China’s KFC May Have Just Launched the World’s Biggest Naked Payments Deployment

“At KPRO, the system was installed in self-service kiosks, allowing customers to place their orders and pay via Smile to Pay’s facial recognition system, which links their faces to their Alipay accounts.”

KFC has dramatically expanded its ‘Smile to Pay’ naked payments system in China, bringing it to 300 locations across the country.

China's KFC May Have Just Launched the World's Biggest Naked Payments Deployment

Customers interacting with KFC’s AI-powered self-ordering kiosks at Alibaba Cloud’s 2018 Computing Conference in Hangzhou

Yum China, which holds the rights to KFC in the country, first introduced the system a little over a year ago at KPRO, an upscale KFC restaurant in Hangzhou. It was a collaboration with Alipay, leveraging its Smile to Pay system that had previously been used to authenticate transactions on the Alipay mobile payments platform. At KPRO, the system was installed in self-service kiosks, allowing customers to place their orders and pay via Smile to Pay’s facial recognition system, which links their faces to their Alipay accounts. That means they could place an order and pay without having to use a physical payment card or even a mobile device.

In a statement announcing the system’s expansion across China, Yum China said it was a response to “positive customer feedback” the company had seen from its KPRO deployment.

These kinds of naked payments systems are popping up more and more around the world, but are still very much in a nascent stage, with Yum China’s system now representing one of the most extensive deployments in the world. China may offer a particularly ready market for this technology, given the prevalence of facial recognition technology for government surveillance and consumer applications.

November 14, 2018 – by Alex Perala