Machine learning and AI are the evolution of what was considered revolutionary just a few years ago: gathering and making sense of large, previously silo-bound data volumes. During the first wave of the Big Data era, companies were just getting a handle on the distribution, variety, and monetary potential of their many silos. The focus at the time was on integration and recognition--the simple understanding of what data resided where, and what parts of the organization were accountable for it. This was no small challenge, and it's still happening in companies with large, distributed infrastructures and global teams. That first wave led to a new host of tools, including Hadoop, predictive analytics, and all the many innovations up and down the stack designed to integrate, centralize, process, store, and analyze Big Data.
Since the last decade, as the majority of companies started adopting digital transformation, Data Scientists and Data Engineers have evolved into two separate roles, of course, with certain overlaps. Enterprise data is stored in various formats: databases, text files, or any other sources of storage. Data Engineers are the professionals who build pipelines to transform this data into the formats that are readable and usable for Data Scientists. They convert the data in such a way that it is suitable for analysis. This pipeline involves taking data from discrete sources and storing them in a single warehouse, wherein the data will be represented uniformly.
Amazon's biggest problem is that it can't teleport products into the homes of customers. As the largest online retailer, the company struggles with the "last mile problem," or the difficulty of moving goods that final distance between a hyper-efficient warehouse and the eager customer's front steps. To help solve this issue, the company has famously been working on drones to make the final drops. It still sounds like science fiction, but Amazon's drone delivery program is actually deep into testing, and it is built like infrastructure, to accommodate the instantaneous demands of a massive population, where it can. Along with the testing, Amazon has filed several drone-related patents, including a concept for recharging stations mounted on streetlights, and a distribution center contained within an airship.
COVID-19 may accelerate industrial automation and robotics in the long term. In the movies, regardless of how bad the situation gets on screen things usually return to normal in time for a happy ending. But in the post-pandemic real world, what'normal' will look like is a little less clear. One of the many likely long-term effects of the coronavirus crisis is a reassessment of how we work, and when physical presence and proximity are necessary. The need to protect employees from infection as they return to offices, factories and warehouses has become top priority for most companies.