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 lost my laptop. On my way to Wuzhen, I must have left my MacBook somewhere on the premises of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. I didn't realize that until I arrived at my 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 knew I could barely write a word without my laptop.
I whipped out my 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.
With my heart in my 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 lost MacBook (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 I may have most likely left the laptop: the railway station's waiting hall and a nearby McDonald's.
More importantly, the retriever arrived at the scene within 15 minutes. Though I was in Wuzhen 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 visited McDonald's.
Thanks to Kezhou Qiujian's close ties with commercial establishments in and around the station premises, he could even access McDonald's closed-circuit television footage. He then sent me a screen grab of me walking out of the restaurant with the laptop in my hand.
If you, dear reader, are expecting an immediate happy ending to my lost-laptop story, I'm sorry I've to disappoint you. The story continues, with the retriever always ready to help me find new clues. I had to use my colleagues' laptops to get on with my 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 few years back.
As Alibaba Group supremo Jack Ma told the World Internet Conference: "This is just the beginning, the next 30 years will see more technological breakthroughs that will revolutionize our lives."