What Do You Mean It’s Cash Only?!

Experiences of an Early(ish) Adopter in the Algarve

post by Charlotte Lenton ( 2020 cohort)

The Algarve is a tourist destination located on the south coast of Portugal which is incredibly popular with tourists from across Europe including the UK. The area is famous for the guaranteed sunshine, sandy beaches, and welcoming hospitality. According to Statista (2023) the region received almost 4.8 million tourists in 2022, close to pre-pandemic figures. Popular resort areas include Albufeira, Lagoa, Carvoeiro, and Vilamoura. The latter is the place I am currently calling home for the next couple of months – Picture of the villa I have ended up in below (long story with a lot of complications and incredibly stressful moments involving several accommodation providers letting us down but it turned out well in the end bagging a massive villa with pool!).

I have visited the Algarve many times with my family whilst growing up and it was actually the first abroad destination I travelled to on holiday with my husband over ten years ago. It’s safe to say that the destination has a special place in my heart. But due to the pandemic and our finances being used to renovate our house for the past couple of years, my university exchange visit would be my first time back in the Algarve for almost seven years!

Those of you that know my PhD research area will know that I am most interested in exploring the impact that the digital tourism environment has on tourist mobility, accessibility, and experience for people who do not or are not able to use digital technology for whatever reason. I believe that being a ‘late adopter’ of technology is an ever-changing and evolving factor of people’s lives as we all make decisions about what technology we want to use, why we use it, and also why we choose not to use it sometimes. This will depend on the technology of course, someone might want to use a smartphone application to help them to travel by train if they are a frequent user of the railways. Likewise, they might also decide they do not want to have a digital ticket on their smartphone when travelling by plane as they are concerned the battery might run flat and feel more ‘secure’ with a printed version of the boarding pass. So, you can see how the extent to which an individual is a late or early adopter of technology can vary a lot between different technologies, the travel situation, and their personal circumstances. I consider myself to be on the early adopter side of the spectrum for most things like smartphones, but also a late adopter of many other innovations that I am more sceptical of.

There’s also a lot of research available that has explored destinations in terms of their ability, willingness, and innovativeness to adopt and use new technologies (see Buhalis and Deimezi, 2004; Spencer et al., 2012; Collado-Agudo et al., 2023) . This isn’t my research area as I am more interested in individual passengers and tourists, but nevertheless it is an interesting topic. Again, the technologies adopted at destinations vary between countries, regions, and businesses. Generally, lots of destinations in Europe have adopted technologies such as card and contactless payments as this has been widely available for a number of years. I raise this point as this has been an area of considerable challenge for me since arriving in the Algarve a couple of weeks ago.

When I am at home or travelling domestically within the UK, I hardly ever use cash nowadays. In fact, I find myself asking businesses if they accept cash as many places like restaurants, bars, and cafes only accept contactless or card payments. This move to a cashless society seems to have picked up pace since the pandemic in the UK. Admittedly, since the pandemic, I haven’t actually travelled outside of the UK until now, but I assumed (wrongly) that other countries in Europe were also following suit with fewer establishments accepting cash. In preparation for my travel, I took out a fee-free credit card and a new bank account which would also allow me to use the debit card abroad without incurring any fees. In my naivety, I thought that 100 euros in cash would be more than enough to see me through eight weeks abroad as ‘everywhere takes card nowadays’…. I wonder how many other British tourists have the same mindset as me in this regard?!

Upon arriving in the Algarve, I realised that I had made a terrible mistake in not bringing more cash with me as I encountered a number of places that only accept cash within the first few days. In addition to bars and cafes that only accept cash, there were also cash-only car parking machines! Coming from a country where several councils are moving their parking charges to ‘app only’ payments I couldn’t believe that the car parking machines here did not even accept contactless card payments.

A few days later it was time for my first visit to the Universidade do Algarve for a tour, to see my office, and have lunch with some colleagues. As my bag was heavy, I decided to leave it in my office and just take my phone with me… after all I have Apple Pay on my phone so why on earth would I need my purse?! (You see where I am going with this!) On arrival at the university canteen, I ordered the chicken dish for lunch with the help of my lovely Portuguese colleagues to translate this for me! When we got to the till to pay, I noticed that everyone else was inserting their bank card into the machine and realised that the machine was not contactless. Luckily my colleague and friend Professor Dora paid for my lunch as I explained that I was intending to use Apple Pay. This was not the end of the card payment saga for me at the university though… A couple of days later I attended an event which was followed by a self-paying lunch in the much fancier university restaurant. I made sure that I had my purse with me on this occasion so I could pay using my credit or debit card. On presenting myself at the till to pay for my food the staff member looked at my credit card, and told me it was a foreign card so was not accepted by the university so I would have to pay cash. I tried to reason with her by saying that it would be accepted as it would pay in Euros, it was a Mastercard, etc. but she was having none of it. So, for now, at least, it appears that I will need to pay in cash for my meals at the university too.

I guess my point here is surely I cannot be alone in my approach with assuming that European popular tourist destinations, like the Algarve, would be as keen to move to a cashless society as the UK. I am not saying that I agree with the UK moving to a cashless society, as I do think this will have negative consequences for many people including those whom my research focuses on giving voice to. But as a tourist who is so used to using contactless cards and Apple Pay in UK daily life, I wonder how many other Brits are caught out by this and end up using cash points (ATMs) with appalling exchange rates to get by when abroad. Maybe the tourists who are later adopters of this sort of thing would in fact be better prepared for travelling to the Algarve as they may prefer to use cash, who knows?! In any case, I am lucky that my parents are coming out to visit me this weekend, so I have asked them to exchange more cash at home where there’s a decent exchange rate and bring it out to me!

Digital manufacturing, say what?

Reflection on developing a digital manufacturing toolkit for children

post by Natalie Leesakul (2018 cohort)

What is the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of manufacturing? Assembly lines? Boring and repetitive tasks? Loud noises?

Over the years, the manufacturing sector has evolved and moved more towards the age of digitalization. However, as the sector entered the era of Industry 4.0, skilled-labour shortages started to become a problem. The sector is experiencing the phenomenon where current employees are retiring while failing to attract new skilled employees. The manufacturing sector was not on my radar until I started my PhD at Horizon CDT (Grant No. EP/L015463/1) working in partnership with DigiTOP (Grant No. EP/R032718/1), and that has completely changed my perspective. This sector is filled with innovation. It is about forward thinking. At the core, there is a major element of maximizing productivity and efficiency by utilizing advanced technologies but also a shift towards ensuring seamless human-machine collaboration and contributions to sustainability and the Net Zero movement. After getting more involved in this sector in the past three years, the question that always comes up is how do we make manufacturing sexy? How do we inspire future generations to be interested in manufacturing?

As part of DigiTOP’s work, we are developing a toolkit to help organizations implement and integrate digital technologies. We provide research on the role of human factors and the impact of technology on the workforce along with use cases and recommendations on the technology adoption and design. One of the on-going toolkit developments is an educational set of resources focusing on the introduction to digital manufacturing aimed at a younger audience (primary and secondary children). I had an opportunity to be a part of the team in charge of developing the content from the start of the video production to running our very first workshop with students in collaboration with Speakers for Schools.

At the start, the first question to answer was how to transform a complex topic into something that is easy to comprehend by the children. We see digital manufacturing as “the use of smart, digital, autonomous and intelligent technologies within the manufacturing sector. These technologies include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, sensors and distributed data networks.” Certainly, there was quite a bit to unpack from this definition. Putting ourselves in the shoes of a 7-year-old, a short animated film was chosen as a communicational medium. Acknowledging that there was not any other existing child-focussed videos on manufacturing at the time, we decided to go forward with the plan and the video was produced in collaboration with Cloudifacturing and Digitbrain projects. The video production kicked off with choosing the right supplier. We searched for a video producer who really understood the brief and the video style of our preference and that required reading through multiple proposals as well as extensive discussion on animation style, colour schemes, voiceover artists, etc. Once we decided on the proposal, we provided the producers with an initial script that covered the objectives and key messages of the video including:

        • Introduction to general changes in industry 4.0/digital manufacturing
        • Cloud-based technologies and human factors considerations
        • Digital twin
        • Human physiological sensing
        • Human robot collaboration
        • Virtual reality in manufacturing and design
        • Responsible technology development and adoption

The challenge we had was explaining all of the above topics in a 3-4 minute video. We consulted with experts in child education to translate (boring) academic language into child-friendly and exciting dialogue. After many editions and revisions of the script, here is the final cut of the video:

The project did not stop at the video production. We are continuing to develop further content to support the use of the video as part of a school curriculum. For our first trial, we were invited to run a workshop through Speakers for Schools program under the weekly theme of digitalization. The workshop dove into the topics mentioned in the video in an interactive manner. We wanted to hear from the students while still making it fun and educational. The workshop was divided into three sections: 1. Subject and skills for digital manufacturing; 2. Sensors; 3. Humans & Robots. I was responsible for the third section. Creating workshop content for younger audience required a completely different approach to a preparation for a conference presentation. How do we gain their engagement especially in a virtual environment? What kind of activities needed to ensure positive engagement? How do we keep them entertained instead of dozing off? How do we make it simple but still interesting? We had various brainstorming sessions to find different ways to run this workshop. We found that to keep the same narrative in all three sessions, creating a fictional character called ‘Amy’ who is a digital factory manager was the way to go. Throughout the workshop, Amy faces different scenarios where she needs helps from the students to make decisions. We used tools such as running polls, storytelling, yes/no questions, and lots and lots of pictures!

In my session of human-robot collaboration, I asked the students to help Amy assign tasks to either human operators or robots.

I was very surprised by some of their answers. The answers were mostly robots even for making coffee! To me, this demonstrates the pro-technology nature of the younger generation. They seemed to be quite comfortable with the topic and it was quite refreshing to see positive engagement from the students. Although we are now living in the world of digitalization, the final note that we left the students with was data and ethics. It is important that we are aware of potential issues and impacts that may arise from technology in order to balance the interests of all stakeholders. Special thanks to the team: Dr. Glyn Lawson, Debra Fearnshaw, Dr Adrian Marinescu, Dr Setia Hermawati, and Siobhan Urquhart.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogpost. I hope this sparks your interests in digital manufacturing and public engagement. My name is Natalie, Horizon 2018 cohort, and my PhD focuses on the adoption of collaborative embodied autonomous systems in the case of digital manufacturing from legal perspective. 😊