- 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.
Public trash bins that run on solar power and double as compactors, allowing them to increase their capacity five-fold, are being trialed within the city's Smart Community Project -- an occupied "living lab" which acts as a mini-city within the city. The bins send out a signal when they're full, so garbage collectors know when to empty them.
Grocery shopping is also, potentially, a thing of the past. Residents can order food via an app on their phone and, rather than wait at home for perishables to turn up, they can pick up their shopping at centrally located refrigerated smart lockers.
At the City Hall, holograms -- not people -- usher in residents. A smattering of QR codes dot the walls, allowing people to get quick answers to frequently asked questions and avoid waiting in line. At a recent Yinchuan job fair, for example, job seekers scanned the codes to get quick information about job openings.