When you walk into a small police station in Jinan, Shandong Province, you will not be served by a real person but by a robot that can answer your questions and tell you which machine can provide the service you need.
The self-service police station in the city's Shizhong district, just a five-minute walk from the district's exit-entry service hall, has five machines that provide round-the-clock services for some exit and entry matters and also ones related to household and identification affairs.
Although the machines handle some of the same matters as police officers behind a counter, their service is faster and is not limited to nine-to-five work hours.
"At the self-service police station, it takes no more than three minutes to get a permit renewed," said Wang Tao, an officer at Jinan's public security bureau.
But without the machines, there was usually a five-day wait to renew a permit to enter Hong Kong and Macao after filling out forms and paying the fee over the counter.
The machines in the 10-square-meter self-service station work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them useful to those with busy schedules.
Liu Gang, the head of the bureau's Shizhong district branch, which supervises the self-service station, said more than a quarter of the matters dealt with at the self-service police station were handled outside of normal working hours.
Li Hongliang, a Jinan resident who visited the self-service police station recently to get his permit to travel to Hong Kong and Macao, said: "It saved me a lot of time as I don't need to stand in line and I don't have to come during work time."
Wang said that since the self-service police station opened a month ago, more people were using it than the exit-entry service hall.
The self-service police station is part of police efforts in Shandong to use technology to better serve people.
Other examples include using state-of-the-art surveillance cameras in appropriate places to oversee security, a big data-based cloud platform that stores information on social management, and advanced systems using biological and material-recognition technology that can help identify suspects and evidence.
In Xiaoyihe village in Dongying, a coastal city northeast of Jinan, cameras and the presence of 30 police assistants have helped reduce the incidence of crime by 40 percent year-on-year, the city's public security bureau said.
Cameras that can record sound and high-quality images have been installed in key locations in 4,125 villages around Shandong to prevent crimes.
"A lot of villages only have the elderly, women and children as young men have left to work in cities, putting intense pressure on rural security work," said Meng Xiaoguang, who is in charge of the technology-powered public security work of Shandong's Provincial Department of Public Security.
"Surveillance cameras in required places not only help prevent crimes in rural areas but also make social management more comprehensive."