July 11, 2018 / 10:22 AM / 7 days ago

Check-in with a smile: Marriott, Alibaba trial facial recognition at China hotels

HONG KONG/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Chinese guests at Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel chain, may soon be able to check in with a quick scan of their facial features.

FILE PHOTO: A sign of Alibaba Group is seen at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2016 in Shanghai, China, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

The chain will work in a joint venture with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group to test facial recognition check-ins at two China hotels this month, the firms said on Wednesday, with ambitions for a global rollout later.

China is spearheading the use of facial recognition for everything from helping control major live events to ordering fast-food, but also bolstering a growing domestic surveillance system that has raised fears among human rights activists of privacy being invaded.

The joint venture said the new technology would help guests jump queues and cut the check-in process to less than a minute, compared to at least three minutes at a normal counter.

Chinese guests will need to scan their IDs, take a photo and input contact details on an automated machine, the firms said. The device will then dispense room key cards after verifying identities and booking information.

The pilot will roll out at two Marriott hotels in Hangzhou and Sanya on the tropical island province of Hainan.

Marriott got in hot water in China earlier this year when local authorities closed down its Chinese website for a week as punishment for listing Chinese-claimed regions such as Tibet and Taiwan as separate countries in a customer questionnaire.

In September last year, Yum China’s KFC launched a “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system at a store in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, looking to lure in tech-savvy younger consumers.

Editing by Himani Sarkar

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