The Chinese financial giant Alipay is introducing a new pet insurance program that uses facial recognition to identify individual cats and dogs. To create a profile, a user will be asked to take several close-up photos of their pet and their pet’s nose, which will allow the AI platform to create a biometric template for the animal based on its nose print.
In that regard, animal experts believe that the skin patterns of a dog’s nose are as unique to dogs as fingerprints and faces are to humans. As a result, AI technology can be used to match a dog to its insurance profile in a veterinary setting, with Alipay claiming that its solution has an accuracy rate above 99 percent.
The concept behind the system is not new. Some kennels already use nose prints to identify lost or stolen dogs, using ink to create a nose impression on cardboard. However, the technology is more novel, replacing the more traditional printing technique with computer vision that makes the process far less of a hassle. The biometric templates also negate the need for microchips, which are implanted for identification in many current pet insurance programs.
Alipay is making its pet insurance available through partnerships with China Continent Insurance and the digital insurance company ZhongAn. The program itself will be run by the Alibaba subsidiary Ant Financial, with rates starting at 199 yuan (around $28 USD) for a basic 3,000 yuan ($429 USD) policy that only covers accidents and non-congenital diseases.
Of course, Alipay is not the first company to apply biometric technology to animals, nor is it the first biometric pet insurance program in China. Ping An has backed a company called Lufax that similarly relies on facial scans, while the facial recognition startup Megvii has developed a nose recognition system that is 95 percent accurate.
In the meantime, many animal shelters have started using the Finding Rover app to help identify pets that have gone missing. Scientists have also applied facial recognition to animals like pandas and chimpanzees to support conservation efforts.
Source: South China Morning Post
July 22, 2020 – by Eric Weiss