Unmanned bank

China opened its first “unmanned” bank in Shanghai this week that claims to be able to handle over 90% of a traditional bank’s services, whether it’s cash or cashless. Customers will be greeted by a robot as they enter the lobby who’s supposed to communicate with them and help with their needs.

The bank also claims to offer services including:

  • Video teller machines
  • Currency exchange machines
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality

Why it’s hot: Deferring low-value work to machines is inevitable to increase efficiency and profit margin. Brainpower should be reserved for cognitive work.

Source

Big brother is watching, literally

China is piloting a new surveillance system – using smart glasses to identify potential suspects. Police in Zhengzhou can snap pictures of people in public and match them with China’s state database of criminals. They will then be provided with that person’s name and address.

Why it’s hot: Giving new technology everyday, functional implications

Source: Tech Crunch

Drone, curbing overtime employees

In some Asian countries including Japan and China, there’s a culture that encourages employees to work overtime. Sadly, overtime has led to deaths.

A Japanese company named Taisei wants to solve this problem in an unconventional way. They designed a drone that surveils around the office with camera and blasts Auld Lang Syne to nag people into going home. In Japan this song is usually used to indicate closing time. Their plan is to make it hard for people to concentrate and continue to work.

Why it’s hot: a very functional and useful application of cutting-edge technologies.

Source

90 terabytes of facial recognition

China facial recognition

China is building the world’s most powerful facial recognition system with the power to identify any one of its 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. The government states the system is being developed for security and official uses such as tracking wanted suspects and public administration and that commercial application using information sourced from the database will not be allowed under current regulations.

“[But] a policy can change due to the development of the economy and increasing demand from society,” said Chen Jiansheng, an associate professor at the department of electrical engineering at Tsinghua University and a member of the ministry’s Committee of Standardisation overseeing technical developments in police forces.

Chinese companies are already taking the commercial application of facial recognition technology to new heights. Students can now enter their university halls, travellers can board planes without using a boarding pass and diners can pay for a meal at KFC. Some other restaurants have even offered discounts to customers based on a machine that ranks their looks according to an algorithm. Customers with “beautiful” characteristics – such as symmetrical features – get better scores than those with noses that are “too big” or “too small” and those that get better scores will get cheaper meals.

More at South China Morning Post and ABS-CBN.

Why It’s Hot
Another weekly installment of balancing convenience and claims of safety with privacy and ethics. China is pushing us faster than most other countries to address this question sooner rather than later.

The Delicate Art of Creating a National Holiday

“Holidays have just gotten so commercialized that we’ve lost the true meaning.”

…or so one side of that conversation quips. However, with no other vision except pure, unadulterated commercialism as catalyst, the Chinese government is pulling no punches with it’s latest Holiday proclamation.

How could the world’s second-largest economy and renown manufacturing powerhouse, have so many of it’s companies struggle with brand-building? The country’s leadership wants to change that, and the State Council, or cabinet, has proclaimed that every May 10 from now on will be known as “Chinese Brands Day.”

Chinese Brands Day can be seen as a message to Chinese companies that the government wants them to focus more on branding as the market is trying to build its influence internationally.  There are only two Chinese companies on Interbrand‘s list of the best global brands,phone manufacturer Huawei (No. 72) and PC maker Lenovo (No. 99.)

One of China’s other goals is to change the connotations of “Made in China.” After years of focus on process, efficiency and manufacturing, a higher focus on quality products and services and a whole lot of brand lovin’ seems only natural. It remains to be seen how creative brands will leverage the holiday to stand out or engage audiences.

Why It’s Hot:

It will be interesting to see whether this holiday empowers consumers to rally behind brands in any meaningful way.  China is not short of holidays or brands, but will consumers really embrace this as a means to deepen connections with brands and will brands accept the challenge to love them back? It may be just stimuli emitted from the government in an effort to keep pace with top global brands, but it’s interesting to throw the gauntlet down and see if your business and marketing leadership picks it up and runs.

 

China’s High-Tech Tool to Fight Toilet Paper Bandits

The toilet paper thieves of the Temple of Heaven Park were an elusive bunch.

They looked like most park visitors, practicing tai chi, dancing in the courtyards and stopping to take in the scent of ancient cypress and juniper trees. But hidden in their oversize shopping bags and backpacks was a secret: sheet upon sheet of crumpled toilet paper, plucked surreptitiously from public restrooms.

Now the authorities in Beijing are fighting back, going so far as to install high-tech toilet paper dispensers equipped with facial recognition software in several restrooms.

Before entering restrooms in the park, visitors must now stare into a computer mounted on the wall for three seconds before a machine dispenses a sheet of toilet paper, precisely two feet in length. If visitors require more, they are out of luck. The machine will not dispense a second roll to the same person for nine minutes.

At the Temple of Heaven Park, one of Beijing’s busiest tourist sites, many people said on Monday they were pleased by the new machines.

“The people who steal toilet paper are greedy,” said He Zhiqiang, 19, a customer service worker from the northwestern region of Ningxia. “Toilet paper is a public resource. We need to prevent waste.”

Qin Gang, 63, taking a stroll through the park with his wife, said China’s history of crippling poverty had left some people eager to exploit public goods.

“It’s a very bad habit,” Mr. Qin said. “Maybe we can use technology to change how people think.”

Not everyone was enthusiastic. Some people, frustrated by the new technology, banged their fists against the machines, which park employees said cost about $720 each.

Other visitors had more exacting critiques.

“The sheets are too short,” said Wang Jianquan, 63, a retired shopping mall manager.

Lei Zhenshan, marketing director for Shoulian Zhineng, the company in Tianjin that designed the device, said in an interview: “We brainstormed many options: fingerprints, infrared and facial recognition. We went with facial recognition, because it’s the most hygienic way.’’

Mr. Lei said an earlier version of the device was installed last year at the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing. An official at the Temple of Heaven, who would not give her name, said the facial recognition dispensers there were on trial, and if judged a success, would be placed in all the park’s toilet

Source: New York Times

Why It’s Hot

Somethings technology can go too far. I like the idea of getting creative and using technology to solve low-tech problems, but this seems to have gone too far for what it’s worth.

Taobao villages: “E-commerce runs toward the road of happiness”

Daiji township is a dusty collection of villages in China’s central heartland plains. It was described in a recent article in a Chinese magazine as a place “synonymous with backwardness, the unwanted stepchild of Shandong province.”

But in 2016, Daiju sold 1.8 billion yuan ($26.2 million) worth of acting and dance costumes.

“Made in China” is nothing new. But the internet and e-Commerce specifically have exponentially increased the volume and reach of manufacturing, changing the face of the country. Half of Daiji’s 45,000 residents now produce or sell costumes—ranging from movie-villain attire to cute versions of snakes, alligators, and monkeys on Alibaba-owned Taobao.

And Daiji is not the only rural town in China dramatically changed by globalization. In November 2016, China’s State Council Office on Poverty Alleviation, along with 16 other ministries, released guidelines calling for a massive expansion of e-commerce in rural areas as part of the fight against poverty.

Taobao

Why It’s Hot
In the current political environment where countries like the U.S., the U.K. and France are looking for ways to preserve jobs of old, looking at countries that continually push to capitalize on globalization may help us to embrace change rather than hide from it.

Instagram grows in China, despite ban on parent Facebook

Facebook — like so many other Internet sites — has been blocked in China by government censors for years. But Facebook-owned Instagram, beloved by photographers and selfie-addicts alike around the globe, has so far managed to avoid any major scrutiny.

Since Facebook took Instagram under its wing in 2012, Facebook HQ has been quiet about Instagram’s milestones in the Chinese market. The last time we heard “Instagram” and “China” spoken in the same sentence by an insider was as far back as November 2011, when Instagram founder Kevin Systrom divulged at TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing that his app was picking up 100,000 users in China per week.

It’s impossible to exactly identify how Instagram is faring among China’s 700 million smartphone and tablet users, but we can put Instagram’s growth into perspective with the aid of market researcher App Annie. Instagram ranked 312th in Apple’s App Store in China on the day of Systrom’s Disrupt appearance in late 2011 and has since climbed to a 66th overall rank.

Thanks to Weibo, Major news events pushed Instagram into viral adoption in the United States. Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was Instagram’s defining moment. The app was at the center of social media attention as it served up-to-date, user-generated images that drove users to the platform by the masses.

Recently in China, an apparent suicide was documented via Instagram and republished to Weibo, a tragedy that caught the public’s attention through Chinese online media and brought more Chinese users to the photo-sharing service.

In the wider sense, opinion leaders and celebrities are also propelling Instagram’s growth in the region via their re-shares to Weibo. Many of these include Chinese celebrities (and Internet celebrities) like Ling Jia Lu, Sun Fei Fei, and Zhang Xin Yuan, with hundreds of thousands of followers, as well as Beijing and Shanghai elites like Bao Bao Wan or one-time Beijing expatbeijingemily” who’s picked up 200,000 users (mostly from China).

Why it’s HOT: Although Instagram doesn’t have the same monstrous user base in China as WeChat or Weibo, its tremendous growth in a country known for its strict government censorship is an amazing feat. It truly proves the power of the consumers’ demand for social media and image sharing, especially in helping it survive and thrive in such a market. For marketers, we must decide for our brands whether to utilize platforms with larger users or the platforms that are hot (in download trends) and might more efficiently appeal to the impressions of a niche audience.

Furthermore, I also found it hot that Instagram’s growth in China is attributed to the same way that Twitter grew in popularity in the U.S. Has a formula for growing new social media platforms been found? In this case, live-sharing events with pictures and celebrity interactions has helped Twitter in the U.S. and Instagram in China overcome all odds. That’s something to think about!