What happened: Chinese Airbnb rival Xiaozhu is planning to introduce facial recognition-enabled smart locks in 80% of its listings in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu, aiming to improve the security of users. Xiaozhu is equipping more apartments with smoke detectors, gas alarms, and burglar alarms. It is also setting up a blacklist of tenants who misbehave during their stays at hosts’ homes.
Why it’s important: Xiaozhu, which has over 500,000 active listings in China, is one of the leading Airbnb rivals in the country. As one of the most well-funded short-term rental companies in China, the firm recently received nearly $300 million in a funding round led by Jack Ma’s Yunfeng Capital. China’s home rental market is expected to be worth RMB 50 billion ($7.2 billion) by 2020 with over 6 million shared homes listed and over 100 million tenants. Xiaozhu’s adoption of smart devices in its listed apartments aims to address safety concerns, a major obstacle in the development of the short-term rental industry.