The smartest lock yet? China’s Airbnb is bringing in face recognition

By Kitty Knowles 5 December 2017
Image: Getty/monkeybusinessimages

Want this for your Airbnb apartment?

It’s late. You’re jetlagged. We get it.

The last thing you want to do when you arrive at your Airbnb is to pick up keys from an overly talkative host – or dig around in the post room for a lock box.

Xaiozhu, China’s billion-dollar answer to Airbnb, believes it has the answer.

It’s going to use facial recognition to verify guests.

Inching ahead of Airbnb?

Xaiozhu will start using ‘face ID’ locks by April 2018, CEO Kelvin Chen told the South China Morning Post.

If it works, it could be hugely useful for those who own and visit the company’s 200,000 listings in China – even inching it, in convenience, ahead of American rival Airbnb.

The reason such a leap forward is possible is a lack of regulation, says Chen.

“China has less cultural, customs or legal barriers when it comes to a sharing economy,” he explains. This is allowing Xaiozhu to move quickly in embracing new technologies.

But, without regulators, this dive into the unknown comes with huge risks.

Smart lock fails

We’ve already seen how detrimental smart lock fails can be in the West – even when facial recognition is not being used.

This summer Lockstate, a smart code lock brand recommended by Airbnb experienced a bug that left hundreds locked out.

Just last month, Amazon’s connected door lock – a device that’s been designed to allow delivery people to drop off packages in your home – was shown to be easily hacked by potential robbers.

And since the release of Apple’s iPhone X, we’ve seen numerous attempts to trick its face ID – with masks, or ‘evil twins’.

Chinese locals do have experience on their side when it comes to brands adopting facial recognition: KFC recently, for example, introduced Alipay’s ‘Smile to Pay’ technology into its stores.

But the stakes are far higher in your home, than in your local chicken shop.

We’ve said it before, smart home heaven can very quickly turn into smart home hell.

You don’t want the most precious asset in your life being hacked.