City's first 'smart' public toilet for late night access being trialled

Hu Min
Users gain entry to secure facility by scanning QR code and are limited to 15 minutes before alarm is activated.
Hu Min
Shot by Jiang Xiaowei. Edited by Jiang Xiaowei. Subtitles by Hu Min.
City's first 'smart' public toilet for late night access being trialled
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A woman scans the QR code on Wednesday night at the toilet.

City's first 'smart' public toilet for late night access being trialled
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

A user scans the QR code to open the toilet door on Wednesday night.

A smart public toilet in the Pudong New Area which enables users to scan the QR code to gain access has provided a welcome solution for people who need to use the facility at night.

Located at the intersection of Century Avenue and Yanggao Road M., the toilet is the first of its kind in the city.

Once cleaners finish their shift, it will be switched to night operation mode from 9pm, with door closed. By scanning a QR code on the door, people who need to use it later are able to open the door.

The mobile toilet with three cubicles is close to Shanghai Science and Technology Museum Station of Metro Line 2.

"Its normal opening hours are from 5am to 9pm, and I will switch it to night mode when I leave," said a cleaner surnamed Liu.

The door will be locked automatically when people enter the facility.

It has been operating for about two weeks during which more than 100 people have used it at night.

"It is really convenient to use and it really meets our need," said a cabbie surnamed Ye who used the toilet on Wednesday night.

"It is not easy for taxi drivers to find a public toilet in the city, particularly an open one at midnight," she added. "This one is very convenient and is even better for female drivers."

"There are many white-collar workers in the area, and the toilet being open at night is good news for us when we do overtime," said Yu Xiaoxiao who works in the area.

If users do not come out after 15 minutes, the toilet will send an alarm automatically to night-shift staff for safety reasons.

To scan QR code requires users to register their cellphone numbers, helping authorities identify and contact them if necessary.

Night-shift workers will be able to contact people trapped inside via either the installed alarm system or users' registered cellphone numbers and rush to the scene after receiving the alarm.

A user who could not open the door can contact maintenance workers using the SOS button.

If all efforts fail to contact users, workers will arrive at the scene within 20 minutes, said Song Jun, deputy director of the Pudong New Area Public Sanitation and Landscape Management Affairs Center.

The idea of the smart toilet originated from vending machines, said Song.

"The public toilet is near the Metro station, and the operation of Line 2 is later than the closing time of the toilet," said Song. "The intelligent mode is designed to cater to the demands of people who work overtime at night or others."

"It saves human cost and also eliminates potential safety hazards," he said.

"We have found that homeless people lock the door inside public toilets in winter, and that crimes happen inside. So keeping the doors open at night exposes safety loopholes," he added.

Authorities in Pudong said they plan to adopt the same intelligent approach to convert more than 100 mobile public toilets near Metro stations and tourist attractions to satisfy the needs at night.

"We will do assessments and surveys and pick some toilets for renovation," said Song.

"But toilets in the areas with huge passenger flow at night will not be considered because they need human cleaning due to hygiene concerns," said Fang Wenjie, an official in charge of toilet management at the center.

"We will closely follow the trial operations of the toilet where the aim is to improve the convenience, safety and comfort of users and provide better services to them," said Fang.

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