Smile to pay for KFC meal in Chinese city

A customer using the facial recognition payment system at the KFC outlet in Hangzhou yesterday. The machine compares customers' faces with the verified picture on their Alipay account to make the payment.
A customer using the facial recognition payment system at the KFC outlet in Hangzhou yesterday. The machine compares customers' faces with the verified picture on their Alipay account to make the payment.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SHANGHAI • Diners at a KFC outlet in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou will have a new way to pay for their meal. Just smile.

Customers will be able to use a Smile To Pay facial recognition system at the tech-heavy, health-focused concept store, part of a drive by Yum China Holdings to attract a younger generation of consumers.

Yum China, which was spun off from its US parent Yum Brands last year, is trying to rev up growth in the world's second-largest economy, where food safety scares and changing consumer tastes have dented sales since 2012.

The Hangzhou store, called KPRO, involves a tie-up with Ant Financial, which is behind the facial recognition software. Ant, an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, said this is the first commercial application of the technology worldwide.

Diners can pay by scanning their faces at an ordering kiosk and entering a phone number - meant to prevent people from cheating. The machine compares customers' faces with the verified picture on their Alipay account to make the payment.

"Combined with a 3D camera and liveness detection algorithm, Smile To Pay can effectively block spoofing attempts using other people's photos or video recordings and ensure account safety," Ant's director of biometric identification technology Chen Jidong said in a statement.

China is racing ahead in its use of facial recognition technology. It is even being used at Beijing's historic Temple of Heaven to stop people pinching rolls of toilet paper.

Airports and train stations are also jumping on the bandwagon, with China Southern Airlines this year using facial recognition to do away with boarding passes for the first time.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'Smile to pay for KFC meal in Chinese city'. Print Edition | Subscribe