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UR Work ushers in the era of staff-less experience

By Fan Feifei | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-23 07:58

Chinese co-working space startup UR Work is introducing an immersive, cashier-free and digitally-enhanced experience in its offices, where face recognition and digital payment technologies allow for the removal of the human element.

The high-tech workspace is funded through a partnership with Ant Financial Services Group, the financial affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Those who use UR Work could enter into the conference room, fitness room, KTV and laundry room or buy beverages, fast food and snacks without the help of a human workforce. All they need to do is to scan the QR code or look at a screen and blink.

UR Work is the earliest co-working space to access Ant Financial's technology. Ant Financial plans to promote this cashier-free experience to more merchants, providing identify verification, risk control and payment and settlement services.

The experience is similar to a cashier-free coffee shop, called Tao Cafe, unveiled last month in Hangzhou. In order to enter the store, customers must have Alibaba's Taobao app downloaded on their phone. The 200-square-meter store offering beverages, fast food and snacks can accommodate 50 customers at a time.

They can purchase a variety of beverages and snacks. After selecting their desired products, shoppers simply exit the store and their bills are automatically paid via the e-payment account on his smartphone.

Jiang Kui, an industry director at Ant Financial's merchant service department, said the cashier-free experience combines automated visual sensors and facial recognition to reduce error rates.

Jiang said the company is devoted to open more technologies to small- and medium-sized enterprises, such as VR payment, intelligent money management and intelligent customer services.

"The cashier-free experience will be applied into more scenarios in the next three years, which will stimulate consumption and promote its upgrades," said Mao Daqing, founder and CEO of UR Work.

Lu Zhenwang, CEO of Shanghai-based Wanqing Consultancy, said staff-less stores will bring the "next spring" to the retail industry, though this kind of store is in its trial phase and the related technology is not mature.

"How to replenish the stocks without a human workforce is still a big problem."

Founded in 2015, UR Work is backed by Sequoia Capital, in addition to Ant Financial, and was recently valued at $1.3 billion after a merger with its domestic rival, New Space. It has established its co-working platform across 18 cities, including Shanghai and Beijing.

UR Work is expected to expand to 32 cities around the globe in the coming one to three years, and is capable of providing 100,000 sets of workstations. The overall working space will reach 700,000 square meters, Mao said.

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