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China: Face-scanners installed in Beijing park public toilet to stop loo roll theft

Speed News Desk | Updated on: 20 March 2017, 14:57 IST

Automatic toilet paper dispensers using face scanners have been installed at a public toilet in Beijing to reduce paper uage and avoid theft after it became rampant. The plan is currently adopted on trial basis.

At the Temple of Heaven, one of the capital's busiest tourist sites, a user in need of tissue paper must stand in front of a wall-mounted machine with a high definition camera, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported. After going through a process of facial scan, a person will receive a 60 centimetre serving of paper. The entire process takes about 30 seconds or more.

The devices software remembers recent faces, and if the same person reappears within nine minutes of their first scan, it refuses to activate the automatic roller.

The machines have been installed for a period of about two weeks after which they will be used officially depending on how they perform

For years, many residents have been taking reams of paper from public toilets for use at home.

Recently, Chinese media outlets investigated the phenomenon and found most of the tissue bandits were senior citizens.

Such behaviour has placed a considerable financial burden on public toilet management.

Sometimes a newly replenished roll can disappear within a minute, leaving other users an empty holder.

The Temple of Heaven management said they also provided old-school rollers because not all visitors were accepting the new technology.

The facial camera required a user to remove their hat and sunglasses.

It prompted concerns about infringement of privacy, and the face recognition processing time, which is only meant to be three seconds, sometimes takes more than a minute, which is an added frustration for someone who is in a hurry to use the loo.

The smart toilet paper machine has prompted quite a discussion on mainland social media. Most people agree that the behaviour should be stopped. But a few said the public shouldn't get too wound up over the issue.

--With PTI inputs

First published: 20 March 2017, 14:40 IST