Sure you will print out your own boarding pass and maybe you will ring up your own groceries, but would you pick up a prescription from a machine? That may be coming (Prescription medication kiosks just what the doctor ordered, Selfserviceworld.com, Dec 29):
Kiosks designed to remotely dispense prescription medication are clearing the final hurdles to implementation, and may soon be rolling out in the United States and in Canada’s most populous province.
Medication-dispensing kiosks raise concerns about safety and improper access to potentially dangerous substances, but executives in the sector say the machines are safe — and in some ways perhaps better than the traditional pharmacy method of dispensing prescription medications.
I have to admit that I am a little uncertain about how well this would work. I can easily imagine picking up a run of the mill prescription from a machine (e.g., antibiotics for another strep throat) but I am not sure I would for something more complicated or unusual. I also wonder how pharmacies will give customers choice in using these machines. Many pharmacies have tried to move patients with chronic or repeated needs to mail order programs. It has to be more efficient to handle basic high-blood pressure medicine, for example, though a mail order system. What does that leave for an in-store automated system?
On the other hand, more self-service automation is coming (March of the shopping machines is far from over, Times, Dec 31):
NCR, the American technology company behind 80 per cent of the UK’s self-service checkouts, has predicted another bumper year in 2010, forecasting a 50 per cent increase in UK sales of the self-service scanning machines that have become a feature of stores nationwide. Seven thousand have been installed in supermarkets since their introduction in 2002. …
Non-food retailers, and the fast-fashion market, in particular, are the next target in the march of Mr Birden’s machines. Self-service counters cost about £8,000 each, including installation, and NCR estimates that they pay for themselves in about 15 months. A third more tills can be squeezed into a store and checkout staff can be deployed elsewhere.
An interesting point raised in this article is that NCR sees societal changes working in its favor. Customer are taking more frequent, smaller shopping trips and that plays to the strengths of automated systems.