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KPRO, an offshoot of the KFC brand in China, is letting customers pay for meals using their face. A ‘Smile to Pay’ terminal, installed at the eatery in September 2017, lets users sign in to their Alipay account through a face scan. The service incorporates a 3D camera, a “live-ness” algorithm (confirming that a video or photo of another person isn’t being used to dupe the machine), and facial analysis to verify a diner’s identity. To complete checkout, customers then enter their mobile number.

This example coincides with China’s increasingly cashless economy: $5 trillion worth of mobile payments were made last year, double the year before. Of course, phone-based purchases aren’t issue-immune, as consumers can still fall victim to credit card or smartphone theft. But a thief can’t steal your actual presence, which ‘Smile to Pay’ seems pretty adept at identifying. And yes, while this example might be a little frivolous, look beyond the specifics and consider: which new technologies could you harness to make the point of purchase more intuitive, more secure or more engaging?

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