Good use of technology to solve tray-return problems

Robots are increasingly being used in a variety of industries and places, including factories, hospitals, the military and space exploration ("This building inspector misses nothing"; last Thursday).

They are filling job functions hitherto carried out by humans, and are able to work longer hours more efficiently.

This is a whole new exciting era we are entering, which could bring untold convenience, better precision and more flexibility.

The food and beverage industry is increasingly employing robots, as it continually faces a manpower shortage ("Can Singapore's labour crunch spark a robot revolution?"; ST Online, Aug 15, and "Robot Lucy at your service"; Feb 7).

At a Punggol foodcourt, I have seen a robot being used to collect dirty dishes and cutlery from patrons and take them back to the central kitchen for washing.

This addresses the problem of people not returning their trays and used dishes after eating, as the robot is a mobile tray return point that goes to the patron instead.

The novelty factor involved in the use of this new technology may help boost the tray-return rate initially.

Even though future results remain to be seen, this is a promising start in harnessing technology to solve some of our social hiccups.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Good use of technology to solve tray-return problems'. Print Edition | Subscribe