The Rise of Facial Payment Technology: Get Ready for a Paperless-Currency World.
Updated: Jun 30
As we surge forward with enormous technological advances, for years now, many experts have been saying that soon, paper money will be a thing of the past, as we move toward a digitized future whose entire economy and financial system is dependent on facial payment technology.
China is currently developing and testing this technology- with Alipay- the financial arm of Alibaba- already rolling out devices in more than 100 cities- and plans to spend over half a billion dollars over the next three years to grow it. Shoppers are increasingly making purchases with just a turn of the head. Simply posing in front of camera-equipped POS machines, a photograph of them is then taken and processed by linking their facial image to their digital bank accounts and payment systems. Crazy eh?
There are widespread concerns that the software is being used to monitor citizens- which the Chinese government is notorious for. Adam Ni, a Chinese citizen and researchers, states “There’s a big risk ... that the state could use this data for their own purposes, such as surveillance, monitoring, the tracking of political dissidents, social and information control, ethnic profiling, and even predictive policing.”
Will this technology be in Canada anytime soon?
As recent as October 2019, the Vancouver Star ran an article with the headline “You could soon use your face to pay for groceries, but privacy experts are urging caution.”
At the Retail West Conference in Vancouver, a facial payment recognition system called SnapPay Grocers was demonstrated to business leaders searching for the hottest new trends in commerce. While admitting the technology hasn’t yet arrived in Canada, SnapPay Chief Growth Officer Chris Renton says he believes the convenience of the technology will have mass appeal and eventually attract retailers that want to move people in and out of stores quickly. Renton further states that SnapPay Grocers’ equipment is sourced from China where the technology is rapidly advancing and where there’s no shortage of firms who are developing the technology.
Some experts further believe the technology is still in its infancy and not yet reliable enough to be used by the Canadian general public. “If my face is meant to make a payment on a specific transaction, I want to make sure that my face can never be replicated with a photo, a 3D printed mask, something like that,” says Vsblty CEO Jay Hutton. “However, if I combine my face with a second factor like a pin, I think facial recognition will really take off in payments when it’s combined with a second factor.”
Hutton further states he believes it’s only a matter of time before Canadians embrace this technology, for its sheer convenience. While we still have a long way to go in assessing both the pros and the cons of facial payment technology- you can expect to see more talk of it surfacing in Canada in the coming years;
and you can expect to see Canadian fintechs and paytechs closely observing how well the technology is working for their counterparts in China.