The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates. In this installment of the AI in Supply Chain series (#AIinSupplyChain), we explore how artificial intelligence is being used to help beneficial cargo owners gain greater visibility into their supply chains in order to make it possible for their insurers to more accurately underwrite insurance policies. This article is most directly related to Commentary: Key supply chain innovation issues to consider in a world with VUCA and Commentary: Exogenous variables dominate a world with VUCA. According to IBM, "Supply chain visibility is the ability of stakeholders throughout the supply chain to access real-time data related to the order process, inventory, delivery and potential supply chain disruptions." Sometimes this definition is extended to include access to knowledge about the state of goods in transit.
I always know a new product is excellent when its makers describe it as "next-level." I hear you moan, on seeing the new, wondrous Ring Always Home Cam. Also: When is Prime Day 2020? Oh, how can you be such a killjoy? When Amazon's Ring describes it as "Next-Level Compact, Lightweight, Autonomously Flying Indoor Security Camera," surely you leap toward your ceiling and exclaim: "Finally, something from Amazon I actually want! A drone that flies around my living room!"
FedEx Corp. is looking at using small self-flying cargo planes to serve remote areas after experimenting with a technology startup on autonomous aircraft, said Chief Executive Officer Fred Smith. The effort builds on the courier's work with Silicon Valley's Reliable Robotics, which was founded by veterans of Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. With approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, Reliable Robotics demonstrated in June a fully automated remote landing of a Cessna 208 Caravan turboprop owned by FedEx. "This initiative deals with small turboprop airplanes and in this particular case the single-engine C208, which we're looking at putting in very remote and uninhabited areas as part of our network," Smith said Monday at FedEx's annual shareholder meeting. FedEx pilots shouldn't be concerned about robots stealing their jobs -- for now.
A fleet of 40 autonomous robots has been deployed on Arizona State University's Tempe campus, making it the latest institution to implement robot food-delivery from Starship Technologies, according to a university release. ASU's food-service provider, Aramark, has partnered with the delivery robot's creator, Starship, to provide the nearly four dozen robots that will serve ASU's on-campus community. According to the release, the robots will retrieve food and drinks from "on-campus retailers to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes." Starship is already providing the food-delivery services to over 10 campuses across the country. The robots rolled out to Northern Arizona University's campus in 2019.
Shortly after receiving final FAA approval for drone deliveries, Amazon already has a rival. Walmart announced that it will start a pilot program with drone company Flytrex to deliver groceries and other household essentials from its stores in Fayetteville, NC. Flytrex had previously received FAA approval for food deliveries in North Carolina. The pilot program will mostly be used to gather information for a future service, so the Fayetteville skies won't be filled with drones just yet. "The drones, which are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard, will help us gain valuable insight into the customer and associate experience -- from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery," said Walmart senior VP Tom Ward.
Your future Walmart order might be delivered via drone. The retail giant announced the launch of an on-demand drone delivery pilot program in Fayetteville, North Carolina Wednesday with Flytrex, an end-to-end drone delivery company. In a blog post, Tom Ward, Walmart senior vice president of customer products, said the pilot focuses on delivering select grocery and household essential items from Walmart stores using Flytrex's automated drones. "The drones, which are controlled over the cloud using a smart and easy control dashboard, will help us gain valuable insight into the customer and associate experience – from picking and packing to takeoff and delivery," Ward said. Save better, spend better: Money tips and advice delivered right to your inbox.
As physical retail struggles amid the global pandemic, storeowners are rapidly trying to adapt to new realities that also include growing competition from Amazon. But a French startup called Storelift believes it can create a new convenience store concept that leans on many of the same AI and computer vision tools used in Amazon Go stores to reinvent the shopping and checkout experience. This week, Storelift announced that it has launched its first two stores under the name "Boxy." The Boxy stores are repurposed shipping containers that can be plopped down in various urban neighborhoods that lack good shopping options. The founders believe their approach demonstrates how businesses can exploit new shopping niches with the help of sensors, data, and AI that allows them to optimize their inventory and reduce costs.
Bezos said in the 2013 interview that it would take four or five years to have those drone deliveries. It turns out that using remote-controlled aerial gizmos to drop stuff at our homes is incredibly difficult, prone to risk and potentially more trouble than it's worth. Like driverless cars, drone technology in populated areas is more complicated than most people expected, and it has been -- mostly for good reason -- tightly controlled in the United States by government agencies worried about drones straying into the path of airplanes, dropping out of the sky onto our heads or unwittingly spying through people's windows. It wasn't until this week that the F.A.A. gave Amazon permission to do drone deliveries. And drones might never be practical for deliveries when someone in a vehicle could do the same thing in a fraction of the time and cost. Drones are a great public relations jolt for Amazon, but let's not put too much stock in them for awhile -- maybe ever.
Getting an Amazon package delivered from the sky is closer to becoming a reality. The Federal Aviation Administration said Monday it had granted Amazon approval to deliver packages by drones. Amazon said that the approval is an "important step," but added that it is still testing and flying the drones. It did not say when it expected drones to make deliveries to shoppers. "This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA's confidence in Amazon's operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world," said David Carbon, vice president of Prime Air.