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Image credit: Yoti

Bournemouth bars have begun accepting a smartphone app as ID

Yoti means you can leave your passport and driving licence at home.
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I went to university in Bournemouth and remember fondly (and not so fondly) queueing for overpriced bars with housemates and other trainee journalists. Every Monday night was the same -- I would stand outside in the freezing cold, slowly shuffling forward until someone in my group uttered the groan-inducing phrase: "I've forgotten my ID." Oh, how times have changed. A bunch of nightclubs including Cameo, Halo, Truth, Yates and Walkabout have started accepting Yoti as an ID and proof of age. The smartphone app is supposed to be fast, secure, and more convenient because you can leave your passport and driving licence at home.

Yoti has a slightly confusing setup. First, you take a selfie with your phone and enter your mobile number so that Yoti knows which device is tied to your account. Second, you create a five-digit PIN so that your account is protected from anyone that might be thinking about nicking your phone. Third, you have to take a short video and then photograph your driving licence or passport. Phew. Photo IDs are verified with machine learning software and further checked by a security team. The video, apparently, is enough to thwart anyone who might be trying to cheat the system.

At the club, you simply need to take out your phone, unlock the app and scan the relevant QR code. (Some businesses will request a selfie at this point as an extra precaution.) Yoti says it uses "advanced hybrid encryption" (AES 256 bit) to protect your information. The company's system stores and encrypts every part of your profile separately, making it harder for would-be hackers to steal your identity in one fell swoop. Private encryption keys are kept on the phone, which means Yoti cannot see or access your data once your account has been created. Ultimately, of course, you're still trusting it to process and store your information properly.

Yoti is a young company based in London. Business Insider reported last November that two major supermarkets were testing the technology with self-service checkouts. The idea being that people could verify their identity and purchase alcohol and other age-related goods without calling over a member of staff. It's unclear if and how the partnerships have progressed, however. Its adoption in Bournemouth, then, is a major milestone. In addition to nightclubs, Yoti will be accepted at tanning salon Sun Soleil, tattoo parlour Forever&ever and a handful of estate agents.

"The beauty of Yoti is that individuals only need to create their Yoti once and then have a secure digital identity they can use time and time again, in a variety of places," Robin Tombs, Yoti chief executive said. "Bournemouth will be the first town in the world where people can prove their ID with Yoti on their phone to get into clubs, rent a flat or even get a tattoo."

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