Alibaba test­ing face recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy

China Daily (USA) - - BUSINESS - By HE WEI in Shang­hai hewei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Two units un­der in­ter­net gi­ant Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd are work­ing in tan­dem to test fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy that will al­low users to un­lock de­liv­ery drop boxes.

Cainiao Net­work Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd, an Alibaba-backed courier ag­gre­ga­tor, is pro­mot­ing such an ap­pli­ca­tion to its partner de­liv­ery firms and par­cel pickup fa­cil­ity providers in a test run in Shang­hai, the com­pany said dur­ing a cus­tomer con­fer­ence in Shang­hai on Thurs­day.

The tech­nol­ogy is pro­vided by Ant Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices Group, Alibaba’s fin­tech sub­sidiary, which since Septem­ber has en­abled cus­tomers to pay by lit­er­ally flash­ing a smile in a KFC store in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is head­quar­tered.

An army of spe­cially equipped kiosks have been in­stalled across five lo­ca­tions at Shang­hai’s fi­nan­cial district of Lu­ji­azui, with cam­eras scan­ning peo­ple’s faces to ver­ify their iden­ti­ties. The com­pa­nies plan for a na­tion­wide roll­out when the pilot pro­jects ma­ture in the city.

In the first in­stance, the machine would com­pare the de­tected face with the im­age logged by pub­lic se­cu­rity author­i­ties, said Chen Ji­dong, di­rec­tor of bio­met­ric iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy at Ant Fi­nan­cial.

To achieve that, users need to sub­scribe to a ser­vice em­bed­ded in the Ali­pay dig­i­tal wal­let, which gives the app the green light to cap­ture their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to con­firm their iden­tity, he noted.

This is pos­si­ble thanks to 550 mil­lion real-name users on Ali­pay, through which they pay bills, set­tle traf­fic fines, man­age wealth and get small loans.

“The scan­ning sys­tem fo­cuses on your face, so it doesn’t mat­ter if you change your makeup or wear a wig,” Chen said, adding that mul­ti­ple tests have been con­ducted un­der var­i­ous en­vi­ron­ments such as un­der sun­light or in the dark to en­sure a smooth and con­sis­tent per­for­mance.

A demon­stra­tion video dis­played dur­ing the con­fer­ence sug­gested the whole process takes roughly five sec­onds, sig­nif­i­cantly short­en­ing the con­ven­tional method of par­cel re­trieval by typ­ing in text codes, which nor­mally takes 16 sec­onds, the com­pa­nies said.

“I would ex­pect this in­vest­ment and new process to save a sub­stan­tial amount of time and en­sure se­cu­rity,” said Zou Jian­hua, CEO of Diyi Box, a par­cel pickup fa­cil­ity provider. “Just in Shang­hai, at least 10,000 par­cel pickup lo­ca­tions will be equipped with such func­tion­al­ity in three years.”

Chen said that the false-ac­cep­tance rate, or the chances that the sys­tem in­cor­rectly ac­cepts an unau­tho­rized user, should be be­low 0.001 per­cent and be fur­ther low­ered to en­sure bank-level se­cu­rity.

Shen­zhen-based SF Ex­press, a lead­ing Chi­nese courier that is com­pet­ing with Cainiao’s net­work, said it is also de­vel­op­ing bio­met­ric-based tech­nolo­gies to ap­ply to its own par­cel pickup cab­i­nets.

num­ber of real-name users on Ali­pay

Chai Hua in Shen­zhen con­trib­uted to this story.

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