It’s been a whirlwind since the BC Tech Summit. The SMRT1 Technologies team and I were so stoked to see people from the education sector, the tech sector and retailing connect with the Brain STEM Toolbox. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to get to watch people interact with the shopping experience SMRT1 Technologies has created. It made me realize that designing an interface between man and machine is really an exercise in psychology as much as it is in technology.

People just want to have a great experience when they shop and that truism applies no matter where, when or how they shop.

Experiences are important to me. My whole career I’ve always elected to take the path that lets me learn something new or to look at life in a new way. Experience is the reason I’m building a tech company in Nelson BC instead of a big city…I want to see my work associates at the grocery store or the soccer field. I want to be surrounded by nature and the open trust that naturally flows in smaller communities. When I started to develop technology around vending or automated merchandising as it is often referred to; I knew I wanted it to include a delightful experience for the person using the machine. The nature of that experience can be whatever is needed by the retailer. Vending machines can connect to social media and the “Internet of Things” which takes them away from being static, transactional tin cans to being a digital concierge. There is virtually no limit to the places the Brain STEM Toolbox can go or to the customer experiences they can create.

Imagine how excited I was to be asked to be a panelist at the Interactive Customer Experience Summit in Dallas Texas mid June 2018.

I’ll be part of a panel sponsored by Betson Enterprises to discuss “How New Technology Enhances the Customer Experience”. Robert Abou Jaoude, Sales Executive of Betson Enterprises will be moderating the panel. Betson is a first-class company specializing in many innovative automatic merchandising solutions. Also on the panel will be Daniel Hartman, CEO|President of Goldfinger Monitors, a company that specializes in touchscreen monitors. It’s incredible to be on the stage with such innovative companies and to be speaking about the future in terms of how people will be interacting with technology.

It’s got me thinking about “Man and Machine”. I know what’s possible. I know what’s probable…but how will it change how we live?

Let me be clear – I believe technology is here to serve humanity not to replace it. An article in Psychology Today about how the “robots are coming” said “These machines aren’t replacing people, but they are replacing our old expectations about what we can and should control. And they’re creating new sorts of relationships, as people find themselves working intimately with android entities that feel like both a mechanism and a human—without quite being either.”

There it is, the issue is really about control. Technology monitors our movements, our transactions and interactions and because we’ve created machines that can take the data it collects to tweak the interactions to make them better bit by bit (aka machine learning); machines will grow as we grow. There is a Yin and Yang to everything and notions of the next Westworld aside, technology saves lives, helps us learn and what we forget is that as machines are becoming smarter; so are we. Intelligence is increasing with each generation and this is directly attributed to the amount of information we have access to.

Automatic Merchandising or vending lets customers have their purchases immediately. The customer interface in that machine makes it fun and helpful. With Cineplex Odeon being a major sponsor of the Customer Experience Summit this week; I can envision a Brain STEM Toolbox in the lobby of the cinemas filled with amazing things connected to the latest Star Wars or Avenger movie. Because the technology is device agnostic it can speak to customers using all kinds of mobile devices. Conceivably, a customer could receive a little alert to let them know that there is a cool purchase available right in the lobby of the theatre and then the interface can even recommend what to buy based on previous purchases or even browsing history online or in physical stores.

This is what has been referred to as “Omnichannel Retailing”. It’s means that we understand people shop across a wide variety of channels and technology. We might research an intended purchase in a store, on our desk top, on our tablet or by talking to our neighbour. When we finally buy something, it’s often after many touch points that lead to money being exchanged for product. This isn’t anything new, we’ve always shopped this way but now, technology lets us track that process and to make it easier for the customer to connect the dots and make their choice. Omnichannel is a bit of a misnomer – it’s really about “Seamless Shopping” which I feel is a better label because it speaks to what’s in it for you (the customer) instead of what’s in it for the seller.

I have a lot of trust in people. Sure, there are bad apples in every basket but society is coming to a place where we will see transparency around what control we need to give up to get certain benefits. It will be clearer going forward how we can revoke or deny that loss of control should we desire.

By automating mundane, data-based interactions, people are freed up to move on to new pathways. As Bill Maher pointed out a few months ago, lighting the street lamps at night was once a thriving occupation. Then the lightbulb was invented and those jobs went away. However, think about the new opportunities that were created because people could now see in the dark. We’re here to move forward, to progress and explore and I’m delighted for SMRT1 Technologies to be part of the evolution.

It’s been a game-changing spring! I’ll have lots to share with you after the Customer Experience Summit about what I saw, heard and…experienced!

Talk soon!