I first wrote an article on automation for PIN Magazine in 2013. Since then it has continued to grow into our everyday lives and, were it not for the daily attention-grabbing headlines regarding Brexit, it would probably be far higher up our agenda of things to talk/worry about.
During the past six years software platforms like Airbnb and Uber have continued to disrupt entire industries, but the biggest day-to-day change that I have noticed with regards to automation is within the food sector, which is seeing jobs being replaced by self-service checkouts at a frightening pace. It is less noticeable when I visit the UK (I live in Sweden) as far more British people still like to carry cash around and pay for things with cash, which makes using self-service checkouts generally more hassle.
But in Scandinavia, (Norway and Denmark are not far behind Sweden) cash is simply becoming less and less acceptable. It is no longer legal tender in Sweden and the last thing you want to do if you visit the country is change up a few hundred quid into Swedish Kroner before you come as you will struggle to spend it, especially at small retail outlets, coffee shops and restaurants.
Sweden is already considered the most cashless society in the world, with the amount of notes and coins in circulation falling every year and with just 2% of total commerce being transacted with cash. This is expected to decline to less than 0.5% by next year, according to research by BNP Paribas, and even some banks refuse to offer over the counter cash services.
Some of you might be thinking “what a hassle that must be when a large group of friends go out to eat and they want to split the bill.” But back in 2012, the seven largest banks in Sweden got together and set up an instant payment app called Swish, and over half of the population already uses it. So, one person pays the entire bill on their card and the other friends just “Swish” what they owe to that person using their smartphones. You just go into the app, click on the person’s contact details and enter the amount you want to pay them. It is very simple to use and the money appears instantly in the other persons account.
Restaurants in Sweden are tapping into this desire for fast, technology-driven service with a human-less touch. New restaurant chains that have self-service kiosks are expanding rapidly due to their very low staff costs and therefore higher profits.
One franchise called Pinchos has 60-70 restaurants across Scandinavia and claims to be the World’s first real “app restaurant”, where you have to use your phone to order from the tapas menu. There is one employee “out front” who seats you and politely tells you that if you don’t have a smartphone then you need to go and eat somewhere else. That person then wanders off to seat another party and you most likely won’t speak to him/her again unless you have a complaint regarding the food. Your phone will vibrate to tell you when it is time to go to the counter and collect your food or drinks.