We use cookies to give you the best personal experience on our website. If you continue to use our site without changing your cookie settings, you agree we may place these cookies on your device. You can change your cookie settings at any time but if you do , you may lose some functionality on our website . More information can be found in our privacy policy.
Please provide more information.
Stylus no longer supports Internet Explorer 7, 8 or 9. Please upgrade to IE 11, Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge. This will ensure you have the best possible experience on the site.
Brief Published: 23 Jun 2017

China Embraces Facial Recognition

Alibaba founder Jack Ma demonstrates facial recognition technology

Highlighting Chinese consumers’ desire for convenience and relatively relaxed approach to privacy, use of facial-recognition tech in China is booming – as noted by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which named it one of its 10 breakthrough technologies for 2017.

  • Payments: Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba is working with Beijing-based start-up Face++ to enable people to transfer money through its payment app Alipay, using their face as identification. Since February 2017, it has also been experimenting with in-store facial-recognition payment tech in partnership with Chinese retailer Bailian Group (exact details still to be confirmed).
  • Predictive Ordering: KFC and Chinese search engine Baidu are trialling a service in Beijing where visitors’ faces are used to predict their orders, based on estimated age and mood. Customers can choose the machine’s suggestion (provided at the service counter), or pick again.
  • Access Only Designated Areas: Baidu is also using identity-confirming facial-recognition tech for visitors to the tourist destination of Wuzhen, eastern China. Photographs are taken at the entrance, with the facial recognition then allowing access to different areas depending on the price/type of ticket bought – a concept potentially transferrable to brands with layered or VIP areas (see also Membership & Tiered Retailing, particularly Runbase Berlin).

In other markets, however, consumers still find the technology unnerving. When asked about being identified as a high-value shopper in store via facial recognition, 67% of US consumers and 75% of UK consumers said they found it creepy (RichRelevance, 2016).

See also Cashless Transactions: Pay With Your Face and Retail Tech: Tools & Trends, 17/18