Alipay upgrades facial recognition payment tech with demand spike expected

Alipay has announced a major upgrade to its facial recognition payment technology, replacing its “Smile-to-Pay” system with a new plug-and-play POS device dubbed “Dragonfly” to make the technology more accessible to merchants and customers, the China Daily reports. The new device is reportedly substantially smaller and less expensive then previous versions.

Pan Helin, a postdoctoral fellow at the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences, predicts that growth in facial recognition payments will be “explosive” over the next three years, according to the China Daily Sun.

Alipay says the Dragonfly is about one-tenth as large as other self-service POS devices, and can fit in a backpack. It is adaptable to a range of terminals to enable integration with merchant’s existing Enterprise Resource Planning systems. The device provides 3D face scanning with a structured light camera, and an upgraded processor for fast matching.

“The cost to deploy Dragonfly is 80 percent lower than traditional self-service POS machines which mainly serve large businesses, eliminating barriers to adoption for small and micro merchants, such as convenient stores and fresh market stalls,” Alipay Internet of Things General Manager Zhong Yao said at an Alipay Open Day event in Shanghai.

The self-service facial recognition payment technology is currently used by thousands of merchants in 300 cities in China, and Alipay plans to integrate the upgrades with all deployments. A representative of supermarket chain CP Lotus says that Smile-to-Pay enabled one cashier to manage three POS machines, improving checkout efficiency by 50 percent. Dragonfly can match users regardless of if they change their hairstyle or makeup, and also protects against spoof attacks with still photos or videos, according to the report.

More than 60 percent of payments during the recent “Double 11” or “Singles Day” shopping period to online retailer Tmall were made with facial recognition or fingerprint biometrics, according to statistics from Alipay parent Alibaba Group.

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