Tencent’s QR code payment service for public transportation “sao yi sao” (扫一扫) has reached more than 50 million users across 100 cities since its launch in 2017, local media is reporting (in Chinese).

Over the past year, the internet giant has been focusing more heavily on integrating its technologies into public transportation and piloting smart transportation initiatives in cities across China. The company recently announced that it is currently testing a new bus hailing system in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province, and is exploring the application of cloud computing and big data in real-time traffic data analysis.

According to Zheng Haojian, vice president of Tencent, smart technologies currently account for only 20 to 40% of all travels in China which is relatively low compared with other developed countries. “If we can increase the ratio by 10 or 20 %, there will be a big improvement to traffic congestion,” said Zheng.

Tencent’s vision for smart transportation also extends to air travel. The company has signed an agreement with Shenzhen Airlines to allow passengers to use QR codes for boarding flights. Under the agreement, Tencent will explore the use of facial recognition in verifying passenger identity.

The company told local media TMTPost that they will work with the airline to launch a mini program that allows passengers to manage their e-tickets, check and track their baggage, get through security, and more.

China public transport has emerged as a new battlefield for payment companies.

Last November, Tencent partnered with Guangzhou Metro Group to integrate its QR code payment to the city’s metro stations. Guangzhou was the first city to adopt the payment technology at such large scale, which was an important milestone for Tencent as it competes with rival Alibaba. In January, Shanghai Metro also introduced the QR code payment option, which allows commuters to pay via Alipay or UnionPay.

Alibaba has also been pouring resources and capital into China’s smart transportation sector. It has been working with traffic police over the past two years on its smart city initiative City Brain.

Nicole Jao is a reporter based in Beijing. She’s passionate about emerging trends, news, and stories of human interest within the world of technology. Connect with her on Twitter or via email: nicole.jao.iting@gmail.com.

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