Yinchuan: The smart city where your face is your credit card

composite image of woman's face and night view of Hong Kong

Story highlights

  • Yinchuan is the capital of Ningxia province, in northern China
  • The smart city is trialing solar-powered bins that compress trash
  • Face recognition has replaced the fare box on local buses

Yinchuan, China (CNN)Like most people, I'd never heard of Yinchuan before going there.

But the Chinese officials showing me around are eager to present the capital of Ningxia province, in the north of China, as a technical marvel.
And I should pay attention: Yinchuan is intended to serve as the blueprint "smart city" for scores of urban metropolises across China.
    It also raises some serious questions about data privacy.

    When your face pays

    In Yinchuan, your face is your credit card.
    On the local buses, facial recognition software has replaced the fare box. Much like a fingerprint can unlock a smartphone, passengers' faces are linked to their bank accounts, meaning boarding isn't slowed by people fishing for exact change.