Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper bandits

Facial recognition technology foils toilet paper banditsVisitors to the Temple Haven Park in Beijing are being looked at more closely – by the toilet paper dispensers. The dispensers use facial recognition technology to determine who gets toilet paper and who doesn’t.

Park officials installed the dispensers to curb rampant toilet paper thefts at the popular tourist site. The dispensers, which activate when a person stares into them for three seconds, rip off a precisely two-foot piece of paper. Thanks to the dispenser, a bathroom visitor can only get a new stash of TP once every nine minutes. Need more? Out of luck.

Visitors to the park aren’t particularly pleased with the high-tech TP guardians. Some think that the dispensers are a little too stingy with the paper; others lament the fact that the dispensers are even necessary.

Park officials found that locals, rather than visitors, were making off with the toilet paper in the park’s restrooms. To combat the thefts, they strategized about ways to discourage the bandits. Ultimately, they settled on facial recognition technology because it doesn’t require the user to touch the machine. Other rejected solutions used fingerprint readers and infrared scanners.

The dispensers cost northward of $700 each, but park officials believe that they’ll cut down on paper waste and paper theft. The restrooms at the park are somewhat of an oddity in China; most public restrooms don’t supply toilet paper in the first place. The Temple Haven Park has provided complementary wipes for about 10 years, but was being overwhelmed by the demand.

Some park visitors say that the toilet paper problem exemplifies the impact of poverty on ordinary Chinese citizens. In a country where the “squat toilet” is still the king of the hill, toilet paper is something of a rare commodity. Foreign visitors are advised to carry their own toilet paper when sightseeing, and putting the paper in the bowl when you’re finished is frowned upon. That’s because the plumbing in China often isn’t big enough to accommodate toilet paper.

Visitors who can’t bear the thought of using a public restroom in China are often advised to seek out a local McDonald’s or a western-style hotel, where flush toilets (and presumably free toilet paper) are standard.

Sometimes, even in the good, old US of A, your plumbing may not be up to the task. Objects that weren’t intended to be flushed can clog a pipe. Minerals and other deposits can also reduce water flow in the system. We’re always here to help with the most unpleasant problems that can crop up with your favorite flusher. Give us a call at (617) 288-2911. We don’t provide free toilet paper, but we’ll make sure your toilet is up to whatever you can throw at it!

Photo Credit: Simon Schoeters, via Flickr