Facial recognition is big news at the moment. The launch of Apple's new iPhone X saw facial recognition technology hit the mainstream in its highest profile usage to date.
But Apple isn't the only big name brand to harness physiological biometrics. In China, fast food giant KFC now allows its customers to pay for their fried chicken using facial recognition. In another example of how China is accelerating a cashless economy, Ant Financial launched the facial recognition payment service in a Hangzhou branch of KPro, the Chinese version of KFC, making it the world's first physical store where customers can use their face to make a payment.
The system works by using a photo ID of the customer, previously stored in the system, and scans their face for a match. The customer then simply inputs their phone number and the payment is accepted. Ant Financial uses the digital payment platform Alipay to allow its users to sign in using facial recognition.
The Alipay technology uses a "liveness" algorithm, a 3D camera and an analysis of over 600 facial features to determine a match. It helps achieve the goal of a future where, according to Dong Liyun, a product manager at Ant Financial, "people can go without their cell phones or wallets".
Ant Financial has been successful in implementing the software thanks in part to images collated by the country's internet companies as well as China's database of citizen ID photos – something western societies remain skeptical of due to the impact on the privacy and security of individuals.
KFC has a track record of pioneering the use of facial recognition technology in China – earlier this year it hit the headlines when it teamed up with search engine company Baidu to develop facial-recognition technology that can be used to predict a customer's orders. The artificial intelligence-enabled system makes recommendations from the menu based on a customer's estimated age and mood.