Xiaozhu Rolls Out Facial Recognition-Enabled Smart Lock In 40+ Cities Across China
COVID-19 and China
Xiaozhu rolls out facial recognition-enabled smart lock in 40+ cities across China. PHOTO: Credit to Unsplash

At the end of 2018, Xiaozhu (小猪短租) worked closely with Hangzhou Police department and rolled out facial recognition-enabled smart lock in Hangzhou. Soon it expanded to another 40+ cities across China such as Shanghai, Wuhan, Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing, and Guangzhou etc,

In July last year, Xiaozhu announced cooperation program with the Internet Finance Authentication Alliance (IFAA), an alliance aiming at creating a verification technology ecosystem, to upgrade smart locks to enhance securities and achieve “smart check-in”. After the faces been verified by the facial recognition-enabled smart lock, guests will receive Electric-code via phone to open the door and automatically complete self check-in process. 

IFAA was founded in 2015 and its members include CAICT (中国信通院), Huawei (华为), ZTE (中兴), and Ant Financial (蚂蚁金服) etc. Its chairman FENG Chunpei (冯春培) serves as a senior director at Ant Financial. The key security technology that Xiaozhu used to upgrade its smart lock was provided by Ant Financial.

Compared to the traditional non self check-in option where hosts need to physically be present in the room and open the door for guests, smart locks make check-in much more convenient especially for B&B stays in which hosts may not stay at home all the time which might cause difficulties in passing keys sections.

For now, smart locker verifications take three forms which are passwords, fingerprints, or face-recognition. In the current Chinese home-sharing market, the most common smart lock type is the password lock which is relatively easy to set up compared to the other two. As in practice, house owners can simply send the enter passwords to guests. While for fingerprints, currently, it is not possible to add guests’ fingerprints to the lock before arrival.  

For the facial recognition-enable smart lock, it has not yet become the mainstream mainly due to the immature of the 3D facial recognition technology and the high cost to set up. One obvious advantage for this type of smart lock is that it uses the biometric information; therefore, it saves users spending extra effort in memorizing the password. Another advantage could be that it makes sure the person will stay is the person who made the order and that person has no previous criminal record or unethical behaviors prohibited by Xiaozhu.

Lastly, the accuracy and potential hacks are the concerns while implementing facial recognition-enabled smart lock. For example, it will cause frustrating experience for guests when the lock fails to identify them and a long time required for the technician staff to fix it before they can go into the room. Since this face recognition technology is still new thus it might be vulnerable to hacks.

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