Alipay turns to biometric security

image of a finger showing clearly the fingerprint biometric technology

Alipay is focusing on identifying users via fingerprints and face recognition as more and more Chinese start to pay via their smartphones.

The increasing popularity of mobile payments in China have prompted Alipay, the payments service run by Alibaba, to bolster the security behind this method of payment with biometrics, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Biological identification will become very important in the future,” said Cao Kai, a senior director of Zhejiang Ant Small & Micro Financial Services Group, the Alibaba affiliate that owns Alipay, at a conference the group hosted on Wednesday.

Today, users have multiple names and passwords to identify themselves for online services, Cao said. Eventually, however, the person’s real identity and virtual online identity will become one and the same.

At the event in Beijing, Alipay set up a store cashier with fingerprint sensors where people could pay for goods using Alipay Wallet’s biometric-identification feature. The event also saw Alipay explain how other biometric security checks work.

As well as fingerprints, Alipay is also pursuing facial recognition. Megvii, a Beijing-based startup, is working with Alipay to work out how to incorporate its identification methods into Alipay’s Wallet app.

While facial recognition is easier to implement in that it doesn’t require any extra hardware other than the smartphone’s existing camera, most facial recognition has only achieved about 70 per cent accuracy.

Megvii claims that it has achieved 91 per cent with its new technology, but is only working on integrating the identification process into Alipay Wallet’s account-creation, rather than the actual payments process.

Alipay has also teamed up with Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies to work on biometric-security technology for mobile payments.

Huawei’s Ascend Mate 7 smartphone, released last month, comes with a fingerprint reader and technology that allows users to make mobile payments through Alipay Wallet, by swiping their fingers instead of entering lengthy passwords.

Alipay employees demonstrated the feature — called Alipay Touch — at the Beijing conference.

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