Nap capsules in Beijing shut over safety issues

A woman checks the capsule bed unit next to a staff member at Xiangshui Space during lunch break in Beijing's Zhongguancun area, China July 11, 2017.
PHOTO: Reuters

Sleep-sharing capsules in Zhongguancun, a tech hub in Beijing has been shut down, as its validity has been questioned, Beijing Morning Post reported.

Sleep-sharing capsules have popped up in Beijing and Shanghai recently, drawing immediate public attention. Primarily targeted at white-collar workers, the capsules have been mostly set up in office buildings.

To use the capsule, people simply scan a QR code on the outside of each capsule and pay 6 yuan (90 cents) per 30 minutes during off-peak times or 10 yuan ($ 1.47) per half-hour in peak times.

But the capsules are now closed with employees telling customers that the capsules need to be upgraded.

Dai Jiangong, who runs Beijing Xiangshui Technology Corporation that makes the sleeping-sharing capsules, said: "We started to pilot the programme from the end of May. We have not received any seal up notice or rectification proposals from relevant departments. "

"It is the company that decides to temporarily close the capsules to communicate with authorities for long-term development considerations."

He stressed that the company has not officially launched the capsules but was testing them out and gathering users' feedback in Beijing.

The sleeping capsule is not a hotel room or rental bed. It's designed to provide a comfortable space during noon break for white-collar workers in office buildings.

"So we are just open during work shift and closed at nights." he said.

According to Dai, the company will officially launch the sleep-sharing capsules after obtaining approval from relevant departments.

China's 'sharing economy' opens capsule hotels

  • For China's sleep-deprived white-collar workers needing a place for a nap, a booming "sharing economy" offering a growing range of services has come up with a cheap, mobile-friendly solution: capsule hotels.
  • With an easy phone scan, customers can book a nap in a sleek white capsule - designed to look like a space pod - for just 10 yuan (S$2.03) for half an hour during the mid-day rush.
  • "It's really meeting a rigid demand as many professionals have a difficult time finding a nice private place to nap," said Han Yue, operations manager at Xiangshui Space,
  • a Beijing-based start-up which launched the services in Beijing in May and has since opened up in Shanghai and Chengdu.
  • Han said her capsules were different to Japan's capsule hotels, because she was targeting a different type of customer, those looking for a quick nap, not a full night of sleep.
  • The company plans to extend to cities such as Qingdao, Nanjing and Shenzhen by the end of July or early August, she said.

Zhu Wei, a professor at China University of Political Science and Law and an expert member of the sharing economy committee of the Internet Society of China said the sleep-sharing capsules are not technically a part of the sharing economy, but a time-share lease.

"Real sharing means the users rent out their own free rooms while sleep-sharing capsule is not of this kind," he said.

Zhu Wei stressed that operating hotels requires the approval of departments of industry and commerce, health and fire control, none of which the sleeping-sharing capsule has.

He said there may be hidden security problems. "There may be problems with prostitution, drug abusing, infectious diseases and so on," he said.

In a hotel, the house keeper would clean up and disinfect the entire space when guests leave, but the sleep-sharing capsule does not provide a cleaner each time.

Zhu Wei believes that the sleep-sharing capsule needs to get relevant qualifications to ensure users' health and safety.