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Alibaba head Jack Ma unveils face-scanning smartphone payment processing system


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

March 16, 2015 | 2 min read

Alibaba has presented a new facial recognition-based payment system for smartphones in a move which could shake up a digital payments industry already being disrupted by a host of new technologies trying to cement themselves as the go-to solution for digital purchases.

The Chinese e-commerce giant's system, which differs from NFC-based Apple Pay, Halifax Bank’s heart-beat sensor and RBS and NatWest’s fingerprint recognition technology, will instead use consumers’ faces as a unique security pass to authenticate purchases on smartphones.

Rather than entering a pin number or taking a fingerprint scan users will take a screenshot of their faces to confirm their identities.

Mashable reports that Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, demonstrated the new feature at the CeBIT conference in Hanover, Germany on Sunday afternoon.

Ma said: “Online payment to buy things is always a big headache, today we show you a new technology in the future of how people can buy things online."

The Chinese firm is calling the service ‘Smile to Pay’ and is experimenting with implementing a trigger word to increase its security.

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Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI and technology conglomerate founded in 1999.

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