Alibaba’s financial affiliate Ant Financial is adding new fuel to the quick rise of automated stores in China this Tuesday by opening its unmanned technologies to merchants.

The Alipay solutions will enable automated customer ID authentication, risk control, payment, and clearance, allowing customers to enjoy service provided by merchants without the help of their staff. The same technology has been applied to Tao Café, Alibaba’s cashier-less coffee shop driven by computer vision and sensor technologies. “The matured fraction of our IoT payment solutions is open to the merchants this time,” introduced Jiang Kui, an Ant Financial executive.

Ant Financial expects its technology to have wider applications in all kinds of scenarios such as unmanned sales stands, mini karaoke kiosks, fitness rooms, working spaces, and more. But for the time being, the solution only applies to single-user scenarios rather than more complex cases where multiple users can be identified at the same time.

As much as it may sound like another threat from automation to human labor, the adoption of this technology would not cause huge layoffs, but rather create more business opportunities, according to the company. “The 24/7 service model would create business and job opportunities for industries along the industrial chain, from information processing to sensor manufacturing,” said economist Pan Linhe.

Mao Daqing, CEO of URWork, has dropped hints earlier this month that the co-working unicorn is working with Alibaba to adopt AI in office management. The current news reveals that URWork is among the first offline clients to adopt Ant Financial’s unstaffed solution in its shared spaces. Users can unlock doors, book conference rooms, or use fitness rooms by scanning with their Alipay app.

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Emma Lee

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via or Twitter.

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