As more and more Chinese consumers pay via digital payment services for their purchases, payment platforms are looking for novel ways to protect users from identity theft, hacking and fraud. Alibaba’s Alipay is the largest digital payment platform in China with more than 300 million registered users. The Chinese e-commerce giant has found a new way to bolster security of mobile payments.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd To Use Face Recognition To Make Alipay Safer

Alibaba CEO teases ‘Smile To Pay’ technology

Soon Alipay users may be able to pay for their purchases by scanning their face with a smartphone. On Sunday, Alibaba founder Jack Ma showed off a new technology called “Smile To Pay” at the CeBit technology trade fair. The service is currently in beta mode. Alibaba’s financial arm Ant Financial is developing the face recognition technology for use with Alipay and Alipay Wallet.

Last year, Ant Financial partnered with Beijing-based Megvii, which specializes in the face recognition technology. One of the biggest advantages of facial recognition is that it doesn’t require any special hardware, says Megvii co-founder Qi Yin. All it needs is a camera, which is an integral part of most smartphones.

However, accuracy has been a big challenge for the technology. Most face recognition technologies have achieved up to 70% accuracy. But Megvii and Alipay’s technology boasts of more than 91% accuracy rate. Jack Ma explained at the CeBit event how he purchased an old stamp from Hannover on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform. He pulled out his smartphone, scanned his face with the front snapper and the item was purchased.

Smile To Pay to be rolled out in China, initially

Smile To Pay will initially be rolled out in China, but Alibaba is yet to decide an exact date for the official launch. The service may later be rolled out in other countries, too. The value of online and mobile payment transactions is expected to grow from $2.5 trillion in 2014 to $4.7 trillion by 2019, according to Jupiter Research. Last year, Apple launched Apple Pay to grab a piece of the mobile payment market. Samsung has also announced its own mobile payment service Samsung Pay.