Have a million-dollar smile? Well, now you can pay with it in China

1 Sep 2017

A customer paying using Alipay’s new Smile to Pay at KPRO, Hangzhou. Image: PRNewsfoto/Yum China Holdings

Biometric scanning is gaining traction in a big way in China, and now Alibaba is getting people to pay with a simple smile.

When it comes to new and innovative ways to make payments, China appears to be leading the way – more specifically, the financial arm of Alibaba: Alipay.

In a blog post, the company confirmed that fast-food chain KFC has begun testing Smile to Pay in its healthier sister franchise, KPRO, in the city of Hangzhou.

Since last year, KFC and KPRO in China have become separate entities from KFC in the US, and are now owned by Yum Holdings, which wants to encourage younger generations back into its franchises.

As you would imagine, Alipay users can authenticate their payments through a combination of facial scanning and inputting their mobile phone numbers, expanding upon its first facial recognition technologies announced earlier this year.

Right now, the KPRO restaurant is the only one in China – and possibly the world – to offer the Smile to Pay option, with the Ant Financial Services Group providing the financial management.

Ant Financial claims that the technology has reached a level of accuracy and security that would make it viable for widespread use, and involves the customer getting their face scanned using a 3D camera for a few seconds.

Emphasises security

Using a “live-ness detection algorithm”, the user’s identity is found in the database and is then analysed for shadows and other features that can only come from living beings.

This, it said, prevents someone using videos or photos in an attempt to hijack a person’s Alipay account.

“While Smile to Pay provides convenience for users like never before, we have always placed security at the core of this technology,” said Jidong Chen, Ant Financial’s director of biometric identification technology.

In a case of putting its money where its mouth is (pardon the pun), Ant Financial said it will offer loss coverage in the event of theft of a customer’s Smile to Pay account.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic