China’s Facial Recognition Leads the World

Apparently, Chinese is not so satisfied with the speed of mobile payment, they want to just lay eyes on the camera and finish the process. As the whole world is talking about the new iPhone’s facial recognition, China has been commercially adapting to this technology for the past several months for a number of different purposes ranging from shopping to public safety.

On September 1, Alipay, the online payment giant, announced a new service with KFC’s Hangzhou branch, located in the east of China, to allow customers to pay their bills by faces. Dubbed “smile to pay”, the video rollout showed how the order was completed in two seconds, and how smooth the procedure could be whether the female model was in a wig or in heavy makeup.

In fact, two days before Alipay made the headline of Chinese tech blogs, its rival had secretly launched the similar technology in one of their offline shops in Beijing. After users upload their face images to JD’s app, they can go straight to an iPad setting up at the cashier and finish the purchase with their faces.

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Facial recognition used in airport security check.

As early as May 2017, search engine giant Baidu has utilized the technology on their own cafeteria to pay for meals; In 2016, China Merchants Bank launched face recognition in ATMs in 106 cities around the country; Recently, Agricultural Bank of China also initiated the technology in over 100,000 ATMs. They both allowed users to withdraw money without inserting their bank cards or ID cards.

Airport security inspection is another field that properly exploits the face detection.  In Changchun Airport, the northeast part of China, four cases of using fake ID cards for boarding have been detected thanks to the facial recognition added since August. The system quickly compares the real person’s snapshot with their ID card image and makes a decision to let them pass or not.

According to data provided by Forward Industry Institution, the market size of facial recognition industry in China reached over 1 billion RMB (152 million USD) in 2016 and it’s estimated to achieve more than 5 billion RMB (763 million USD) by 2021.

Although the face detecting itself is very fast, the technology alone can’t finish a whole identity recognition process. It’s usually assisted by a second mean of confirmation such as providing your phone number, which greatly slows user experience.

We criticize that it will probably and eventually become another insignificant technology like fingerprint recognition, which has been developed for a while but still not quite widely applied. Plus, all the doubts in how it will work in conditions like poor lighting, sunglasses, beards and twins. Whether a true facial era is coming or not, time will tell.

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