New technology allows customers to pay for food by smiling (video demo)

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The need to carry cash was eliminated by the credit card.  The credit card is slowly being eliminated by the smart phone.  And now the smart phone’s value for processing payments could be on its way to be phased out by the almighty smile  (see video below).

“Smile to Pay” is an exciting new service being launched in China.  Customers looking to get a fast meal will need only flash a toothy grin to receive their food, redefining the term “happy meal.”

Alibaba’s Ant Financial has reportedly joined with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) in the city of Hangzhou, in eastern China. They plan to debut a “Smile to Pay” facial recognition payment service there in the near future.  They say it’s a concept which will harness digital technology “to provide a modern and fully immersive dining experience.”

Using a 3-D camera to scan a customer’s face and verify their identity, the service allows customers using one of KFC’s self-service screens to pay by smiling after they order their food. For added security, there is an option requiring an additional phone number verification.

Available only to customers with a registered account on the Alipay app, the new technology piggybacks on Alipay’s mobile and online payment platform, which was established in Hangzhou by Alibaba’s founder, Jack Ma.

KFC is a subsidiary of Yum China, one of Alibaba’s major investments, leading to the fast food chain’s involvement in the launch of the new technology. Smile to Pay is an attempt to reach the “young, tech savvy consumers who are keen to embrace new tastes and innovations,” Yum China’s president, Joey Wat, reported to Reuters.

In a recent press release, Yum China said the launch of the concept is: “A fresh and digitally connected experience for urban professionals” that “brings [a] facial recognition payment solution to consumers for the first time globally.”

On its website, Yum China says it is China’s largest restaurant company, “with a vision of making every life taste beautiful.”

According to the site, it opened the first Kentucky Fried Chicken in the country in 1978, in the city of Beijing. By 2015, it had at least 1,000 Pizza Huts and 5,000 KFCs operating in China. There are now a total of 7,600 restaurants operating in over 1,100 cities and towns “spanning every province and autonomous region across mainland China.”

Yum China has “exclusive right to operate and sub-license the KFC, Pizza Hut and, subject to achieving certain agreed-upon milestones, Taco Bell brands in China.”

According to Yum China:

“We are dedicated to serving our customers’ evolving needs by enhancing the in-store experience, improving mobile connectivity, introducing innovative new products, and constantly delivering value. We also remain focused on driving shareholder value by growing sales and profits across our portfolio of brands through increased brand relevance, new store development and enhanced unit economics. With a rapidly growing consumer class and increasing urbanization, Yum China is well positioned for long term growth.”

You may watch a video showing how the Smile to Pay system works in the video below:

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