Why are we promoting businesses “without humans”?

By July 31, 2017Current

TL;DR – A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm. 

Cheers recently celebrated the opening of its very first unmanned and cashless outlet at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). This convenience store doubles up as a training facility for students at NYP’s School of Business Management and employs front-line retail technologies to enable customers to serve themselves as well as back-end systems to optimise business operations and boost productivity.

With this piece of news, concerned netizens of Singapore have their very own version of Matrix and i,Robot playing in their heads.

Despite the explanation by NYP principal Jeanne Liew, “Instead of having to man the store at the front end, the students will “move up the value chain… (and) take a more strategic approach to drive the success of the store”, people still don’t seem to get it.

As such, I would love to draw a blatant example which our Ministers and in this case Ms Liew are not able to,

Would you rather your son be a cashier at a convenience store working long hours, with low career options, low pay, a low skill set, and also potentially risk his life getting robbed in the middle of the night while working or be an engineer who programs and fixes such unmanned system, with better career options, higher pay, better skills, and also have the much desired work-life balance?

There I said it.

While I am not looking down on cashiers, but let’s call spade a spade, I’m quite sure we would like better careers and higher salaries if given a choice.

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With increased demand of workers with such skills, it will lead to an increase in supply of such courses and job opportunities. Do the math yourself. This is why our country is doing our best to make us a smart(er) nation and also to promote businesses “without humans”. The truth is, there are human, in fact possibly more, working backend to get everything up and running.

For the unaware, there are related agencies in Singapore such as e2i, SkillsFuture, NTUC LearningHub, that facilitate such upskilling for existing cashiers to fit into such jobs.

Alongside other sectors too.

This unmanned store saves Cheers 180 man-hours per week with the help of the mobile app Shop It Yourself which allows shoppers to gain entry using QR code as well as payment using cashless methods such as Nets, credit cards, ez-link, mobile and contactless payment.

This outlet is also the first convenience store to accept Nets payment by QR code, a new form of payment that utilises DBS Paylah, OCBC Pay Anyone and UOB Mighty.

I don’t know about you, but what I see is abundance of opportunities.


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Smith Leong

Author Smith Leong

Social Media Trainer @ NTUC | Youth Mentor | Labour Champion | Photographer | Content Creator |

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