The UK Home Office have issued a call for proposals from innovators or alcohol licence holders for trials of technological innovations for age verification.
One of the requirements for applicants is to set out:
“A description of how the test or trial will be assessed, independently validated and the results reported, including how these will be made publicly available.”
The purpose this document is to set out guidance for applicants, which has been prepared in consultation with the Home Office, on what is meant by this requirement.
The Age Check Certification Scheme is offering its services as an independent evaluation provider for this Regulatory Sandbox.
What is the focus of evaluation?
The focus of the call for proposals is to explore how technology can improve or enhance achieving the Licensing Objectives for the retail sale of alcohol. These are:
The prevention of crime and disorder
The prevention of public nuisance
The protection of children from harm
That is also the focus of evaluation. Each trial should assess the IMPACT the deployment of the technology has had on improving or enhancing achieving the Licensing Objectives.
Evaluation, for this purpose, is not about the technology itself (i.e. is it certified or compliant), although a description of the technology and any certification or prior testing of it should be referenced in the evaluation report. System certification (which we also provide) is a separate process.
There will be many aspects of the trial that the technology provider and their partners will want to evaluate, including commercial considerations, value for money, technological performance, load balancing, resourcing and practicalities of deployment. These are all valuable evaluations for the innovator and their clients or suppliers, but they are not part of the evaluation for the purposes of feedback to the Home Office and the Office for Product Safety and Standards, bearing in mind that there is a requirement to make this evaluation publicly available.
What can be trialled?
The Home Office Guidance on the Sandbox gives a list of examples of the types of technology that can be trialled:
Technologies that enhance the likelihood of preventing young people under 18 years old from accessing alcohol
Technologies that help reduce violence or abuse towards workers in licensed premises when challenging young people for ID
Technologies that secure effective controls on delivery, click & collect or dispatch of alcohol
Technologies that reduce the burden on business for gaining age assurance
Technologies that enhance the protection of personal data of customers purchasing alcohol
Ultimately, however, any age verification technology or process that could have an impact on achieving the Licensing Objectives can be put forward for a trial.
The Guidance makes clear that these are small scale trials and, considering data gathering and evaluation, applicants will want to consider the practically and cost of the size, location(s) and breadth of trials. There is no reason why applicants could not run multiple trials in multiple locations, but again, considering data gathering and evaluation, they should be discrete projects where an individual hypothesis under test can be described.
The application process is not competitive in the sense that there are ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. The intention of the Home Office is to approve as many sensible and well planned trials as possible.
Who can undertake the validation?
The Home Office Guidance for Applicants does not specify who undertakes the validation except that they have to be independent. The Age Check Certification Scheme, as an independent 3rd party certification body is offering this service, but innovators could use any suitably independent research, academic or evaluation agency.
How much does independent validation cost?
We work on the basis of ‘evaluator days’, so our Business Manager will agree with you a ‘day rate’ fee for evaluation. How many days are needed, will depend on your evaluation design and analysis. It will also depend on whether or not you want our Data Scientist to assist with the analysis and interpretation of the results.
You may want to ask the evaluator to witness the trial at the location. In addition to the validation, you may want to use our test purchasing services to measure compliance at the location under test.
Our Lead Scientist and Business Manager will work with you to help you to plan and design your evaluation, which can help you to avoid errors that may lead to problems with validation at the end of your evaluation activity.
You will need to book a scoping and research session with Dr. Taybia Mohammed, who is our Lead Scientist and responsible for evaluation tests for the Regulatory Sandbox. This session is provided at a daily rate of £500. The purpose of the research phase is to provide an opportunity to understand your business processes and the technology to be used in the trials. We will also use the information obtained to develop the methodology and the cost for the tests.
If you have any queries about the Sandbox trials you can book your scoping day below or email Obi Udanoh on firstname.lastname@example.org