MIT Technology Review Hails Pioneering Alibaba Technology

The MIT Technology Review has recognized Alibaba Group’s “Pay-With-Your-Face” system as one of this year’s top technologies.

Facial recognition has been around for decades, but only recently has gotten accurate enough for use in secure financial transactions, the publication said in rolling out its “10 Breakthrough Technologies” list for 2017. The MIT Technology Review specifically mentioned Alipay as one company at the forefront of an overall boom in facial-recognition applications in China.

“It is possible to transfer money through Alipay, a mobile payment app used by more than 120 million people in China, using only your face as credentials,” the publication said.

Facial-recognition is complex, requiring the cross-referencing of multiple biometric features. Underpinning it is “deep learning,” one type of artificial intelligence.

Also on the 2017 breakthrough technologies list is reinforcement learning, a technology that helped a computer developed by an Alphabet subsidiary beat one of the world’s top players of the board game Go last year.

Alibaba Cloud is active in developing reinforcement learning. Its ET artificial intelligence is helping the Hangzhou government tackle traffic congestion, using realtime analysis and regulating traffic lights. So far, traffic flow in the city’s Xiaoshan district has improved 11% from the pilot project. And shopper recommendations powered by reinforcement learning enhanced click rates by up to 20% during Alibaba’s 2016 Double 11 shopping extravaganza.

Reinforcement learning is a process through which computers solve complex problems, getting smarter through experimentation and trial-and-error.

The MIT Technology Review has released its “10 Breakthrough Technologies” list each year since 2001. The list includes technologies with staying power that affect economies and politics, improve medicine or influence cultures.