transparency information about the specific technology.”

Rekom UK Senior Operational Director Tony Gorbert commented in a statement: “Our guests are digital natives, so we are always looking for new ways to use technology to enhance our guest experience.

“We were pleased to take part in this Home Office initiative with 1account and the results have proved extremely positive where digital ID has been used by clubgoers. We will now assess the results and look to see how it can bring benefits to our guests in the future.”

Across its venues, Rekom UK has to deal with 18,000 lost credentials a year, compared to 6,000 mobiles. Even in this respect, digital ID could present savings in time dealing with lost and found.

If legislation allows it, 1account hopes for 60,000 shops, bars and clubs will be accepting digital ID within a year and that 2 million people will have registered to use it. A payment solution built into the app would follow. With club entry taking under five seconds and a 90 percent preference for using digital ID over physical, 1account found its trial of digital ID for late night venue entry to be a successful – albeit expensive – test of its systems and identified another solid use case for its customers.

The incentive of effective free entry for those with the app could be considered to cloud the results, but the local requirement to still undergo the existing entry process of physical credential scan and photo as well as trying digital ID had already taken away any benefit for users.

Further to our reports on participation by Yoti and Innovative Technologies in the UK Home Office sandbox trials of digital ID and age estimation tech for alcohol purchase, Biometric Update spoke to 1account, the digital identity app and upcoming payment solution provider.

The UK-based firm does not agree with the initial findings from the Home Office which are limited and so far summarize results from the two categories of the trial. The summary states: “The majority of trials of digital ID apps experienced very low take up.”

Also affecting the 1account trial: “A number of trials aimed to explore if technology could reduce queuing time to enter licensed premises. Findings were inconclusive and suggest that speed of entry to venues will be dependent on practical factors such as good phone battery and Wi-Fi signal.”
Scheme
1account worked with Rekom UK, which operates 48 late night venues across the country, on a five-month trial for entry to the nightclub Tru Camberley in Surrey, in the western outskirts of London.

Clubgoers wanting to try it out needed to download the app and register with a scan of a credential and a selfie. At the club door, they open the app, tap the ‘Scan QR’ button which opens the camera to then scan the venue’s unique QR code printed on a lanyard around the neck of door staff.

A biometric check of the user, e.g. via smartphone camera, to open or activate the app is not required. Ben Keirle, CEO of 1account, explained that this is not necessary for this use case and the process maintains GPG45 Level 4 standard.

Each venue also has a unique four-digit code. Scanning the QR updates the app screen to display the user’s name, photo (from the moment of app registration), age status (YES/NO to being over 18) and the venue’s code. This screen has the current time ticking away and only lasts for 15 seconds. At present, this time setting is not configurable.

Venue codes are changed by default every 28 days, but can be updated as regularly as daily for higher-risk settings such as taking out a mobile phone contract.

The user presents the screen to the door staff who visually check it against the user as they would with a physical credential. In the trial, venue operator Rekom received the name of the guest, photo from the app and the timestamp of last entry. These were gathered into a “rudimentary dashboard” in the trial. 1account keeps a record of club entry via the app for 28 days in case of enquiry by law enforcement. In the club where it was used, licensing requirements would typically collect more data fields from the scans of credentials.

Implementation of English alcohol licensing is highly localized. The trial was granted for a club in an area where the licensing officials require a scan of physical ID credentials at the door (in this case with SCANNET equipment) and photo capture on entry. The scanners check whether a credential is genuine, and read name and age. This is checked against a blacklist of names.

Despite the sandbox trial, permission was not granted to fully utilize the functions of the 1account app without also having to provide a physical credential to fulfil local licensing conditions, except for one three-hour window.

During the trial, local authorities only allowed one window for testing the digital entry against the credential scan route on 24 June 2022. 1account was “a bit unlucky to be honest,” according to Keirle. An hour after it started, nearby mobile phone masts failed for three out of four main networks.

It should also be noted that during the trial, clubgoers were required to either buy tickets in advance and show them on their smartphones or purchase them on entry with their phones. Those using 1account digital ID did not have to purchase tickets, as an incentive.
Outcome
When fully functioning, the system got clubbers through ID checks almost three times faster, at 4.75 seconds each on average in the test window compared to 14.8 seconds on average for the scan route across the trial. Entry was roughly twice as fast with the app if comparing the same users. Those timed with the app and averaging 4.75 seconds also had to undergo ID scans which they completed in 11.63 seconds on average.

Timings were taken and assessed by the Age Check Certification Scheme (ACCS). The fastest time recorded for the credential scan route was 9 seconds.

“The majority of fights that break out at nightclubs are in the queue,” said Keirle, showing that faster entry provides a benefit similar to the findings in retail where tech-based age estimation checks could potentially diffuse situations where staff would otherwise face abuse.

There were 921 downloads of the digital ID app which led to 790 successful registrations. These were used for 839 unique check-ins. Of these, 422 individuals used the app once and 417 were repeat check-ins by 141 individuals. Three clubbers used it eight times.

“It was desperately disappointing not to let people with digital ID into the club,” said Keirle, referring to the licensing requirements. Even so, on peak app-entry nights, 27 percent of clubgoers had entered with digital ID, despite still having to go through the credential scan.

As part of the trial, ACCS also conducted a survey of 288 guests who used the app. Of them, 88.5 percent found it easy to use, and 90.3 percent would prefer to use digital ID for venue entry if available. Further, 88.9 percent would prefer to use it in other contexts.

Eight members of staff were also surveyed. To the question “For those customers who have created a digital ID, in your experience has it been easy for them to use it?” three out of five said ‘no.’ But in response to “Does the digital ID provide a clearer image of the customer and their 18+ status compared with a physical ID such as a driver’s licence?” seven said yes.

All eight staff found the digitally-presented ID easy to recognize. ACCS noted it was far brighter than credentials.

One issue was the fact the trial did not allow sole use of digital ID. Comments from staff reflected this: “When going ‘full digital’ it’ll be a lot easier,” and “If it was on trial at a venue without ‘ID Scan,’ they’d love it.”

Keirle expects that Rekom and other companies would be more likely to roll out digital ID entry where using an ID scan terminal is not a condition of entry.

1account believes it met the objectives such as providing clearer ID for low-lit environments, reducing the risk of fakes, improving the ability to know who is or was in a club in the event of an incident. Keirle says the “tone of the Home Office was lukewarm at best.”

He says that with promotional staff working each night of the trial it became an “inordinately expensive” exercise, but confirmed an in-person use case for the app which can also be used online.

An ACCS assessor at the venue found: “Our overall assessment is that this technology can facilitate the digital presentation of identification when purchasing age restricted goods or services and, as such, is capable of having a positive, if marginal, impact on achieving the licensing objectives. For future deployments, it would be important to ensure appropriate access to privacy and transparency information about the specific technology.”

Rekom UK Senior Operational Director Tony Gorbert commented in a statement: “Our guests are digital natives, so we are always looking for new ways to use technology to enhance our guest experience.

“We were pleased to take part in this Home Office initiative with 1account and the results have proved extremely positive where digital ID has been used by clubgoers. We will now assess the results and look to see how it can bring benefits to our guests in the future.”

Across its venues, Rekom UK has to deal with 18,000 lost credentials a year, compared to 6,000 mobiles. Even in this respect, digital ID could present savings in time dealing with lost and found.

If legislation allows it, 1account hopes for 60,000 shops, bars and clubs will be accepting digital ID within a year and that 2 million people will have registered to use it. A payment solution built into the app would follow.  Read More   

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