Pay with Your Face — Facial Recognition Software


March 22, 2018 

A handful of companies in China, such as Face++ (Face plus plus) and Baidu, have developed revolutionary facial recognition software. This software works by analyzing your face and matching it to a database of photos. From security to payment credentials, different applications are leveraging this technology in some interesting ways. Let’s face it, face-based technologies are on the rise, and utilizing artificial intelligence allows companies to tailor customer experiences. It probably won’t be long at all until you are able to pay with your face.

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99% Accuracy


The key to facial recognition software is accuracy. Without supplemental forms of identification, facial recognition software must be extremely accurate to have any use at all. Imagine someone who looks similar enough to you charging all of their purchases to your account accidentally. The entire premise breaks down.

Baidu claims that their application can match faces to their database with 99% accuracy, and they took steps to prove it. Baidu took part in a television show that featured contestants who were surprisingly good at identifying adults from their baby pictures. Baidu’s system beat them all.

As an added level of security, facial recognition software often includes a “liveness test.” To prevent foul play, users are often asked to turn their head slightly and/or talk while the software analyzes their face. This stops someone from simply holding up a picture of someone they wish to impersonate.


Facial Recognition Use Cases


The uses of facial recognition software seem to fall into two clear camps: payment and security. The software has been in use in China for some time now and we are starting to find American companies and organizations mimicking these cases:

  • Payment: The obvious use case involves payment. Instead of using a credit card, which can be stolen, customers can begin making purchases with only their face. Earlier this year, CaliBurger (Pasadena, California) began allowing customers to pay for their orders with their face. This is the first time American customers in a retail space have been allotted the opportunity. CaliBurger is using the facial recognition technology to enhance their customer loyalty program. The AI kiosks will enable the fast food restaurant to track customer habits and preferences -which they can use to make future recommendations.



  • Security and Law Enforcement: Whether identifying trespassers or permitting entry to an apartment complex, facial recognition software can determine whether someone should or should not gain access to a building. Most recently, select U.S. airports have begun using facial scanning in the boarding process to confirm the identities of those leaving the country. Next on the agenda? The TSA is testing similar devices at security check-in lines.


  • Tourism: As a combination of payment and security applications, the government of Wuzhen, China is working with Baidu to use facial recognition software to permit access to many of its tourist attractions.


  • Customer Service: Though it may seem unsettling to American cultural standards, there are coffee shops in China who use this technology as a greeting tool. As you walk into the café, the staff is alerted to your presence, and they greet you by name.


  • Photo Fun: Camera 360, one of the most popular photo editing and filter apps, allows users to edit their selfies with numerous effects, with Face++’s high-precision face detection and landmarks algorithms.


Different Cultures, Different Notions of Privacy


China has a unique database that enables the facial recognition software to function. China has a large, centralized database of ID photos, which Face++ and Baidu access to match one face with another. Without a baseline for comparison, the technology will be unable to recognize you. No such database exists in America, so in order to access your face, there must be some sort of opt-in system to snap a photo for the application’s records. It is hard to estimate when this technology may become commonplace, but considering it is already finding uses in both China and the U.S., the rest of the world cannot be too far behind.

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