Face recognition in China

China is known for its most developed face recognition system in the world. Its ‘smile-to-pay’ implementation was fulfilled in 2017. Customers in markets, coffee shops and even fruit markets started to pay their bills by looking at the screen and confirming their identity. It didn’t stop there and we can observe new technology that the government launched a while ago. Face recognition ticketing in subways is on and has its targets. What are they? Let’s take a closer look at them and what other opportunities does face recognition bring?

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In 2017 Alibaba’s online payment platform Alipay introduced cashless system, where customers didn’t have to bring anything with them when going out. Do your shopping and smile. Customers don’t have to take out their phones and scan QR codes to pay in supermarkets or simply paying for their beverages. The shops, equipped with special devices provide fast and convenient payments for Chinese residents. 3D cameras scan the face and link the image to the customer’s bank account. Except for gaining its popularity in China, a lot of people mentioned they feel ugly while paying through looking into camera. That’s why Alipay is thinking about applying beauty filters to their system.

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‘Face-recognition ticketing’

Tencent, which runs WeChat app keeps up with Alibaba and introduces new payment method in subways. Now Chinese citizens have the opportunity to pay for the ticket only by turning their heads to the camera on special devices in metro stations. The procedure is identical to ‘smile-to-pay’. The fee is automatically subtracted from passenger’s bank account. That’s why in order to pay through newly implemented face-recognition ticketing, one has to be registered into the system first.

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On the surface, face recognition system provides both convenience and security. Taking into account the population of China, now the time spent in the lines for payment and entering subway trains will be reduced. In terms of convenience, it’s not a problem anymore if you forgot your card or smartphone at home. Face recognition system takes care of it. It terms of security, the amount of shoplifters can be reduced and jaywalkers will be easier to identify. What is more, besides FacePay China introduces ‘gait recognition’, which can identify people by the way they walk. So, it seems that digital progress is moving apace. Is there any other reasons to populate new payment methods?

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New technologies not only aim to simplify life in China but also make it easier to control the growing population. People are worried their data can be collected for surveillance reasons. To encourage the population to use new technology, the campaign for people over 60 has been launched (rides without fee for those who register their face in the system). 

What’s next?

China is moving forward and represented technologies might be just a beginning. They are impressive and frightening at the same time. The technologies we couldn’t image a decade ago are here! 5G service makes it real to provide quality FacePay systems. But no matter how attractive new technologies look like, we should not forget about their main feature: identifying, collecting and storing the data.

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