An aerodrone busy and buzzing in the air, ferrying plates of cooked delights industriously back and forth from the open stove grills where chefs worked their craft diligently.
This was the scene the crowd at the inaugural of Singapore’s the National Productivity Month took in, as Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong stood and watched diners at at the centre of the buzz.
Harnessing technology to boost productivity for businesses in Singapore was the chief topic at this year’s launch and the elaborate showcase was part of the demonstration, which focused on how this could be achieved for the F&B sector.
It’s estimated that at this time next year, you’ll encounter similar situations when you walk into restaurants around the nation state. Expect your food to be served at a whole new level — flying drones.
The drone is a Flying Robotic Intelligent Server (Fris) created by Infinium Robotics, a Singapore company located both here and in Silicon Valley, to increase the productivity of waiters in restaurants.
Infinium Robotics has been working with a local restaurant group to look at how its drones, an autonomous robotic waiter system, could be used to deliver food safely by air to each table.
Speaking in an interview with Straits Times, the company’s CEO, Woon Jun Yang, said his firm was working with the restaurant group to figure out how the drones could be deployed and how service staff would be trained on how to operate the airborne food delivery system.
Added Mr Woon: “The existing waiters can (then) concentrate on higher-value tasks such as, for example, asking feedback from customers (and) how they are doing.”
What sparked the inspiration to create a server drone? Mr Woon shared that he observed in many restaurants where food was already cooked but there were not enough hands to bring them to the table, which resulted in food being served cold sometimes. “So that’s why I thought a flying robot would work in serving food in restaurant autonomously” he added.
Probably the toughest thing to do for Mr Woon is trying to convince people that the drones are safe and can change the way restaurant operations work. He said: “It’s understandable that people have questions about new technology. So we want to show that the drones are safe and that they won’t hit any customers.”
Besides the aerial drones, the exhibition also displayed self-service touch screen payment kiosks that allowed you to both order your food from an interactive menu and check-out at the same time. Once concluded, simply proceed to collect your food. Convenient and fuss free.
This is the brainchild of Aptsys Technology and the terminals looked to function like the general ticketing machines found in MRT stations, Singapore’s mass transit system. Payments were accepted by both cash and card and you only had to slip your bills or plastic into the correct slots.
“This will help fast-moving F&B outlets, such as small fast-food joints, reduce the manpower otherwise necessary for serving and manning counters. We have about 40 to 50 customers looking to install this kiosk within the next six months,” said the company’s executive director, Mr Deepak Kingsley.
Don’t be surprised if you encounter one of these smart machines, the next time you order your favorite dishes at the food court.
He further added that, “A kiosk costs around S$26,000, but with Infocomm Development Authority’s iSPRINT scheme, companies need pay only 30 per cent of that. Adding schemes by other agencies, such as the PIC (Productivity and Innovation Credit) scheme, the cost is pretty much negligible.”
Click here to view a footage of the launch of National Productivity Month from The Straits Times.
We’ve all experienced peak hour dining and long waits for service, so personally, I do love the idea of an interactive, self-serve order and payment machine. I wouldn’t mind having them on restaurant table-tops if technology manages to create a micro version.
But like most, I’m still wary of ‘ungrounded’ devices ferrying food in the air, my mind stuck with images of piping hot soup cascading onto my lap when one of those drones loses control from an unforeseen battery or hardware failure.
It’s going to take some serious convincing, maybe start off with something like sushi, salads or sandwiches instead? I’d like to take my ‘food burns’ in baby steps.