Payment by facial recognition

Smile! You are paying for your purchases

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Going for an afternoon of shopping with no money cash, no credit card, no checkbook, no smartphone... What's the point? It will be impossible for you to buy anything. But if you're Chinese, your smile will be enough to pay for all your groceries. Your face as a wallet? It's an innovation that doesn't look good, but it could turn our consumption practices if, by any chance, she came to our country...   

In a country where facial recognition has an Chinese consumers can now pay for their food and drink, and the purchases by scanning their faces. No more need for cash, card bank, or even a smartphone, a smile is enough.

China is already very advanced in mobile payment, but this new technology, which is currently being deployed nationwide, is now even making QR codes or mobile payment systems obsolete. « No need to take your phone with you anymore. You can go out shopping without taking anything with you "says Bo Hu, head of IT services at the Chinese bakery chain Wedome. This popular chain, which offers Western breads and pastries adapted to Chinese tastes, is already using facial recognition terminals in about 100 points of sale.

Paying with nothing was not possible at the beginning of mobile payments (made with QR codes). But it is now possible thanks to the development of facial recognition. ", he explains. The latter is already widely used in China: for order from KFC, to spot fugitives in the crowd, fugitives from the people crossing outside of pedestrian crossings, or for unblock access to his workplace. It is also applied to very large-scale policing in the Xinjiang region (north-west), where the population, mostly Muslim, is under intense police surveillance after a series of bombings.

Smile-for-pay

To pay, consumers must first link a photo of their face to their bank account or a mobile payment system. Once in the store, all they have to do is have their face scanned by the terminal provided.

Payment by facial recognition in a store in China facial recognition in a store in China
Payment by facial recognition in a store in China

China's mobile payment giant, Alipay, is leading the way with its dance in China, with machines installed in 100 cities across the country. The company sees enormous growth potential and plans to invest over three years some 3 billion yuan (380 million euros) to improve its technology called "Smile-to-Pay". Its competitor, Tencent, which runs the WeChat messaging application, has a 600 million users, unveiled a new payment terminal in August named "Frog Pro." Start-ups are also trying to invest in this new product. booming sector.

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Payment by facial recognition has certainly the potential to become widespread thanks to the impetus of the main mobile payment actors "notes Mengmeng Zhang, an analyst with the firm. Hong Kong Counterpoint. « Alipay spends billions to broadcast this technology, through vendor subsidies and rewards. for the consumers who use it ".

Camera boxes

In Tianjin, a large city located 120km south-east of In Beijing, the IFuree supermarket, which operates without cashiers, also offers this technology to its customers. A 3D camera scans people's faces that come into the store. When it comes time to pay, they scan their at the checkout and then present their faces again at the checkout. camera. Their bank account is debited immediately.

"It's convenient because you can buy things very quickly. In traditional supermarkets, you have to wait in line. It's not very pleasant.

Zhang Liming, retired 

At Wedome, some 300 stores now have facial recognition terminals, explains Bo Hu. They will soon be followed by 400 others.

The new payment technology is also a a way for businesses to collect more data. "This trend in retailing is motivated by two things: to prevent theft and to prevent the at the shelf and obtain information on consumer preferences", notes Jeffrey Ding, a researcher at Oxford University.

A China that wants to be a high-tech leader

This new form of payment is also part of a broader national campaign to make China a world leader in high technology." This is in line with the government's ambitions to make facial recognition one of the pillars of the artificial intelligence sector. "notes Adam Segal, an analyst with the U.S. firm Council on Foreign Relations.

Facial recognition for population monitoring in China

But what if this information is diverted from its primary purpose of payment? Many are concerned about the risks inherent in this potentially intrusive technology. « There is a great risk that the state will use these data for its own surveillance and control purposes, or for monitoring dissidents.« says Adam Ni, a researcher on China at Macquarie University in Sydney.

For the proponents of this technology, on the contrary, there would be nothing to worry about. « Facial recognition helps ensure confidentiality "says Li Dongliang, an engineer at IFuree.

It is dangerous to dial your credit card code when someone is behind you. Paying with your face helps protect your account. ». But that's for sure! So why didn't you think of it earlier?

But some consumers have other concerns than those related to the security of their data or the preservation of their data. intimacy. According to a survey on the Sina information site, 60% of people respondents consider their face "ugly" when it appears on the screen. of the payment terminal. In response, Alipay has already announced a news that should reassure them that its cameras will now be equipped with "filters"... of embellishment".

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