China's facial recognition tech gaining ground

Updated 2017-08-30 09:54:08 Global Times
Customers purchase goods at an unmanned store of China's e-commerce platform Suning Appliance in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, Aug. 28, 2017. The unmanned store, which recognizes customers' identity through face recognition system, is able to automatically collect money from customers when they take commodities to pass through a payment gateway. The money collection is realized with Suning-bolstered financial system. (Xinhua/Li Yuze)

Customers purchase goods at an unmanned store of China's e-commerce platform Suning Appliance in Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province, Aug. 28, 2017. The unmanned store, which recognizes customers' identity through face recognition system, is able to automatically collect money from customers when they take commodities to pass through a payment gateway. The money collection is realized with Suning-bolstered financial system. (Xinhua/Li Yuze)

Huge demand, abundance of data driving rapid expansion: experts

Facial recognition technology is now widely used in different sectors in China and the country has developed an edge in the industry, partly thanks to government support.

If local residents in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, forget to bring their identity cards to process passport applications, officials can process their applications by scanning their faces, the Wuhan Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

Another application scenario is in a sports store in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu Province, where consumers can pay by "face swapping" without taking out their wallets, according to the Xinhua News Agency. The store was opened by Chinese retailer Suning Commerce Group on Monday.

Facial recognition technology is also used at a railway station in Wuhan, where 16 machines were set up at the checkpoints on Monday. It takes less than two seconds to pass through them, according to the financial news site caixin.com.

Facial recognition technology has been developing rapidly in China since 2015, as demand for the application has driven more investment in the sector, Zhou Xi, president of Chongqing-based visual recognition firm CloudWalk, told the Global Times on Monday. Like Zhou, many Chinese entrepreneurs with an academic background and working experience overseas have returned to China to develop facial recognition technology.

"I used to work at Microsoft's speech recognition group, and some people who recognized the potential of China's artificial intelligence (AI) sector have come back to the country in recent years, which is a boon for the industry," Zhou said.

The facial recognition market scale is expected to reach .84 billion by 2021, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.3 percent, according to a report released by the global market consultancy MarketsandMarkets in November 2016.

The market is expected to be given further impetus from huge governmental investments in security and surveillance infrastructure, as well as increased public awareness, the report noted.

In China, the market scale for facial recognition technology surpassed 1 billion yuan (2 million) in 2016, and the CAGR will reach 25 percent, pushing the market to a scale of 5.1 billion yuan by 2021, according to a report published by Beijing-based market research firm Qianzhan.

The rapid growth in China has also attracted Yin Qi, another Chinese entrepreneur with working experience in the US, to come back home to start a facial recognition company. Yin, co-founder of Megvii Technology Inc, also known as Face , has come up with different facial recognition solutions not only for consumer products but also for local authorities.

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