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'Christmas slots went in five hours': how online supermarket Ocado became a lockdown winner

The Guardian

Ocado's warehouse in Erith, 15 miles east of London on the Thames estuary, is staffed by 1,050 "personal shoppers". Outnumbering them are 1,800 robots the size of small washing machines. You see them by climbing to the top level of the vast warehouse – at 564,000 sq ft, it is more than three times the size of St Peter's in Rome – where a sign tells you that photography is strictly prohibited. The online supermarket is paranoid that rivals will glimpse the technology it believes to be revolutionary. From the viewing platform you can watch these metal cubes endlessly whiz around, moving thousands of plastic crates as if they were playing an enormous game of chess. You occasionally sight bottles of bleach or rosé, packets of noodles and dog biscuits, before they are sent down to a lower level. "I find it quite mesmerising, like robotic ballet," says Mel Smith, CEO of Ocado Retail, the UK arm of the business. "The day I decided I wanted this job was when I went to [the warehouse] and thought, this is absolutely the future."


Robots And AI Can 10X Productivity. Here's Why That Might Be Good For Workers

#artificialintelligence

Lior Elazary believes that robots are a net positive for humans. That's a good thing, because he is the CEO of InVia Robotics and offers a robots-as-a-service platform that can 5-10X productivity in shipping and receiving warehouses. And presumably, he wants to sleep at night. The question, however, remains: is Elazary right? "A lot of people don't realize how gruesome it is to work inside the warehouse," Elazary told me recently in a TechFirst podcast.


Artificial Intelligence in the Logistics Industry: Use Cases and Examples

#artificialintelligence

Logistics needs changes, and Artificial Intelligence brings innovations to this field. There are a bunch of cool innovations like smart roads, autonomous vehicles, and so on. In this guide, we'll discuss the five most promising AI use cases in logistics. Moreover, we've listed companies that have already integrated this powerful technology and even got the revenue. Statistics are quite impressive: Artificial Intelligence integration can bring revenue from $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion per year.


An antidote to "fast fashion"

#artificialintelligence

In today's world of fast fashion, retailers sell only a fraction of their inventory, and consumers keep their clothes for about half as long as they did 15 years ago. As a result, the clothing industry has become associated with swelling greenhouse gas emissions and wasteful practices. The startup Armoire is addressing these issues with a clothing rental service designed to increase the utilization of clothes and save customers time. The service is based on machine-learning algorithms that use feedback from users to make better predictions about what they'll wear. Customers pay a flat monthly price to get access to a range of high-end styles.


DHL's Warehouse Management Business Makes It Easier to Onboard Robots

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

It is one of several efforts in the industry to improve the usefulness of robots in warehouses, where they are increasingly common. The platform is currently online at one location near Madrid, where it has already reduced integration time for new robot systems by 60%, said Markus Voss, DHL Supply Chain's global chief information officer and chief operating officer. "We're at the beginning of the journey," Mr. Voss said. "We are implementing it as we speak at two additional sites, and we think it has applicability across all of our sites." The Morning Download delivers daily insights and news on business technology from the CIO Journal team.


Twitter round-up: Evan Kirstel's tweet on bionic gloves most popular tweet in October 2020 - Verdict

#artificialintelligence

Verdict lists ten of the most popular tweets on robotics in October 2020 based on data from GlobalData's Influencer Platform. The top tweets were chosen from influencers as tracked by GlobalData's Influencer Platform, which is based on a scientific process that works on pre-defined parameters. Influencers are selected after a deep analysis of the influencer's relevance, network strength, engagement, and leading discussions on new and emerging trends. Evan Kirstel, a top B2B analyst and influencer, shared a video on how a pair of bionic gloves helped an 80-year-old classical pianist, João Carlos Martins, to play the piano again. The maestro had lost dexterity in his hands due to aging and health issues.


How Amazon became a pandemic giant – and why that could be a threat to us all

The Guardian

For the last year, Anna (not her real name) has been working as an Amazon "associate", in the kind of vast warehouse the company calls a fulfilment centre. For £10.50 an hour, she works four days a week, though, during busy periods, this sometimes goes up to five. Her shift begins at 7.15am and ends at 5.45pm. "When I get home," she says, "it's about 6.30. And I just go in, take a shower and go to bed. Anna is a picker in one of the company's most technologically advanced workplaces, in the south of England. This means she works in a metal enclosure in front of a screen that flashes up images of the products she has to put in the "totes" destined for the part of the warehouse where customer orders are made ready for posting out. Everything from DVDs to gardening equipment is brought to her by robot "drives": squat, droid-like devices that endlessly lift "pods" – tall fabric towers full of pockets that contain everything from DVDs to toys – and then speed them to the pickers. Everything has to happen quickly. According to the all-important metric by which a picker's performance is measured, Anna says she has to average 360 items an hour, or around 3,800 a day. In March, the Covid-19 lockdown meant that customer orders suddenly rocketed. Anna says that lots of her colleagues started putting in overtime, and new recruits arrived en masse. "They hired a lot of people," she says. "I thought there should have been fewer people in the warehouse, to have distancing." "They took out some of the tables because of 2-metre distancing, but it was impossible to find a free table or chair.


COVID-19 Pandemic Puts Workplace Technology in the Spotlight

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The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the role of technology in the workplace, and more employers are relying on artificial intelligence, machine learning and virtual reality to save money and limit in-person contact. These technologies can be effective tools for hiring, training and assessing employee performance, as well as creating meaningful interactions during a time of isolation. However, employers must ensure that their use of technology doesn't run afoul of employment and labor laws. "It's incredibly important for HR organizations and hiring managers to understand the nuances of the technology that they're using if it is making decisions on their behalf," said Marc Goldberg, chief technology officer at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in Alexandria, Va. He was speaking during a panel discussion at the American Bar Association's 14th Annual Labor and Employment Law Conference, which was held virtually.


How Fruit Packing Warehouses Use Technology - Nanalyze

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Walk into any grocery store in America and you'll find a variety of fresh apples for consumption. It's remarkable to think how developed markets have managed to secure the availability of apples year-round. That miracle is made possible through lots of behind-the-scenes work that takes place at packing houses to ensure only the best fruit makes its way to grocery store produce sections. Take Washington State for example, where 58% of the apples grown in the United States are produced at a value of $2.5 billion yearly. Somewhere around 100 packing warehouses across the state work almost year-round to provide apples for domestic consumption with 30% of the product getting exported across the globe.


Ocado enters non-food retail and logistics sectors with new robot acquisitions

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As the coronavirus pandemic accelerates the automation of the retail industry, Ocado Group PLC (LON:OCDO) has stepped up its investment in robotics and machine learning. The FTSE 100 group is now buying a company that specialises in an issue that Amazon's Jeff Bezos has several times stated as perhaps the most difficult and last remaining element in the race to automate the retail industry. Ocado has agreed to buy Kindred Systems Inc, a US company specialising in'piece picking' robots, for roughly US$262mln. Using automated intelligence (AI) and deep learning, robots from Kindred and its rivals are increasingly being used by retail and logistics companies to achieve Bezos's tricky task of picking up and moving items without breaking them. Kindred robots use automated intelligence (AI) to power their vision and motion control, while the piece-picking arms are developed using'deep reinforcement learning', a form of AI that improves the learning process for robots handling a wide variety of large, small, hard and soft items such as in grocery.