Track and Trace: Biometrics being taken in bars and restaurants amid fears pen and paper is not working

A customer completes a NHS Test and Trace form in a pub in London on Super Saturday - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
A customer completes a NHS Test and Trace form in a pub in London on Super Saturday - Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Restaurants and pubs are turning to biometrics and other technology over fears that a pen and paper are not enough to keep Test and Trace data secure.

In Manchester’s bustling Northern Quarter, vein scanning technology is being used in for bars and restaurants such as The Alchemist, a cocktail bar and restaurant chain.

Users can register their contact details for Test and Trace to their unique vein map through an app called FinGo.

This is then used to sign in when they visit venues.

When entering a venue or sitting at a table, they place their finger over a scanner, which registers their vein pattern. If the venue later experiences an outbreak, the restaurant can contact customers using the app.

With restaurants required to record details and contact information of customers, hospitality venues have been looking for ways to do this digitally, rather than resorting to a pen and paper guest book.

There are also concerns that people leaving their phone numbers in address books could leave them at risk of stalking.

Simon Binns, chief commercial officer at FinGo, said: “A lot of it is pen and paper. A lot of it is inconsistent, it is crying out for a technology for storing that data.”

Other forms of biometric technology are being used to track coronavirus. Thermal imaging cameras, which use infrared images to check for fever, are being installed at restaurants including The Ivy. The cameras can scan a customers' forehead to check their temperature. In Manchester, beer house Alberts Schloss is also using thermal checks.

In the US, Clearview AI, a facial recognition provider, has offered its face-tracking technology for contact-tracing to US states. Meanwhile, PopID, a company that provides facial-recognition powered ordering terminals, is being trialed in Subway. Such technology is also being used by PopID for contact-tracing.

Many pubs have added digital QR-codes, a square barcode that can be scanned by a smartphone camera, at entrances and tables.

Users with the latest smartphones can simply open their phone camera and scan the code to enter their details. Some have even carved the codes into tables or used them to replace menus entirely with digital versions.

Prask Sutton, chief executive of Wi5, a company making payment technology using QR codes, said: “We have seen a huge amount about what people have to record [for contact-tracing]. But the Government should lay out some more specific details about the responsibility of recording this data.”