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Facial recognition deployed for subway payments in Japan, Kazakhstan and Russia

Facial recognition deployed for subway payments in Japan, Kazakhstan and Russia

More cities are experimenting with face biometrics in public transportation but the rollouts are proceeding at very different paces.

The Southern Japanese city of Kumamoto now allows tram passengers to pay with their faces using facial recognition technology from Saffe. The Kumamoto City Transportation Bureau commenced the face payment pilot on December 20, allowing passengers to register through the Quick Ride or Bankit mobile apps. The test will run until the end of March 2024.

Participating in the pilot are R.D.Works, the Japanese sales agent for Saffe’s facial recognition product, Marubeni Corporation and Marubeni Network Solutions (MNETS), Knowledge Creation Technology (KCT), Lecip, and Aplus. Marubeni has previously conducted similar pilots in Toyama and Nagano Prefectures.

Other Japanese cities have been trialing the technology in public transportation, including Osaka.

Kazakhstan’s capital Almaty has also launched a facial recognition payment pilot on its subway in collaboration with Kazakhstan’s largest bank, Halyk Bank, and its software Face Pay.

For now, passengers will be able to use the service through the bank’s mobile app at two stations only. Other stations will be added gradually, Current Time TV reports.

“Security is 100 percent ensured,” says Almaty metro representative Zhazira Baimukhambetova, adding that the passenger information is stored by the bank. “Neither the metro, nor the bank employees, nor the cash desk employees know the passenger’s personal information.”

The Almaty metro transports over 100 thousand people daily. Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries have been boosting investment into biometric technologies, driven by digital government services.

Meanwhile, the Moscow Metro is seeing 150,000 trips paid with biometrics every weekday.

The subway system in the Russian capital has been using a facial recognition system called Face Pay, reaching 320,000 users in May. It has since added a new biometric payment method, allowing select citizens to ride the trains using the Moscow Resident Social Card.

However, the number of Face Pay users seems to be slowing down: Although public transportation authorities predicted that the number of passengers using facial recognition will reach half a million by the end of the year, in its latest release the Moscow Metro says that the number of people paying with biometrics is now at 330,000, just 10,000 more than in May.

The subway system made headlines this year for its biometric surveillance system Sfera, which is used to track activists, journalists and members of the opposition.

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