Will Self-Service Kiosks Eventually Replace Humans?

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles lately about potential job loss due to emerging technologies, including robots, self-service terminals and even kiosks. It’s an interesting fear that might be rooted in events of the past including the industrial revolution which saw the loss of many jobs due to automation.

 
creative_1027 - Copy - Copy - CopyBut is there enough evidence currently to worry about something like this happening in the near future? Some will argue that there already is. Panera bread recently implemented ordering kiosk which will replace human cashiers. An article on inquisitor.com – Panera Bread Ordering Kiosks to Replace Human Kiosks, reports that these kiosks will be deployed by 2016. The goal is to not only reduce the amount of time that customers stand in line to place their orders but reduce the wait time once the order has been placed as well.

 
The new technology, which is already being used at the company’s Boston and Charlotte locations, will be implemented at an additional 150 Panera restaurants this year. This means there will be a reduction in the number of cash registers at each store and customers will have the option of also placing orders via smartphones, laptops or tablets while at a Panera restaurant for either eat in orders or takeout. The company insists that despite the introduction of the kiosks that there will be no job loss as employees will now be delivering food directly to customers’ tables. It’s being done to improve service and order accuracy.

 
McDonald’s restaurants also introduced 7,000 touchscreen kiosks at some of their European outlets that will allow customers to place and pay for orders using cash or credit. It is no surprise then that according to a report, three in ten Britons believe their jobs will be replaced by a robot. In an article by Rhiannon Williams “Almost half of the 2,000 members of the British public surveyed (46 percent) admitted they are concerned that technology is evolving too quickly and is undermining traditional ways of life.”

 
Maybe it’s a development that is inevitable, with the increased need for us to stay connected – always having a device that allows us to quickly access information, complete transactions and just generally do things faster and more efficiently. It seems that self-service technology and gadgets associated with it would be a natural progression given our growing dependence on technology.

 
However, the jury is still out, especially with regard to self-service kiosks eliminating workers. Kiosks provide an easier way to serve customers and improve a company’s ability to provide an enhanced service experience. But they can never replace the human interaction which is still important in situations where a customer may be frustrated, lack knowledge or be averse to using technology and businesses must still attempt to cater to all.

 
As Martin Smith, Professor of Robotics at University of Middlesex, so aptly puts it in Ms. Williams’ article, “Though many fear their jobs will be taken over by machines, it is more likely that robots will be used as assistants, and the future workforce could have the benefit of avoiding hazardous and repetitive tasks rather than suffer mass redundancies.” We couldn’t have said it better.