Beijing park offers toilet paper for face scans

In an effort to thwart toilet paper thieves, the Temple of Heaven is using biometric security in dispensers.

March 30, 2017

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In an effort to thwart toilet paper thieves, the Temple of Heaven is using biometric security in dispensers.

After looking into the camera for three seconds, users get about 2ft of toilet paper.
Image Source: Weibo/Beijingwanbao

Facial recognition is one of the most promising methods of biometric security right now. It's starting to pop up everywhere from home security systems to PCs. One place people might not expect to have their faces checked is a public bathroom. Defying these expectations, Beijing has resorted to using facial recognition systems in bathrooms in the Temple of Heaven Park to stop toilet paper thieves.

The New York Times reports that authorities are using the new system in "high-tech toilet paper dispensers" installed in the bathrooms. Park visitors will now be forced to look at the camera for three seconds before the machine dispenses about 2ft worth of toilet paper outside a bathroom. Anyone who wants more has to wait nine minutes or bring their own.

While the cost of toilet paper theft no doubt adds up over time, the cost of each of these machines is $720. That seems to suggest the move is more about the deterrent and a courtesy to other park-goers frustrated by the lack of toilet paper in the bathrooms. The Times quotes mixed reactions online to this effort.

The Temple of Heaven isn't the first place to try out these machines. An early version was used in a trial at the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, the Times reported. The results must have been positive.

Whatever the concerns, cities and countries are increasingly becoming more comfortable using biometric security measures like this in their efforts to make things smarter, safer and less wasteful. India is now looking to use citizens' biometric information to make life more convenient for them. Privacy advocates may grimace, but biometric security devices are still a growth market.

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