Technology is rapidly altering the way even the most routine tasks are completed. Here, we highlight select technologies that aim to transform the way people receive basic services.
Self-Service Kiosks at McDonald’s
McDonald’s recently announced plans to begin rolling out self-service kiosks in 2017 at its franchise fast-food restaurants worldwide. At an average installation cost of $125,000 – $160,000 per restaurant, the kiosks are part of an effort by McDonald’s to increase the accuracy of customer orders and shorten lines. Many have labeled this as an attempt to mitigate increased labor costs in response to recent efforts by unions to raise the minimum wage to $15. However, McDonalds’ CEO Steve Easterbrook stated that this technology is unlikely to result in job cuts and isn’t meant as a “labor replacement.”
The self-service kiosk strategy is designed to improve the customer experience with decreased wait times and improved order accuracy. McDonald’s expects employment numbers to remain at current levels by moving more workers into the kitchen. Around 70% of McDonald’s sales come from the drive-thru, so these kiosks will only impact 30% of their customers. Experts predict these kiosks will become commonplace in the future as Wendy’s and Panera Bread have also begun their own initiatives to implement kiosks at their franchise locations.
In 2017, Amazon will introduce Amazon Go, the grocery store of the future, with a pilot location in Seattle, WA. With no floor employees, store greeters, or cashiers, Amazon Go will be a self-service grocery store. As customers shop, Amazon will automatically determine what items they take from the shelves and charge their individual Amazon accounts when they leave, sending a receipt to their account. If successful, the Amazon model will speed up the customer shopping experience by eliminating checkout lines and lowering prices.
The New York Post slammed Amazon in response to their announcement, calling it “the end of jobs.” Meanwhile, Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, believes innovation like this cannot be hindered as, “It’s a part of capitalism, that there’s going to be this continuous drive for more efficiency.” One thing is clear; for better or worse, this disruptive technology is the way of the future.
Autonomous Uber Drivers
On September 14th in Pittsburgh, PA, Uber Technologies unveiled its long-anticipated autonomous car service. Uber partnered with Volvo and Ford to introduce the driverless taxi service. The pilot program is exclusive to a defined 12-mile area in Pittsburgh, and all rides will have a technician in the front seat to supervise the new technology. Uber and Volvo also inked a $300 million deal to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021. Through this program, Uber joins the long list of companies getting in the autonomous car game. If successful, the introduction of autonomous taxis could replace many of Uber’s 1.5 million drivers. Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO and Co-Founder, stated in a blog post that he “can imagine 50,000 to 100,000 drivers, human drivers, alongside a million-car network.”
Eatsa High-Tech Concepts
Eatsa, a newly-minted competitor to Chipotle, is expanding to Manhattan as it opens its 6th location since its inception a year ago. After quickly gaining popularity in San Francisco, the restaurant expanded to Washington D.C. and now New York City. The fast-casual concept is garnering massive attention because of its radical automated approach to healthy fast food. Through the use of an iPad or cell phone, patrons can place and pay for their order. They then wait for their meal in front of cubbyholes with glass doors that double as digital screens. The glass lights up with the customer’s name and a short animation to indicate their meal is ready. The whole process is designed to take 90 seconds and is completed with zero human interaction.
At their six locations, Eatsa completes orders behind the wall of the cubbyholes with a few Apple “genius” like employees available to help customers who require assistance. Co-Founded by Scott Drummond and Tim Young, the automated ordering system cuts labor and real estate costs, enabling Eatsa to charge 30-40% less for a meal than rival Chipotle. With dishes centered on quinoa, a high-protein seed, Eatsa is environmentally conscious and appears to have found its niche as the founders shared plans to expand even further in the coming months.