By JING GAO
Imagine a future where you will no longer need to keep cash or bank cards handy. Simply by smiling at a camera or showing off your tattoo, you will complete a transaction. This future is becoming reality. E-commerce giant Alibaba’s 300 million user strong payment platform, Alipay, has started to promote its feature payment method, KungFu or “Pay empty-handedly” in Chinese this week, reports Sohu Tech.
In a viral online video, Alipay explains that users can designate anything: their facial expression, pet lizard, wedding band or even shoe, as a form of identification. At the future checkout, they will only need to again, have their chosen form of symbolic identification scanned and that will be enough for the transaction to be approved.
Despite its far reaching implications, the video, first released by Alipay’s official Weibo account on April 1, 2014, was quickly shrugged off as nothing but an April Fool’s Day joke.
Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba proved Kongfu is not a joke. At the world-renowned Cebit conference in Hanover, Germany this March, Ma demonstrated to the audience that by merely taking a selfie with his cellphone, he was able to buy a gift for the mayor of Hanover on Alibaba.com.
Chinese Weibo users have weighed in on this innovation. “It is at the forefront of the digital age and pushing forward online banking with cutting-edge technology,” one commented. “Though it looks like a Hollywood film, there are more issues at stake, such as device security,” another said.
Pan Gang, a computer science professor at Zhejiang University, told Zhejiang Online that alternatives to cash and cards represent the latest trend in the payments industry. Alipay’s idea, if materialized, will revolutionize people’s lives, Pan said. “So far, there are four advanced identification methods that are popular and considered secure: fingerprint, iris, face and palm scans,” he said.
These biometrics are so complex and so unique that duplicating or forging them is extremely difficult. But pets, tattoos and other personal items that KongFu claims it recognizes, open up a loophole for fraudsters.
An Alipay employee speaking on condition of anonymity explained that there will be an extra step for confirmation if the system perceives a previously-used item is being used to create an account. In the same way that a website reminds you “This email address has already been registered” when you create an account, you will be required to login with an additional password.