Tencent’s WeChat Pushes for Mainstream Adoption of Facial Recognition Payment

Tencent’s WeChat Pushes for Mainstream Adoption of Facial Recognition Payment

by September 9, 2019

China has been quick to embrace facial recognition, a technology that’s already being used for making payments at numerous shops, supermarkets and restaurants. The latest development in the field comes from China’s Internet giant Tencent, which showcased last month, at the Chongqing Smart China Expo, a new device supporting facial recognition payments, reports TechNode.

Called the Frog Pro, the point-of-sale (POS) machine allows shoppers to make transactions by scanning their face at checkout. The device is equipped with 10.1-inch double-sided screen, a 3D depth-sensing camera for the facial recognition payment function, and a QR code scanner.

Image: Frog Pro, by Tencent, via pay.weixin.qq.com

Image: Frog Pro, by Tencent, via pay.weixin.qq.com

Tencent said the double-sided screen, a first in the industry, will allow businesses to push promotions more easily. The cashier will be able to display the QR code of its official web account in WeChat or new product information on the screen.

The Frog Pro is integrated with different WeChat features including Mini Programs, mobile wallet, official accounts, and group chats.

In parallel, WeChat Pay, the mobile payment system integrated into Tencent’s popular multi-purpose app WeChat, also introduced new features including one that allows shoppers to join a membership program by simply scanning their face.

Alongside the Frog Pro, the Frog series will include two other versions of the device designed for different retail scenarios: the Frog Basic for shops with limited physical space, and the portable Frog Mini, for businesses like restaurants.

According to Tencent, the advanced facial recognition technology used in the terminal will provide customers with a safer, quicker and more convenient way to transact.

Tencent has been quietly testing facial recognition payment solutions at retail outlets in China and promoting early versions of its Frog terminals. According to Chinese media MPayPass, the company has been testing thousands of devices at different retail locations including retail chains Jiatian and Meiyijia.

In China, face scan payment has become more prevalent as companies increasingly integrate online and offline retail, pushing offline payment capabilities to tap into additional demographics.

Another recent move by Tencent demonstrating the firm’s commitment towards pushing offline payments is WeChat on the Machine, a trial service deployed in July to allow flight passengers to make offline payments while flying.

WeChat Pay rival Ant Financial’s Alipay rolled out a facial recognition payment device called Dragonfly in late 2018 and launched the Smile to Pay facial recognition system for commercial use in September 2017.

Tens of thousands of merchants across 300 cities in China are already using Alipay’s facial recognition payment system and the company plans to spend RMB 3 billion (around US$448 million) in promoting the POS face-scan payment system alone.

Though evidence suggests that Alipay might be ahead in the facial recognition payment game, WeChat Pay leads the market when it comes to mobile payments with roughly 600 million users compared to Alipay’s 400 million. Tencent claims WeChat Pay processes a billion transactions daily, connecting 50 million merchants and businesses in China.

Facial recognition payment capabilities are rapidly being deployed and adopted in China, because, for one, Chinese tech giants are already on point with the technology.

Artificial intelligence startup Megvii, one of the four most highly valued facial recognition startup unicorns in China, has recently filed an initial public offering (IPO), and according to a Wired report, most of its revenue comes from surveillance and security systems.

Most recently, two pilot gates with facial recognition capabilities were spotted in Canto Tower Station, according to Crowdfundinsider. Currently, QR code payment, Yangchengtong Metro Card and Single Journey Coin/Ticket are accepted in Guangzhou Metro, but it appears that commuters will soon be able to pay by scanning their face.

Last year, Guangzhou Metro experienced with facial recognition technology for security checks. A third-party company responsible for facilitating research and development for the city also revealed that they were testing a payment solution leveraging facial recognition as well.

Earlier this year, a subway operator in Shenzhen tested several advanced technologies powered by the 5G network, including facial recognition payments.


Featured Image Credit: Pandaily