China Focus: Facial recognition debuts at China's banks

BY  | FROM  | 2017-09-20 17:18

At the Agricultural Bank of China's (ABC) three outlets in Jinan City, cards are no longer needed to withdraw money. A quick scan of the face will do.

"One of the best things about facial recognition technology is that you don't have to carry your cards with you for petty deposits and withdrawals," said Xu Yanru, lobby manager of ABC's Heping Road outlet in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province.

ABC has introduced facial recognition technology at its automatic teller machines (ATM). Other banks, such as the China Merchants Bank and the Construction Bank of China, have also introduced similar technology in their ATMS.

"All you have to do is to press the facial recognition withdrawal button, scan your face in the camera, enter your phone number or ID number, and enter your transaction amount and password," said Zhang Baojing, a banking manager at ABC.

Zhang said that the technology can eliminate the risk of having bank cards illegally copied, and lower the possibility of cards getting eaten by ATMS.

"It can enhance the customer experience," Zhang said.

Technology staff at ABC said that facial recognition is safe because it also requires ID numbers or phone numbers and passwords. In addition, customers' photos will be compared with those in the public security system. The latest infrared cameras also lower the risk of illegal activities.

The ABC limits the daily withdrawal to 3,000 yuan (457 U.S. dollars) via the technology. The bank plans to install the facial recognition technology at 24,064 outlets across the country, according to web portal

ABC is not the first bank in China to introduce the facial recognition technology. In 2015, China Merchants Bank started using the technology in the southern metropolis of Shenzhen. Last year, it expanded the service to about 1,000 ATMs in 106 cities.

But the new service faces some difficulties, such as high maintenance costs.

"Many senior citizens might find it hard to trust or get used to this way of withdrawing money," said Yang Gan of the Smart City Research Institute in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

But Yang said it will only be a matter of time before the technology permeates society.

"In the future, payment via facial recognition and mobile payment will be complementary," Yang said.

In China, the rapid development of facial recognition technology has led to its use in a number of innovative ways. Beijing's Temple of Heaven has used it in toilets to deter toilet paper theft. In Jinan City, traffic police have installed facial scanners at intersections to catch and shame jaywalkers. Supermarkets in some big cities have been using the technology at bag deposit areas.

Beijing Normal University debuted its first facial scanners in April and expanded their use in all dorms during the summer break. Currently, 70 percent of students have had their face recorded. A facial scan is required for new freshman students, according to the school.

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