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Jan 18, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

China: AirBnb-style platform Xiaozhu to use facial recognition for its rentals

Locks which film the occupiers of an apartment may sound like a paranoia-inducing plotline from the latest episode of Black Mirror, but this is exactly what users of the Xiaozhu platform will experience in the near future. The Chinese equivalent of AirBnb is set to equip some of its rental accommodation with facial recognition systems, with the intended aim of making them more secure. The surveillance market in China appears to have a bright future ahead of it…

Photo credits: Ryan Somma/Flickr

Xiaozhu, which is a Chinese equivalent of AirBnb, recently announced that some of the accommodation on offer on its website would soon be equipped with locks with facial recognition. The majority of the dwellings in question (80%) would be located in Chengdu, a city in the south-west of the country and one that is frequented by tourists, making it the second most lucrative market for the platform that is dedicated to the rental of accommodation from one individual to another, according to website Slate.

Shared housing – the new Chinese trend

The future locks with facial recognition will not be the only security equipment to be installed, with smoke detectors, gas alerts and burglar alarms all on the list. According to Xiaozhu, who intend to ban any of their users who are guilty of "bad behaviour", they are simply designed to increase the safety and security of the apartments which they are renting out. 

Shared housing is very much a new trend in China at the moment. Counting tenants as well as landlords, there are 78 million people who used this rental method in 2017, making up a market which now represents some 14.5 billion yuan (1.8 billion euros) and which is set to grow to 50 billion yuan (6.4 billion euros) by 2020 according to the Chinese government.

China leading the way in terms of facial recognition

In October 2018, Xiaozhu raised no less than 300 million US dollars capital via Jack Ma, who is CEO of the Alibaba security supplies group, meaning that the company is now officially worth over a billion US dollars.

Facial recognition technology is still the subject of much controversy in a number of countries, but in China, it has become part of the citizens’ daily lives. Facial biometric equipment has been installed at ATMs, at airline boarding gates and even at some fast food order screens. The surveillance market is also on the rise with Amazon in particular looking to get a foothold, as well as Alibaba.

Allianz Partners

Cover photo credits: Charlie fong 冯成/Wikimedia Commons

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