Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘retail

Retail Therapy

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The retail industry makeover continues.

According to various reports, clothing retailer Forever 21, Inc. may or may not file for Chapter 1 bankruptcy protection as early as Sunday. And according to a WSJ report could close some 700 of its stores in any case.

Yet another online retail outfit, Shopify, has acquired another e-commerce automation startup, 6 River Systems, for some $450M.

6 River System uses its Chuck autonomous vehicles that can move packages around warehouses, and according to VentureBeat, believes those robots can increase the speed and reliability of its warehouse operations “by empowering on-site associates with daily tasks, including inventory replenishment, picking, sorting, and packing.”

Considering the tight labor market, these AI and automation deals I’ve recently written about make a lot of sense. If companies can’t find employees to take those jobs, they hire robots and increase automation. But what happens in a down labor market?

See a recent report published by IBM’s Institute for Business Value: As many as 120M workers from the world’s largest economies may need to be retrained as a result of AI and automation. Summary of that post here. 

Written by turbotodd

September 13, 2019 at 12:13 pm

Shelf Life

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On Tuesday California legislators passed AB5, a landmark bill that requires companies like Uber and Lyft to treat contract workers as employees. Workers must be designated as employees if a company exerts control over how they perform their tasks or if their work is part of a company’s regular business.

Expect Uber and Lyft’s autonomous vehicle efforts to speed up (as well as their lobbying efforts to gain an exception for its drivers to remain contractors). All those pesky humans, demanding rights like fair wages and health insurance!

On the subject of robots, Simbe Robotics has raised $26 million for autonomous inventory robots to inventory grocery shelves. A VentureBeat story indicates the brick-and-mortar automation market will be worth $18.9B by 2023.

Simbe’s robot, Tally, drives around a space to create a store map and then uses computer vision to “see” what products aren’t on a shelf and identify any missing facings, using RFID for its inventory counts.

VentureBeat reports a single robot can scan 15K to 30K products per hour, compared to the 10K-20K an average human employee can do in 20 to 30 hours. Human, 10-20K, 20-30 hours, Tally, 15K-30K per hour.

Humans will still do the restocking…for now. 

We’ll see how long their shelf life is.

Written by turbotodd

September 12, 2019 at 10:10 am

Who Turned Out The Lights?

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Happy Monday!

Okay, golf fans out there, how about that U.S. Open?  Hats off to Gary Woodland, who held off the always lurking Brooks Koepka (and previous two-years-in-a-row U.S. Open winner) and fastidious Justin Rose to win his first ever major championship.

And there was hardly any bitching about the conditions of the venue, Pebble Beach, which I consider to be a good sign (i.e., no out of control rough, crazy fast greens, streaking fans…okay, that last one I made up just to see if I have your attention).

Of course, it’s kind of hard to bitch much about Pebble Beach — I’ve never been there in person, but even on TV it’s breathtaking.

Now, if you happened to be at a Target over the weekend trying to buy some merch, you might have had reason to bitch. For two days in a row, Target experienced a register outage that caused long lines and forced some customers to pay with cash.

You remember cash, right? That green stuff issued by the Federal Reserve that has pictures of past presidents and stuff on it?

Target shares are down more than 1.5% today as investors figured the missing weekend cash into the investment equation. The Wall Street Journal “Morning Download” email newsletter this morning cited Target as explaining the incident wasn’t security related, but rather blamed the outage on a data center issued related to “routine maintenance.” 

Tell me about those self-driving cars, again?  You know, the ones inextricably linked to the same clouds that are running the Target cash registers??

It could have been worse. You could have been trying to do the tango in Argentina (and Paraguay…and Uruguay…and parts of Chile…and Brazil). The power went off and left tens of millions in darkness for several hours on Sunday, and nobody seems to know why.

This as The New York Times on Sunday reported that the U.S. is escalating cyber attacks on Russia’s electric power grid and has placed potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system. Moscow responded today by saying such hacks could escalate into a cyberwar with the U.S.

Mutually assured power outages, anyone?

And on the subject of mutually assured whatever, Huawei’s CEO is doing some advance damage control on the U.S./China Chill-But-Getting-Colder trade war, explaining he expects the company’s revenues to drop $30B below forecast over the next two years.

That’s due largely to a drop of 40 to 60 million international smartphone shipments. 

I would recommend he go talk to Alexa about his problems, but according to a recent survey of 1,000+ U.S. adults, 46 percent never use voice assistants, and 19 percent use them less than once a month.

And for those who do use virtual assistants, 49 percent use them via smartphones as opposed to 18 percent on smart speakers.

Siri, tell Google Assistant to text Alexa not to bother me!

Written by turbotodd

June 17, 2019 at 11:14 am

Amazon Grows

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Happy Monday.

Before the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is planning to open dozens of grocery stores in several major US cities.

The stores would not be part of the Whole Foods market chain,  and while the company has already signed leases according to the story, there is no guarantee it will open the stores.

Remind you of a recent deal in Long Island City, New York?

Just coincidental that this new grocery brand comes as Amazon is also rolling out its cashierless Amazon Go stores, the ones that require very few humans but lots of cameras and algos?

I think I’ll still with Trader Joes…for now. 

Meanwhile, back in San Francisco the RSA security conference gets underway for its 2019 edition.  Should be lots to talk about!

IBM’s Security Intelligence blog offers a few tips and tricks for those of you attending. 

My own two cents: Wear very comfortable shoes, carry some layers to wear, and pack a small umbrella. 

Oh yeah, and don’t use the free wi-fi networks while you’re there. It’s a cyber security conference, duh.

Written by turbotodd

March 4, 2019 at 10:39 am

Posted in 2019, amazon

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Walmart’s Leafy Green Blockchain

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TechCrunch recently reported on an initiative in which Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain, and that Walmart would be requiring all suppliers of leafy green vegetables for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019.

TechCrunch’s story notes that “most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes,” making it difficult to track down food safety issues like E. coli romain lettuce. But “by placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital.

Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision.

Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the IBM Food Trust Solution use case in this scenario.

Most notable is the time compression involved. The story notes that before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, that has been reduced to 2.2 seconds, which means that also “substantially reduces the likelihood that infected food will reach the consumer.”

You can learn more about the IBM Food Trust blockchain solution here.

Written by turbotodd

September 26, 2018 at 11:16 am

Oh Thank Heavens

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It’s all about convenience.

MacRumors is reporting that 7-Eleven announced yesterday that Apple Pay and Google Pay are accepted at nearly all of its 10,000+ locations across the United States.

The company also highlighted some of the technology improvements that it has introduced recently including the 7-Eleven NOW app for placing on demand orders with Apple Pay, the 7Rewards loyalty program that allows customers to earn points for purchases, and the 7-Eleven Bot on Facebook Messenger to allow customers to get quick answers to questions.

Those all-critical questions that often arise at 2 AM, like: “Do you have any hotdogs left?”

To use Apple Pay at 7-Eleven stores, customers will need an iPhone 6, 6s, 6, 7, 8, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus, 8 Plus, SE, or X, and/or a compatible Apple Watch model.

Written by turbotodd

September 11, 2018 at 9:35 am

Posted in 2018, apple, payments, retail

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Amazon Check

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Amazon is talking with major banks about building a checking account-like product for its customers, according to a report from today’s Wall Street Journal.

The talks are allegedly focused on creating a product that would appeal to younger customers and those without bank accounts, but would apparently not involve Amazon itself becoming a bank.

Big picture strategery-wise, it imeans Amazon is continuing to work itself down to the very end of the consumer retail chain, near to the endpoint where people ingest and exhale their dinero. It would also have the derivative benefit of Amazon potentially cutting out another middleman (the bank), or at minimum minimizing the fees it pays. 

As the Journal article points out, Amazon would also get valuable data on customers’ income and spending habits across the board.

And as for the JPMorgans and other banks that may come aboard the Amazon checkbook-like safari, hey, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

Written by turbotodd

March 5, 2018 at 9:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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