In KFC China, Smile to Pay

Now people dining at KFC in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou will pay for their meals by smiling.

KFC has launched “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system in the restaurant. The concept is part of a drive by Yum China Holdings Inc to lure a younger generation of consumers. Joey Wat, Yum China’s president, said the store was aimed at “young, tech savvy consumers who are keen to embrace new tastes and innovations”.

At the restaurant, diners place their order using a large touchscreen, look at a 3D camera for identification and then enter their mobile phone number to authenticate payment. The camera uses a “live-ness detection algorithm” to block spoofing attempts using other people’s photos or video recordings and ensure account safety.

The Hangzhou store involves a tie-up with Ant Financial, which is behind the facial recognition software. Ant Financial is formerly known as Alipay, is an affiliate company of the Chinese Alibaba Group. “While Smile to Pay provides convenience for users like never before, we have always placed security at the core of this technology,” says Jidong Chen, director, biometric identification technology, Ant Financial.

The technology, first demoed by Alibaba chairman Jack Ma in 2015, is currently the only commercial application of the technology in this KFC KPRO healthy-eating restaurant but more deployments are set to follow.