All it takes is a smile for Chinese shoppers to pay at local diners, now that Alibaba Group affiliate, Ant Financial Services Group, has introduced facial recognition to authenticate digital payments. The technology may soon spread across China to include multiple points of sale.
For now, the “Smile to Pay” service is available at KPRO in Hangzhou, China, a new restaurant under the KFC chain, focused on healthy food and targeting tech-savvy teenagers. Shoppers are encouraged to sign up for the Alipay app and enable facial recognition, so their future payments will not require a smartphone.
For payment authorization, consumers simply look at the kiosk and a 3D camera will confirm their identity. A phone number can also be linked as extra authentication. Users can also opt out of this feature.
The technology is not new. The beta version was introduced in 2015 at CEBIT in Germany, while a demo was offered at CES in January. The system is allegedly difficult to corrupt or fall victim to spoofing attempts, due to a highly accurate algorithm that can identify users even under heavy makeup.
“Combined with a 3D camera and liveness detection algorithm, Smile to Pay can effectively block spoofing attempts using other people’s photos or video recordings and ensure account safety,” said Jidong Chen, Ant’s director of biometric identification technology.
Part of the larger Alibaba Group, Ant Financial is the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants in China, purchased for $460 million.