Tag Archives: technology

Another step to a self-service future

Another step to a self-service future

Automation, artificial intelligence and robots are in the news a lot because they represent the awesome—in the real sense of the word—impact these technologies are already having on the way we live and work. The promise of more freedom, convenience, and lower cost seems futuristic until you’re sitting in the back seat of a Uber taxi that you smartphone summoned only moments before.

The Uber app told you the wait time for your taxi, and even alerted you when it arrived. The driver whose rating you could check, also knew your destination and the fastest way to get there before you got in. Best of all: you don’t have to tip him or even pay him because the trip cost is automatically billed to your credit card—and it’s half the cost of what a regular taxi would have cost. (Wonder how the driver feels about that?)

The system minimizes or even eliminates any need to talk to the driver, and with driverless cars on the horizon, soon no one in the front seat will there be, but you probably won’t notice—unless you look up from your smartphone.

Which leads me to think that perhaps the biggest impact of technology is the cutting off of people from other people.

Less warm bodies more cold screens

We’ve already been glimpsing people-less shopping service with Amazon, and people-less service delivery with ATMs, self-service check in, and fill-ups at the gas station.

We’re touching less warm bodies and more cold screens. It’s rapidly becoming a do-it-yourself, self-service economy with people relegated to intervention roles when things go wrong.

Airports maybe the best place to notice this technological impact. Airports are where many of us early adopters are trained and experimented on in the push towards a self-service future.

Now I don’t travel as often as I used to and maybe that’s why the automation changes stand out for me. But then again you tend to notice when instead of a human being, you get a monitor sans smiley face. I’ve gotten used to it with check-in and passport check but self-service baggage check was new to me and for some reason seems like a tipping point —even though it’s been around since 2008.

Allow me to share my story.

Self-service baggage check

This particular morning in Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, I was feeling a bit cocky having pre-selected my seat and printed out my boarding pass, and I had no reason to be concerned when I was directed to a Iane leading to the baggage check where I was greeted not by a smiling face behind a counter, but by mostly empty space where a counter should have been. There were huge openings everywhere a passenger would normally be leaning while chatting with an airline agent, and from afar, it must have looked like we were food for a multi-mouthed monster.

I stood bravely in front of the sleeping beast looking for signs of what to do next—hieroglyphics along the edge of its big mouth maybe. I soon recognized a familiar screen with instructions. It asked me for my passport or boarding pass—can’t remember the exact request— but it was enough for me to begin looking for the familiar passport reader I’d already become familiar with for self-service check-in. I complied and it immediately identified my flight. I confirmed my flight destination when asked, and then it told me to insert the adhesive label (slithering from a little slit), through my baggage handle.

Photo by rhonogle

 

How difficult could this be right?

I who had mastered self-service check-in, embraced online booking, and was undaunted by Nescafe coffee makers, would not be intimidated by self-administering a baggage tag.

This is what my cerebral cortex was saying, but underneath my commando bravado I heard my lizard brain saying “That’s a mighty long strip. Think we can get both sides to lineup?” I looked around to make sure no one saw that uncertainty flash across my face.

No need to worry; the 42 or so Eiffel-towered blue-clad KLM agents (all women) were all busy with not looking anywhere in my direction.

Good. “Don’t show fear” I said under my breath, “they can sense fear.”

I may have even attempted a little whistle, I can’t remember, but if I did I had to stop. I needed all of my mental faculties for the task at hand: finding that almost invisible border where the back of the adhesive strip would peel off to allow me to stick the two sides together. They were hard enough to find on those address labels to stick on your bag, but this was to be a real challenge.

I spent the next 4 hours (probably mins) trying to find this invisible telltale sign that would allow me to insert the edge of my fingernail and liberate the stickiness, but for me no sign would there be.

I took out my reading glasses, then did my best Stevie Wonder impression, moving my fingertips over every square cm of the label while shifting my weight from one leg to the next and tilting my head, eyes closed, from side to side. The adhesive border would not give up its secret location.

With every passing minute I appreciated airline staff even more.

I had seen many an airline person deftly handcuff my suitcase by inserting the baggage label through the bag handle, and then stick both sides together with police precision. Many a time I marvelled at a 60 kg cutie (not sexist, could be a guy), who would then toss my seeming 1000 kg bag onto the conveyor belt behind like it was last year’s iPhone, and today I couldn’t even get the backing off this bar-coded plastic label necessary for me and my bag’s eventual reunification; and how could I possibly lineup the ends of such a long label, even if I could find where to peel off the adhesive back.

My best baby seal glances for attention drew no response from the blue cladded KLM centurions. “They probably club baby seals to death” I thought.

baby seal photo
Photo by carolineCCB

Look at this face, dammit!

But my pitiful countenance did not go unnoticed, and a voice said “Just line up the two sides they will stick together.” At the time, it occurred like a religious experience, like a voice from a burning bush, but it was probably just the more experienced traveller next to me who had done this before.

I obeyed and lo and behold they—like the voice said—did stick together, but severely, unacceptably I thought, mis-aligned so that almost ‘/3 of the non-sticky, (but yet somehow sticky) sides were exposed. Embarrassed and ashamed, I trepidly offered my bag, with obviously mis-aligned baggage label, to the mouth of the baggage monster, half-expecting the beast to spit it back at me with a booming voice saying,

“UNITED ANGRY! PASSENGER BAD!!” followed by the blue clad Centurions rushing to escort me and my incompetently labelled bag out the exit doors and tossing me unceremoniously onto the airport curb.

But nothing happened.

Instead a text message appeared declaring my bag properly labelled, and the beast swallowed my bag.

Not so much as a “Nice job” or “Taste good” but compared to the angry voice I was expecting I was just happy to have escaped with some of my dignity intact.

Instead of a “thank you” it did regurgitate a reclaim stub, and I placed it in my wallet and headed toward airline security where, while waiting in line to be de-shoed, de-belted, de-bagged, de-jacketed, de-hatted, and de-pocketed, by scores of unsmiling uniformed warm bodies, I swear I heard a voice say, “don’t worry my son, self-service security check is coming too.”

I actually don’t know how to feel about that.

Here’s a video of how self-service baggage check works.  Wish I had seen it before.

 

Photo by furibond

Photo by spaztacular

Photo by JeepersMedia

Why you should start handwriting again

Why you should start handwriting again

We’re used to technology growing up to eat its parents and that’s OK because new technology is always better.  Right?  We certainly don’t lament rotary phones, wind up car windows, or drive-in movies; yet there does still seem to be a place for film, vinyl and mail. So I think it is with handwriting. CursiveContinue Reading

Robots taking our jobs; not a bad thing

Robots taking our jobs; not a bad thing

Most everyone thinks about robots taking our jobs as a bad thing.  How will people earn a living? But perhaps it’s not a bad thing.  Robots taking our jobs could completely reinvent what it means to work and earn a living. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had machines do their farming, manufacturing, cooking, cleaningContinue Reading

Dictation makes a comeback

Dictation makes a comeback

Dictation and the technology that made it possible—short-hand—died because typing your own thoughts on a computer was far more efficient and cost-effective than dictating to a secretary—even a sexy one like Mad Men’s Christine Hendricks.  Dictation may make a comeback though; ironically due to the same technology that killed it in the first place: computers.Continue Reading

A computer that will change the world

Answer:  Who is Watson? Something happened on Wednesday night that will have a tremendous impact on the lives of you and your children, and if you saw it, I hope you didn’t miss the significance of it. A computer named Watson outperformed Jeopardy Grand Champions If you’ve ever been frustrated by a Google search, orContinue Reading

3 Noteworthy Developments to the Practice of Your Career

Here are three noteworthy developments that are relevant to your practice of career and/or your practice for adapting to/anticipating change. Game Crush What it is Online Video Game meets Online Dating meets Porn GamesBeat reported on a new online service called GameCrush that offers young hard-core video-game-playing males, the opportunity to indulge their addiction withoutContinue Reading

Re-learning to type – the DVORAK Typing System

Let’s see … what could I do to make it even more difficult to get things done.  Oh, I know.  I could work with one hand tied behind my back, or I could switch over to the Dvorak system.   In case you hadn’t heard, the QWERTY system was designed to slow down typing speedsContinue Reading

Why didn’t you think of this?

Back in 2006 Joshua Crandall observed his fellow commuters on the New Jersey Manhattan route only peering into the screens of their smart phones and not communicating with each other. Frustrated by delays and the inability of the transit authorities to supply up-to-the-second updates to their commuters, it occurred to Joshua that their was anContinue Reading

Ever considered using Facebook to “Cultivate” your relationships?

I’m paying more attention to Facebook (FB) these days as I realize it’s an essential ingredient in not only staying connected with the people I’m close to, but also building an exploring all sorts of new relationships that could not exist without a medium like Facebook. I now have 413 “friends” on FB.  Impressive huh?Continue Reading

What we can learn from Bing vs. Google

I was reading an article recently about Bing vs. Google Search by David Pogue where he gives a very clear summary of how Bing is better.  Bing by the way is Microsoft’s answer to Google search which has become the closest connection most of us have to God. You can get an answer, or ratherContinue Reading

News at the speed of light

“My dad didn’t wake up this morning. I’m sure you’ll all hear about it. It hasn’t yet hit me but it’s about to.” This was a tweet from Billy Mays’ Jr. breaking the news of the death of his father, legendary pitch man Billy Mays on Sunday June 28th 2009. Just to get a senseContinue Reading

Move over email and Twitter, Google Wave is coming

Recently, I was reading “Why Twitter Will Soon Become Obsolete” by Jason Clark .  Very well written and insightful piece that was another reminder of how rapidly change is coming at us. Jason makes the case that while micro-blogging – the 140 character limit of posts (tweets) that Twitter pioneered – is here to stay,Continue Reading

Lust

I want an iPhone so bad it hurts. I recently spent some time alone with one and maaan, …. it was hot. The way it responds to my every touch. A gentle caress and I’m invited into worlds I never knew were available for me to explore. And they’re oh so exciting. I can geographicallyContinue Reading

Breakdowns

Don’t they make life interesting? I’m tending to quite a few at the moment, and I am finding it interesting to notice where I make life more difficult than it needs to me. My biggest breakdowns are in the area of technology. I was advised that a complete reinstallation of my operating system on aContinue Reading

Using Technology

We can do so much today that was not possible for our parents. We can write books, make movies, video games, music and more. We can even even market them ourselves. Not to mention all of the productivity applications that are out there. Yesterday I leaned of a new productivity tool called “The Brain.” ThisContinue Reading

How do we categorize the people in our lives?

On the popular social networking sites we have one category: friend.  But what are the other categories of “friends” that we use in real life. How do we categorize the people that we have in our lives?   Family Parent Sibling Cousins Aunts/Uncles Step Half Adopted Partner boyfriend/girlfriend Companion ex Friend Best friend Close friend FriendContinue Reading

“Friends” on social networking sites

I was at a panel discussion the other night where the participants discussed the social networking phenomen. Andrew Weinrich, Founder and CEO, MeetMoi a mobile dating service caused quite a stir when he said that he manages his social networking quite carefully and would not accept just anyone that friended him. From Mr. Weinrich’s point-of-view,Continue Reading