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Alibaba’s Jack Ma shows off new ‘pay with a selfie’ technology

March 17, 2015, 11:39 AM UTC

One thing is for sure – it’s better than having to remember another password.

Alibaba Group Holdings (BABA) founder and chief executive Jack Ma Monday showed off the company’s new facial recognition tool, intended for use with Alipay mobile payments service.

Appearing at the annual CeBit tech exhibition in Hanover, Germany pulled a trick straight out of the Steve Jobs “one more thing” playbook by ending his presentation with a demonstration of “Smile to Pay”.

The app validates mobile payments by matching a photo taken by the user at the point of purchase to a stored profile photo. In Ma’s case, he used it to buy a commemorative stamp from the 1948 Hanover trade fair via Alibaba’s e-commerce site, according to the South China Morning Post.

“In six days this stamp will be delivered to the office of the mayor of Hanover,” Ma said.

The technology is being developed by Ant Financial unit, which also operates Alipay. Alipay was spun out of Alibaba before the latter’s IPO in New York last year, and Ma has hinted that he will seek a separate listing for it.

Ma said Smile to Pay will be rolled out in China first, and only later in other countries. The domestic market is likely to be a stern enough test: Alipay already already handles over 80 million transactions a day from its 300 million registered users.

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