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Facial recognition technology stops toilet-paper theft

After the paperless office, we now have the paperless toilet. And digitization also has a solution for this: Toilet-paper dispensers with a person-recognition device, to stop thieves in their tracks.

28 Mar. 2017
Gesichtserkennung Klopapier China
Can facial recognition technology stop the toilet-paper theft in Beijing? (Photo: The New York Times)

Time and time again, the Beijing Municipal government has had to fight against visitors stealing toilet paper from public toilets en masse using shopping bags and rucksacks, the New York Times reports . Most of the thieves seemed to be residents, who made off with the paper to use it at home. It is not only that the taxpayer has to pay the price for this – the park is also frequented by large numbers of tourists who, in the worst case scenario, can end up feeling not best pleased after a visit to the toilet. That is why several bathrooms in the park have now been fitted with paper dispensers that have facial recognition software. When visitors enter the toilet, they have to look into a camera for three seconds before then can take their ration of toilet paper. That person then has to wait at least nine minutes before they can get a second helping.

"We had many options: fingerprints, infrared and facial recognition", Lei Zhenshan, Marketing Director of the inventor company Shoulian Zhineng, told the newspaper. We decided upon the final option for hygienic reasons. However, the high-tech toilet-paper dispensing device does not meet with everyone’s approval. While some complain about the sheets being too short, other see the experiment as a complete waste: The money required for facial recognition could have been invested elsewhere. One 00-ID device costs around 720 US Dollars.