Never Lick A Touch Screen With A Mouth Full Of Coffee

I started shopping at a big box supermarket about six months ago; shopping means buying one each of the same two items. Every few weeks I push a shopping trolley through the aisles of the big box and fill it with a large 80 oz bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer. Victoria beer is brewed by the Mexican brewery giant Grupo Modelo; the company responsible for introducing the world to Corona. I’m not a beer aficionado yet I’m going to drink Victoria, which some might call a dark golden pilsener type beer, in preference to Budweiser or Miller; and I’m going to drink any type of bock or porter over Victoria, Budweiser, and Miller. However there’s still nothing better than knocking back a cold Melbourne Bitter.


I’ve got used to shopping at the big box supermarket. I think some shoppers are intimidated by the never ending aisles, the astonishing number of different products, and the overall starkness of the big box. I’ve developed a routine whenever I visit the big box; on each visit I greet the mature big box customer host with a nod and a G’day, wipe the handle of my empty shopping trolley with a sanitising wipe taken from a small container on a stand by the anti theft alarm security system, and push my trolley through and around the grocery section; always down the same two aisles. The first aisle is the coffee, tea, Milo, and hot cocoa aisle, and the beer, and wine and spirits is second. In no time my trolley is loaded with a bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and a 12-pack of Victoria beer, and I’m heading to the collection of stand alone, do-it-myself checkout systems at the front of the shop. Without waiting for the automated greeting from the stand alone, do-it-myself checkout system I insert my credit card into the system. I patiently stand, staring at the screen, watching an animation of something moving over a little black hole. I follow the moving something; back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth. I absentmindedly wave the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee back and forth across the scanning bed; regardless of how I wave there are no beeps, and so I beckon an associate to the do-it-myself checkout system to finish the scanning, and navigate the lurking options of the payment screens.

image source:jmcadam

I’ve only managed to successfully check in three out of the four times I’ve used an airport self-service check-in. I didn’t really manage the three check-ins; they happened only after I beckoned a check-in agent to the self-service check-in kiosk. The agent navigated the series of touch screens needed to confirm my flight information, seat assignment, and print my boarding pass; after check-in they gestured toward the check-in counter. The counter associate requested my name, destination, boarding pass, and identification; keyboarding my responses into a computer. After checking my bag I was handed a bar coded luggage claim ticket. Sometimes I’m a little slow, and not process orientated; as I walked away from the check-in counter I pondered, except for checking in the bag, didn’t I just do all that stuff at the self-service check-in kiosk.

The fourth time I used an airport self-service check-in kiosk was in the International Terminal at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. I approached a collection of kiosks pushing a trolley loaded with two check-in bags, and an assortment of carry-on items. The first self-service check-in kiosk was out of order; I chose another, and waited behind a fellow traveler. We were soon chatting, and before long our chatter became questions without answers; we were a problem solving team trying to decode the digital hieroglyphics on the touch screen. We left the self-service check-in kiosk together and headed to the check-in counter. I stood ready at the check-in counter with my eticket, ePassport, and US permanent resident alien card.

image source:jmcadam

I first travelled on an ePassport a couple of years ago on a visit back to the The Land Down Under. The Australian ePassport has an embedded microchip which contains the information on the passport’s photo page as well as a digital image of the bearer. As we approached a stand alone kiosk in the arrivals concourse of Brisbane Airport’s International terminal the airline associate assisting us asked

ave you used SmartGate mate; give us yu passport. no worries

Before I could answer they had taken my ePassport and pushed it into a slot in the front of the kiosk. I responded to a couple of questions that appeared on the touch screen; had I been exposed to any contagious diseases, and was I carrying quarantine contraband. The kiosk dispensed a ticket.

grab yu ticket mate, we’re goin to the gate; you’ll see why they call it SmartGate.

The gate part of SmartGate is like an anti theft alarm security entrance system at a big box supermarket, but with a gate and a camera. To navigate SmartGate you push your ticket from the kiosk into a slot near the gate, stare at the camera, and when the gate opens grab your ticket and through you go. After collecting your luggage you hand over your ticket and your completed Incoming Passenger Card, to an Australian Border Force officer.


A year after SmartGate I was greeted at the Auckland International arrivals terminal by an associate directing arriving passengers to different immigration stations.

Associate:G’day; where yu from mate, what nationality
Me: G’day mate, Australian, but I live in the states now
Associate: Yu poor bugger mate, but go through eGate anyway
Me: Cheers mate, no worries

I had SmartGated and now I had eGated.

I’ve since learnt that SmartGate uses a form of facial recognition technology; it compares the image that it captures of your face, to the digital image it uploads from the chip embedded in your ePassport. Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection is in the process of introducing a contactless system of SmartGate at Australian airports. You won’t show your passport; instead you’ll be processed by biometric technology and facial recognition. The roll out out should be completed by March 2019.


As I thought back to my ePassport entry experiences at Auckland and Brisbane airports I pondered; why don’t supermarkets use grocery recognition technology. It wouldn’t take much to adapt the facial recognition technology used at airports to grocery shop recognition. In this day and age an image of every grocery item; fruit, booze, breads and bakery products, house cleaning and laundry supplies, and whatever else is on a supermarket shelf has to be already somewhere in a cloud database. All it would take for grocery shop recognition is to attach cameras around the inside perimeter of the shopping trolleys so as to capture an image of what’s put into a trolley. Software would compare the image from the trolley’s cameras to cloud database images. When a match is made the price would be electronically added to a shopper’s digital account; and to check out just insert a credit card into the trolley’s card reader.


The big box super market associate who finished the scanning, and navigated the touch screen options of the payment screens, loaded my bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee, and 12-pack of Victoria beer back into my shopping trolley. I stuffed the receipt from the system into the 12-pack, pushing it between a couple of bottles, and steered the trolley toward the anti theft alarm security system. As I passed the mature customer host they rewarded me with smile, and a thank you for shopping at the big box; and then transformed themselves into a theft prevention agent with, “do you have a receipt for the bag of Dunkin Donuts Original Blend ground coffee and the 12-pack of Victoria beer”. I gestured into the shopping trolley and replied, “in the 12-pack mate”. The recipe inspection went smoothly, but it caused me to puzzle about checking a customer with nine bulging plastic shopping bags. How long would it take the customer host to rummage through nine shopping bags and match all the items to the receipt, and does the customer host have a special magnetic imaging bar code OCR wand they whip out on such occasions.


I looked up at the security camera as I walked through the anti theft alarm security system and smiled. The captured image of my face was no doubt already digitised and uploaded to a cloud database, waiting to be called upon by facial recognition technology.

Apple has now rolled out it’s own face recognition technology. They claim Face ID will recognise a face in the dark, if you’re wearing glasses or a hat, or if you’ve grown a beard. Many people already use Apple Pay as a digital wallet for purchases in shops and online. I’m taking bets that Apple Pay and Face ID will soon be mashed, and we’ll have Face Shopping; swipe right for a digital payment, take a quick selfie, and select PayNow from the Face Shopping app. So whenever you shop at a brick and mortar, or on line, you’ll need to have your selfie stick handy. I would also suggest an app, or an Instagram filter, for a quick bit of digital smoothing out of the wrinkles, reshaping the nose and eyes, and body shaping, or adding virtual koala ears, nerd glasses, a butterfly crown, gold crown, or bunny ears to the top of your face before you select PayNow.

image source:jmcadam

Smile to Pay will also be a feature of credit cards. Credit cards databases will soon warehouse facial images, and facial recognition technology will be seamlessly integrated into all card payments. Ordering at a macca’s drive through will be as simple as inserting your card and announcing,”I’ll have a tomato relish brekkie roll”, looking into the menu camera and smiling to be authenticated for Smile to Pay, and then pulling up to window one.

I need to start practising taking selfies when I’m watching the shopping channels on the iPad; getting the angle of the head right, doing a quick whitening of the teeth, getting rid of any red-eye, recolouring any grey hairs, resculpturing the jawline, and adding a warm, neon glow to the selfie. Who knows when I’ll next see an Allan Moffat signed XY GTHO Falcon pencil sketch on one of the shopping channels.


Good news, hipsters: Melbourne Bitter to go on tap

Aussie airport Smartgates to be ditched for facial recognition

Singapore to test facial recognition on lampposts

7 thoughts on “Never Lick A Touch Screen With A Mouth Full Of Coffee

  1. I still haven’t mastered the self-service machines at the supermarket. I always need assistance. Are you telling me that we will soon be expected to smile and shop at the same time??? Way to complicated!


  2. Interesting summary of where shopping is going. My mind is still stuck on the early comment regarding your affinity for certain types My perception that all liquids that pour forth from 12 ounce bottles labeled “BEER” met your specifications.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.