Alipay Launches ‘Smile to Pay’ for Commercial Use in China

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Alipay has launched its new facial-recognition payments technology for commercial use, Ant Financial Services Group said Friday.

“Smile to Pay,” the first service of its type, debuted at a KFC’s new, healthy-food concept restaurant, called KPRO, in Hangzhou. With it, Alipay users can authenticate their payments through a combination of facial scanning and inputting their mobile phone numbers. That means they won’t need to break out their wallets—or even smartphones—anymore.

For the time being, Alipay is only offering the Smile to Pay option at the lone KPRO restaurant. Ant Financial said it plans to expand usage over time. KFC introduced KPRO in July to draw in young Chinese consumers looking for healthier fare such as salads and juices, rather than the global chain’s trademark fried chicken.

 

WATCH: Ant Financial’s new technology scans hundreds of feature points on your face to make payments easier and more secure.

Ant Financial said the Smile to Pay technology has reached a level of accuracy and security that should put Alipay users at ease. The multistep process of one to two seconds of facial scanning uses a 3D camera and a “live-ness detection algorithm” to guarantee a user’s identity. For example, the algorithm can detect shadows and other features that can only come from living beings, thereby blocking photos or video that might be used by someone trying to hijack a person’s Alipay account. The addition of the phone-number check “further ensures the security of transactions,” Ant Financial said.

Alipay will offer loss coverage in the event of theft of a customer’s Smile to Pay account, Ant Financial said.

“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.

Ant Financial has steadily improved the technology since a beta version of Smile to Pay was unveiled by Jack Ma in 2015 at the CEBIT technology trade fair in Hanover, Germany. The company demoed the updated technology again last January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

“We are excited to introduce Smile to Pay to KPRO customers and look forward to seeing it play an important role in digital financial services,” he said.

Ant Financial is an affiliate company of Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group.

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