‘Selfie Pay’: Paying With Facial Recognition

‘Selfie Pay’: Paying With Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is the latest fast growing technology that will be employed to verify payments on mobiles and in stores across the world in the near future. While fingerprint technology has grown as a method of payment on smartphones, it hasn’t caught on as widely as expected due to various drawbacks, which facial recognition technology hopes to resolve.

One company, Face++ could be at the forefront of this emerging technology, and is capable of a range of innovation in facial recognition including face comparison, searching, finding key components or “landmarks” on a user’s face and even an ability to analyse users various attributes like eye colour.

As a result, Face++ has had widespread success in China, used for payment by a number of firms including the huge ride sharing app, Didi and even Alipay, China’s leading online payment platform. Lenovo has also started integrating Face++ technology in its computers allowing users to look and smile at the screen to log in.

According to Gartner, at least 30% of companies globally use biometrics on mobile devices and Biometricupdate predicts that over the next four years, biometrics will be employed in almost all smartphone devices. The question is whether facial recognition will become the main technology for payment on mobile or elsewhere.

Evolution of Facial Recognition

While facial recognition has been explored for some time, computers have recently become more sophisticated in accurately recognising the human face and distinguishing one face from another. They are now in fact reaching incredible levels of 98-99% accuracy of up to 98-99% in certain tests in recognising the correct individual even when talking, moving or blinking.

To highlight the technology’s growing importance Samsung recently announced that it would be incorporating face recognition technology into its latest S8 model when it is released later this year. It seems that Samsung is clear on the benefits of facial recognition for payment, and states in a Bloomberg report that it is also “working with banks to help them embrace facial recognition systems in coming months.”

Paying With Facial Recognition

Photo Source: NFCworld

One of the things that makes the technology so appealing is the added convenience it can provide – you might not need to ever carry a card or remember a pin number ever again. Facial recognition for payments is already said to be quicker and require less effort and is a truly contactless payment solution. Fingerprint scanning might be hampered by someone having dirty, wet or gloved hands too.

The major benefit of facial recognition technology is of course that it should be less exposed to fraud than using a pin number of password or even other biometrics. Even fingerprint scanning technology has reportedly been hacked a number of times by using a stolen fingerprint and molding a replica from easily obtainable items and used to fool Apple’s technology as well as Samsung’s. So far, modern facial recognition technology seems to be much harder to hack and therefore defraud someone.

Downsides to Facial Recognition Payments

Downsides however obviously exist. For one, facial recognition data would need to be stored on a server or locally on the phone. This would be incredibly valuable to hackers who would potentially be able to access it. An extra level of protection may therefore be needed on phones or accounts where facial recognition is used.

Another downside of the technology is whether it will be racially sensitive. If the technology works for a white caucasian male from the United States, will the same technology recognise someone with a different skin tone or different facial characteristics found in other countries. This could prove challenging for mobile firms and it could mean such firms having to pay a lot more attention and biometric data to ensure the full range of facial types can be recognised either in store, online or on mobile when making payments.

There are wider concerns too surrounding the issue of privacy. The Guardian newspaper recently reported that while data mining of online information is usually anonymised, facial recognition is “precisely the opposite.” Furthermore, facial recognition technology requires advanced technology and cameras to be used, which may not be a viable or affordable option for many companies or individuals. The technology will obviously be inaccessible to those that can’t afford a smartphone with a good enough camera to support it.

Equally, there could be issues surrounding changes in your physical appearance such as a brand new hairstyle or for weight gain or loss. You would, therefore, have to regularly update your picture used for payments to ensure you are still recognised.

Despite these downsides however, a growing number of companies are onboarding the technology. Along with Samsung, Mastercard recently announced it will enable facial recognition for payments for its customers, dubbing it “selfiepay.”

Amazon is also reportedly looking at introducing the technology to enable customers to pay for items by taking a picture or video of their face. Google also explored facial recognition in the past to unlock phones, but found that it could be fooled with the use of a photograph – now though technology has advanced. Amazon for example is thought to be looking at incorporating a range of featured too such as thermal imaging, infrared information and facial movements for further verification. According to Amazon’s patent it may also ask you to “smile, blink or tilt his or her head.”

Once rolled out by Samsung, Mastercard, Amazon and other leading brands, facial recognition for payments will no doubt become more commonplace. Some factors holding it back will be the quality of technology employed and whether it is embraced by consumers.

Equally if customers begin to embrace the technology, other retailers and service providers will eventually cave to the pressure and allow facial recognition as a method of payment as well. If technology is too expensive or cumbersome to install however this may not happen quickly, if at all. Paying for items via “selfiepay” on a smartphone will no doubt be adopted before it the same technology becomes commonplace in other environments such as in store.

The main issue that may hold the technology back is whether people are too concerned about issues surrounding privacy. A hacker getting hold of your credit card details is one thing, but how will people feel if hackers and fraudsters can steal your image, and potentially impersonate you online or elsewhere? That is the big question which, so far, remains unanswered.

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