Flood-prone Chinese province tests QR code-based safety checks

Policemen transfer the flood-stranded people in Putuo scenic area of Zhoushan City, east China's Zhejiang Province, Aug. 10, 2019. Typhoon Lekima, the ninth of the year, made landfall on Saturday in Wenling City. Rescue and clean-up works were carried out in all parts of Zhejiang Province. (Photo by Zou Xunyong/Xinhua). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

BEIJING, JUn 5, 2020, SCMP. A few years ago, Facebook introduced Safety Check, a feature that lets users let their friends know they’re safe during an emergency. Now a province in China is introducing a similar feature using QR codes in popular Chinese apps while also trying to offer a potentially life-saving tool, South China Morning Post reported.

Zhejiang’s new “safety QR code” helps users mark themselves safe during natural disasters. It comes as the province prepares for hurricane season, which regularly causes floods in the region. But one significant difference with Facebook is that the Zhejiang codes will send information to rescue workers instead of social media contacts. Authorities in charge of rescue operations can scan QR codes in mini programs on Tencent’s WeChat and the mobile payment app Alipay. Users can also mark their elderly family members safe as they might not have a phone.

QR codes are now used for a wide variety of things in China, from mobile payments to looking at restaurant menus. A recent application that swept the country is contact tracing health codes to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Though some of the ways these codes have been used have proven controversial, the government is also looking into expanding their use after the pandemic.

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