Put your best face forward. China has been dabbling in the implementation of facial recognition software over the past couple of years. It’s been used to bust jaywalkers, keep dorm students safe, thwart exam cheaters and, of course, pay for goods at your local convenience store (smile to pay!).
Guangzhou Metro has now started trialing facial recognition as a method of payment at two of its stations. Forget about tokens, cards or even QR codes – you can try this out at Canton Tower Station on Line 3 or Tianhe Smart City Station on Line 21.
Tianhe Smart City Station was just opened this past Monday and uses the AI technology to allow commuters to scan their faces for entry. In addition to facial recognition, the station utilizes voice recognition, intelligent lighting and various sensors, making it the ‘world’s first smart subway station’ according to Southcn.com.
Canton Tower Station. Image by Tristin Zhang/That’s
To enable the facial recognition payment feature at either station, passengers will need to register their personal information in the Guangzhou Metro Mini Program or Guangzhou Metro App and bind a payment method to ride. It’s worth noting that one non-Chinese colleague at That’s was unable to register with their name and passport number. The registration asks for users’ ID number, and doesn’t appear to accept passport numbers.
The face scan feature can be found on the Guangzhou Metro App homepage. Screengrab via 广州地铁 App
Cai Changjun, deputy general manager of Guangzhou Metro Group, stated that the current speed of facial recognition takes 500 milliseconds to 1 second. The system will be continuously tested to be on par with the speed of tapping a metro card which is roughly around 300 milliseconds. Hats and glasses are advised to be taken off prior to face scanning, but for those wearing makeup (or not), not to worry – facial recognition will still work.
This development was a joint effort between 26 companies including Guangzhou Metro Group, Tencent, Guangzhou Metro Design Institute, Jiadu Technology and Guangdian Express. Once the trial period is completed, it will be implemented in other subway stations across Guangzhou.
This is not the first time facial recognition software has been used by Guangzhou Metro. Last July, facial recognition was available at three stations as an express option for commuters traveling without baggage when going through a security check.
All going smoothly, this new method of payment will hopefully alleviate those peak hours when you’re stuck behind that person holding up the line as they dig into their abyss of a bag for their metro card (you know who you are).
[Cover image via Mingpao]