China blazes trail in facial recognition payment systems

China 24

Many countries have been evolving into cashless societies. First there were credit cards, then mobile payments and now QR codes. But in China, a new way to make purchases is on the rise that’s even easier and faster. CGTN’s Gerald Tan tells us more.

You’re at the store with no money, no cards, no phone- No problem.

If you want to buy something at the IFuree Go supermarket in Tianjin, all you do is smile.

“IFuree’s main research direction is unmanned stores, and we have been developing facial recognition technology for two years,” the store’s development engineer Shang Kaili said.

China is trailblazing facial recognition payment systems. Alipay, the financial arm of e-commerce titan Alibaba, has already installed cash register machines equipped with cameras in more than 100 cities. Developers said the technology is convenient and safe.

Facial recognition software is designed to read the geometry of our faces — certain landmarks that are called “nodal points.”

Examples include the distance between the eyes, the distance from forehead to chin, the length of the jawline, and the width of the nose.

Each human face has about 80 nodal points that do not change over time in adulthood. And, together, they make up one’s facial signature.

But the technology raises several privacy issues, including mistaken identity, the illegal collection of facial data, and the exploitation of one’s facial signature.

Yet many shoppers like Zhang Liming remain unfazed. “Once you finish all the registration, it becomes easier to buy and pay for goods. This kind of payment is very convenient and saves our time,” Zhang Liming said.

The popular food chain Wedome Bakery is an early adopter of the facial payment system, where it’s available in hundreds of its outlets across China.

CEO Bo Hu shared that, “The new technology helps reform our original business model and business process by increasing efficiency. I don’t even need to bring a mobile phone with me; I can go out shopping without taking anything.”

Many Chinese start-ups are buying into this emerging technology. There’s even a push to add beauty filters to the cameras, for shoppers who want to look like a million bucks, even as they spend a lot less.

Rebecca Fannin discusses innovation in China

CGTN’s Mike Walter spoke with Rebecca Fannin, author, about innovation in China.