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Contactless tech deployed in restaurant chains amid pandemic

Mounir Jamil

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As we continue adapting to the pandemic, we notice that our needs as consumers are rapidly changing. Not so long ago, standing in-line at a packed fast food chain, waiting to get served, was considered to be the norm in dining experiences; we can evidently see how this scenario can’t be applied in the time of COVID-19. 

Enter contactless tech – a solution that has proven itself to be a fundamental necessity amid the pandemic. Technology teams from several restaurant chains have been trying to implement contactless tech to streamline visits, enhance the customer journey, and ultimately make their employees life easier. 

Various types of contactless tech ranging from QR codes to robots have aided restaurant chains. We break down the top contactless tech ideas that were brought forward by technology chief attendees of Restaurants Rise powered by MUFSO in a panel titled Touchless Tech: How chains are reimagining technology with the use of contactless ordering and the resurgence of QR codes. The panel was sponsored by Ziosk. 

The comeback of QR codes

QR codes which have already been around for a decade or so, started making their way back into the limelight before the pandemic hit, proving their value as a practical type of contactless tech. QR codes have become an integral part for Tocaya Organica, a 16-unit “experiential fast-casual” chain serving Mexican food in California and Arizona that’s part of The Madera Group.

The technology allows guests to point their smartphones at the codes placed on tables, pull up the restaurant menu and order. Each table has a custom QR code, allowing servers to know where to bring the orders once they’re ready. 

Justin Keenen, Tocaya Organica’s Director of Information Technology commented that the team “had to make sure that that experience carried over as much as possible,” as the restaurant chain moved away from traditional counter service to placing an order at the table using QR codes.

Guests can point their phones at the codes on each table, pull up the restaurant’s menu and order. Each table has its own QR code, so servers know where to bring the orders when they’re ready, and Keenen hired the tech company Thanx to build access to the chain’s loyalty program on top of the Olo ordering software, allowing guests to accrue and redeem points from their phone.       

Keenen added that about 80% of the users surveyed provided “overwhelmingly positive feedback,” with the contactless tech being very easy to use.

Geo-tagged pickup

Popular El Pollo Loco, the fast-casual grilled chicken chain with 480 locations has now enabled geo-tagged curbside pickup at 95% of all its locations according to Andrew Rebhun, the chain’s Vice President and Digital Officer.

With curbside pickup being planned for 2021, once the pandemic hit, those plans were expedited. Rebhun and the team worked to launch the service via the El Pollo Loco app this summer, starting with 20 restaurants and quickly scaling up. 

It’s also a contactless tech that is fairly easy to use. Customers opt into GPS tracking, which will then alert the restaurant as they are driving up, allowing the team members to bring their order directly out to the car. 

Guests that don’t want to opt in for GPS, can simply click the “I’m here” button and a crew member will be out with a face mask to deliver the order. 

Vice President of Technology at White Castle (fast food chain with 360 locations) Susan Carroll-Boser told Restaurants Rise attendees that they are currently testing two new technologies at one location in Indiana: Flippy the Robot and a new drive-thru menu board with artificial intelligence

Flippy the robot

The headline grabber is Miso Robotics’ Flippy the robot.

White Castle is deploying the “robot on a rail” mechanism to work the fry station. It operates above the fryer, so it doesn’t bother any team members.

Flippy operates with a smart freezer provided by Computer Vison. This smart freezer controls portions and schedules when items are to be fried, with human team member supervision

AI Powered Drive-Thru Menu Board

The same White Castle branch in Indiana is also testing an AI powered drive-thru menu board. 

By using voice recognition technology from SoundHound, the menu board has the ability to listen and respond to customers. Guests can select a “known-user experience” that allows the AI to recommend items from the menu tailored to them. 

The contactless tech is also capable of performing “basket analysis” and can assess what’s been ordered and make really good suggestions as to what customers might want to add. 

Using voice recognition technology from SoundHound, the menu board can listen to and respond to customers. According to Carroll-Boser, a person can opt into a “known-user experience” that allows the AI to recommend menu items tailored for the customer.

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MedTech

Robotics in the MENA region finds good footing amid virus

Adnan Kayyali

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robotics in the MENA region

As the need for contactless health and safety solutions becomes ever-more essential, robotics in the MENA region is taking off. The forward-thinking startups, students, and entrepreneurial minds have stepped up to meet the growing demand by addressing a complex situation with hands-on solutions.

In the UAE, entrepreneur Aswin Sarang, understands that the demand for robotics in the MENA region is on the rise, and has developed several robots each capable of performing a certain task which include delivering food and medicine, sanitization services, and checking for fever.

“The idea is to sterilize infected areas and surfaces, such as hospitals, endemic neighborhoods and isolation rooms, to prevent doctors, health workers and volunteers from being infected.” Said Aswin Sarang – Head of Robotics & AI at Reliable Robotics.

The company supports healthcare authorities, airports, malls, as well as the private sector.

Recently, Reuters reported on an Egyptian engineer Mahmoud el-Komy who put his healthcare robot to the test with positive results. The robot was made to deliver routine healthcare duties such as taking temperature and testing for COVID-19 all via remote control.

The robot also delivers health information to the patients.

“There has been a positive response from patients. They saw the robot and weren’t afraid. On the contrary, there is more trust in this because the robot is more precise than humans.”

The drive to develop robotics in the MENA region seems to be sparking passion among the youth as well. In Lebanon, two engineering students created a cleaner bot of their own to sterilize indoor spaces like hospital rooms and offices. The cleaner bot costs $700/$800 to produce and can be rented out for cleaning at a fee of $50/$70 per session, depending on the size of the job arabnews.com reported.

On demand sterilization service robotics in the MENA region and around the world may see a similar rise in demand post-pandemic. Performing routine tasks that limit human exposure can be safer and more efficient for consumers and businesses alike.

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MedTech

The multi-cloud adoption boom

Mounir Jamil

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multi-cloud adoption

As the rapid advancements in tech continue – fueled by the current pandemic – we find ourselves stretching our limits and breaking boundaries. An important area that has gained significant traction this year is cloud computing, and more specifically, multi-cloud adoption.

What is multi-cloud? 

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, a multi-cloud environment Is when an enterprise utilizes more than one cloud platform and delivers a specific function, application, or service. Multi-clouds can be made up of private, public, and edge clouds to achieve a datacenter’s end goals and objectives. 

Multi-cloud adoption garnered a significant increase to 70 percent year-over-year in 2020, outpacing the previous year by a whopping 20 percent. 

Current State of multi-cloud

The Continuous Intelligence Report The State of Modern applications, DevSecOps and the Impact of COVID-19 from Sumo Logic revealed that customers adopted 3 main vendors to meet their cloud needs; CloudTrail (60 percent), VPC Flow Logs (34 percent) and GuardDuty (22 percent) respectively. 

The report is developed from data that is aggregated from more than 2100 Sumo Logic customers that run applications over several major cloud platforms as well as on-premises environments. The report highlighted the importance of securing cloud workloads via the adoption of both cloud-native security technologies and available cloud data sources. 

Furthermore, the pandemic has highlighted how important remote work is – and that is where cloud-computing shines bright. The rise in multi-cloud adoption led enterprises to modern cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

It is noteworthy to mention that AWS regional centers in the EU and US were among the top targets for hackers, according to the Sumo Logic’s global intelligence. 

What are the benefits of multi-cloud adoption? 

  • Flexibility: No single cloud can perform most business functions, or at least no single cloud can do everything well. Integrating multi-cloud can allocate the right cloud platform to the right business function 
  • Proximity: By hosting some workloads through regional cloud providers that operate closer to where the user is, the enterprise would be greatly enhancing a user’s experience
  • Failover: As a failover solution, multi-cloud adoption can protect an enterprise from outages by providing readily available and highly scalable backup for data and workflows for systems 
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MedTech

Why GovTech adoption during COVID-19 is a must

Adnan Kayyali

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Govtech

GovTech is a new term that refers to the modernization and/or digitization of government services for better accessibility and efficiency of public services. A mouth full, but this suggests a need for governments to do what the private sector has been doing from the start: embrace and incorporate industry 4.0 technology. However, to do so on a governmental level is complex.

The tech revolution occurring around the world, accelerated by the pandemic will not wait for governments to search their paper file cabinet for a solution. Citizens’ expectations of speed and efficiency are set higher by the private sector.

Too many authorities in developing nations, and many government-managed institutions in developed nations, are woefully behind on tech adoption within their systems.

According to the World Bank’s definition as stated in their brief, GovTech is essentially about putting people first.

“GovTech is a whole-of-government approach to public sector modernization that promotes simple, accessible, and efficient government”.

Governments who had already begun improving their digital infrastructure before the pandemic, had a better chance of curbing outbreaks after the initial wave with known exceptions. Namely the US and UK. 

Examples of GovTech used well during the pandemic can be found more to the east, in Singapore and South Korea among others, where data-gathering and citizen compliance with safety measures worked well to begin with.

Still, in the United states we see examples of GovTech being implemented even before the pandemic.

In areas of infrastructure, 120 Water Audit was recently launched, a cloud-based water management software, that a government on any level and size can use to minimize water waste.

During the pandemic, we have seen companies like BlueDot develop early warning systems to predict outbreaks, allowing governments to react preemptively. These systems used data gathered from numerous data sets from news, medical records and airlines to detect certain trends using their algorithm.

In the future, we should expect better GovTech adoption in public health services. Governments must work with the private sector to secure the right systems and consolidate their systems for better data collection. Undoubtedly, this is a long-term process.

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