Search for lost lap­top pro­duces not a happy end­ing but awe

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE / PEOPLE - Con­tact the writer at masi@chi­

As a tech re­porter who has been cov­er­ing China’s dy­namic in­ter­net in­dus­try for a year, I never fully grasped the power of the mo­bile com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy un­til I landed in Wuzhen. The re­al­iza­tion dawned on me in a rather un­ex­pected way.

The day be­fore the an­nual event opened, I lostmy lap­top. Onmy way toWuzhen, I must have left­myMacBook some­where on the premises of the Shang­haiHongqiao Rail­way Sta­tion. I didn’t re­al­ize that un­til I ar­rived atmy Wuzhen ho­tel at 10:20 pm.

Trav­el­ing back 110 kilo­me­ters just to re­trieve it (pre­sum­ing it was found by some­one) was out of ques­tion. Worse, it may have been stolen by some­one.

Anx­i­ety seized me. In this age of the in­ter­net, a jour­nal­ist with­out a lap­top is like a solider with­out a weapon. At that mo­ment, I knewI could barely write a word with­out my lap­top.

I whipped outmy smart­phone and searched on­line for the tele­phone num­ber of the rail­way sta­tion’s Lost and Found Of­fice. The sta­tion’s web­site was chaotic, hardly help­ful.

Withmy heart inmy mouth, I tried to think. Thank­fully, I came across in­for­ma­tion about a mo­bile app called Kezhou Qi­u­jian. Its tagline was “To find ev­ery­thing you lost”.

The app claimed it can link own­ers of lost prop­erty with peo­ple who are near­est to the scene where the ob­ject may have been lost, and help col­lect it.

The cost of the imag­i­na­tive, in­valu­able ser­vice varies, de­pend­ing on how fast the user wants the finder to ar­rive at the scene. In a sense, it works just like a ride-hail­ing ser­vice.

En­cour­aged and hope­ful, I de­cided to give it a try. Af­ter down­load­ing the app, I tapped in the de­tails. I was asked to pay 99 yuan ($14.5) by some­one nice. He tried his best to help me search for the lostMacBook (it cost me more than 7,000 yuan not so long ago).

He took the or­der less than a minute af­ter I placed it on­line. The whole process was quite im­pres­sive, given that it was al­ready 11 pm. He helped me re­call two places where Imay have most likely left the lap­top: the rail­way sta­tion’s wait­ing hall and a near­byMcDon­ald’s.

More im­por­tantly, the re­triever ar­rived at the scene within 15 min­utes. Though I was in­Wuzhen 110 km away, I could track the finder’s progress in Shang­hai on the app.

As luck would have it, the rail­way sta­tion wait­ing hall was closed by then. So, he ap­proached the Lost and Found Of­fice. Draw­ing a blank there, he called off the search for the night. The next day, he vis­it­edMcDon­ald’s.

Thanks to Kezhou Qi­u­jian’s close ties with com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments in and around the sta­tion premises, he could even ac­cessMcDon­ald’s closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion footage. He then sent me a screen grab of me walk­ing out of the restau­rant with the lap­top inmy hand.

If you, dear reader, are ex­pect­ing an im­me­di­ate happy end­ing tomy lost-lap­top story, I’msorry I’ve to dis­ap­point you. The story con­tin­ues, with the re­triever al­ways ready to help me find new­clues. I had to usemy col­leagues’ lap­tops to get on withmy re­portage.

But then, that’s not the story at all. The real story is how apps such as Kezhou Qi­u­jian, and the mo­bile in­ter­net tech­nol­ogy, are trans­form­ing our lives.

Apps are bring­ing off­line ser­vices like cook­ing, house­keep­ing, man­i­cures and mas­sages to our doorstep. They are tar­get­ing ev­ery­day prob­lems to pro­vide so­lu­tions that none could have imag­ined even a fewyears back.

As Alibaba Group supremo JackMa told the­World In­ter­net Con­fer­ence: “This is just the be­gin­ning, the next 30 years will see more tech­no­log­i­cal break­throughs that will rev­o­lu­tion­ize our lives.”

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