Food Delivery Apps Are Drowning China In Plastic

“The astronomical growth of food delivery apps in China is flooding the country with takeout containers, utensils and bags,” writes Raymond Zhong and Carolyn Zhang for The New York Times. “And the country’s patchy recycling system isn’t keeping up. The vast majority of this plastic ends up discarded, buried or burned with the rest of the trash, researchers and recyclers say.” From the report:

Scientists estimate that the online takeout business in China was responsible for 1.6 million tons of packaging waste in 2017, a ninefold jump from two years before. That includes 1.2 million tons of plastic containers, 175,000 tons of disposable chopsticks, 164,000 tons of plastic bags and 44,000 tons of plastic spoons. Put together, it is more than the amount of residential and commercial trash of all kinds disposed of each year by the city of Philadelphia. The total for 2018 grew to an estimated two million tons.

Recyclers manage to return some of China’s plastic trash into usable form to feed the nation’s factories. The country recycles around a quarter of its plastic, government statistics show, compared with less than 10 percent in the United States. But in China, takeout boxes do not end up recycled, by and large. They must be washed first. They weigh so little that scavengers must gather a huge number to amass enough to sell to recyclers. “Half a day’s work for just a few pennies. It isn’t worth it,” said Ren Yong, 40, a garbage collector at a downtown Shanghai office building. He said he threw takeout containers out.

Many people in urban China are using the delivery apps because “delivery is so cheap, and the apps offer such generous discounts, that it is now possible to believe that ordering a single cup of coffee for delivery is a sane, reasonable thing to do,” the report adds.

You Will Soon Be Able To Pay Your Subway Fare With Your Face in China

China has led the world in adoption of smartphone-based mobile payments to the point where the central bank had to remind merchants not to discriminate against cash. The next phase of development may be to pay with your face.

In Shenzhen, the local subway operator is testing various advanced technologies backed by the ultra-fast 5G network, including facial-recognition ticketing.

At the Futian station, instead of presenting a ticket or scanning a QR bar code on their smartphones, commuters can scan their faces on a tablet-sized screen mounted on the entrance gate and have the fare automatically deducted from their linked accounts.

Currently in a trial mode, the facial-recognition ticketing service could in future help improve the efficiency of handling the up to 5 million rides per day on the city’s subway network. Shenzhen Metro did not elaborate when it will roll out the facial payment service.

The introduction of facial recognition-and-payment services to the public transit system marks another step by China toward integrating facial recognition and other artificial intelligence-based technology into everyday life in the world’s most populous nation.

Consumers can already pay for fried chicken at KFC in China with its “Smile to Pay” facial recognition system, first introduced at an outlet in Hangzhou in January 2017.

“To use facial ticketing in the future, passengers will also need preregistration of their facial information and link their payment methods to their accounts, just like them making payments at the KFC restaurant,” said a staff member at the Futian station’s demonstration area in Shenzhen.
China may use facial recognition to stop kids from live streaming

Chinese cities are among the most digitally savvy and cashless in the world, with about 583 million people using their smartphones to make payment in China last year, according to the China Internet Network Information Center. Nearly 68 per cent of China’s internet users used a mobile wallet for their offline payments.

Chinese schools enforce ‘smart uniforms’ with GPS tracking system to monitor students

Chinese schools have begun enforcing “smart uniforms” embedded with computer chips to monitor student movements and prevent them from skipping classes.

Eleven schools in the south-west province of Guizhou have introduced the uniforms, which were developed by local tech firm Guizhou Guanyu Technology.

As students enter the school, the time and date is recorded along with a short video that parents can access via a mobile app.

Facial recognition further ensures that each uniform is worn by its rightful owner to prevent students from cheating the system.

Skipping classes triggers an alarm to inform teachers and parents of the truancy, while an automatic voice alarm activates if a student walks out of school without permission.

A GPS system tracks student movements even beyond the school grounds.

The two chips — inserted into each uniform’s shoulders — can withstand up to 500 washes and 150 degrees Celsius, the company told state media Global Times.

Alarms will also sound if a student falls asleep in class, while parents can monitor purchases their child makes at the school and set spending limits via a mobile app, according to the company’s official website.

AI Mistakes Ad On a Bus For an Actual CEO, Then Publicly Shames Them For ‘Jaywalking’

Since last year, many Chinese cities have cracked down on jaywalking by investing in facial recognition systems and AI-powered surveillance cameras. Jaywalkers are identified and shamed by displaying their photographs on large public screens… Developments are also underway to engage the country’s mobile network operators and social media platforms, such as Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and Sina Weibo, to establish a system in which offenders will receive personal text messages as soon as they are caught violating traffic rules….

Making a compelling case for change is the recent experience of Dong Mingzhu, chairwoman of China’s biggest maker of air conditioners Gree Electric Appliances, who found her face splashed on a huge screen erected along a street in the port city of Ningbo… That artificial intelligence-backed surveillance system, however, erred in capturing Dong’s image on Wednesday from an advertisement on the side of a moving bus. The traffic police in Ningbo, a city in the eastern coastal province of Zhejiang, were quick to recognise the mistake, writing in a post on microblog Sina Weibo on Wednesday that it had deleted the snapshot. It also said the surveillance system would be completely upgraded to cut incidents of false recognition in future.

Bloomberg’s Spy Chip Story Reveals the Murky World of National Security Reporting

Chinese spies reportedly infiltrated the supply chain and installed tiny chips the size of a pencil tip on the motherboards built by Supermicro, which are used in data center servers across the U.S. tech industry — from Apple to Amazon. That chip can compromise data on the server, allowing China to spy on some of the world’s most wealthy and powerful companies. Apple, Amazon and Supermicro — and the Chinese government — strenuously denied the allegations. Apple also released its own standalone statement later in the day, as did Supermicro.

Welcome to the murky world of national security reporting.

I’ve covered cybersecurity and national security for about five years, most recently at CBS, where I reported exclusively on several stories — including the U.S. government’s covert efforts to force tech companies to hand over their source code in an effort to find vulnerabilities and conduct surveillance. And last year I revealed that the National Security Agency had its fifth data breach in as many years, and classified documents showed that a government data collection program was far wider than first thought and was collecting data on U.S. citizens.

Even with this story, my gut is mixed.

In the aftermath of the disclosure of PRISM, the NSA’s data pulling program that implicated several tech companies — including Apple, but not Amazon — the companies came out fighting, vehemently denying any involvement or connection. Was it a failure of reporting? Partially, yes. But the companies also had plausible deniability by cherry picking what they rebuffed. Despite a claim by the government that PRISM had “direct access” to tech companies’ servers, the companies responded that this wasn’t true. They didn’t, however, refute indirect access — which the companies wouldn’t be allowed to say in any case.