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Author: Eric Sorensen

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Radio for manufacturing and engineering professionals. New industrial products, news and technical articles.
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Fresh off its historic and successful mission to the International Space Station, last week SpaceX announced even grander plans.Company founder Elon Musk, took to Twitter, if you can believe it, to announce that the company is planning to construct floating, marine-based spaceports around the world. These aqua-bases would be used to launch rockets into space, including Mars and the moon, as well as to support hypersonic passenger flights around the globe.
According to the Department of Justice, a pair of Virginia attorneys pleaded guilty to federal extortion charges on Friday. 38-year-old Timothy Litzenburg and 41-year-old Daniel Kincheloe admitted to participating in a scheme to extort $200 million from multinational chemical company Monsanto. According to the DOJ, the lawyers threatened financial and reputational harm if the company didn’t hand over money disguised as a “consulting agreement.”
The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona is often referred to as the Boneyard.That’s because it houses approximately 4,000 retired military aircraft – more than anyplace else in the world. And, according to recent reports, it’s about to get a little bigger.The Air Force has announced plans to retire more than 100 planes across its bomber, airlift, tanker and drone fleets in order to make room for additional aircraft tied to its $1 billion Next Generation Air Dominance program.According to a report on Military.com, shipping 17 B-1B Lancer bombers, 44 A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets, 30 KC-135 Stratotanker and KC-10 Extender refuelers, as well as 24 RQ-4 Global Hawk drones and 24 C-130H Hercules troop transport planes will free up over $4 billion that the Air Force can use on some other stuff with really cool names.For example, the aforementioned Air Dominance program will explore what future fighter jet operations could look like and support the Advanced Battle Management System. This program will look to sync current intel with surveillance information and machine-gathered reconnaissance data in formulating military plans.In addition to investing in strategic air combat and defense planning, the funds will be used to help boost and update the Air Force’s current fleet with new F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, F-15EX fighter jets and MH-139 Grey Wolf helicopters.The aircraft that make their way to the 2,600-acre Boneyard will either be stored for potential use in the short term, picked for parts, or readied for sale. On average, aircraft at the facility produce about $500 million in sales to “military, government and allied customers.
More than 30 years after snowmobile pioneer Bombardier first entered the aerospace sector, the company is reportedly set to depart the commercial aircraft industry entirely amid a broad restructuring effort.CBC/Radio-Canada reports that fresh off a $1.6 billion loss in its latest fiscal year, the one-time aviation and rail giant sold its stake in the A220 passenger jet to its partner Airbus for $591 million.The French aerospace giant now owns 75 percent of the A220 program, with the remainder owned by the government of Quebec.The deal will relieve the debt-ridden company from paying an estimated $700 million into the program, but it also leaves Bombardier Aerospace with only its private jet manufacturing operations.Airbus will retain more than 3,000 jobs in Quebec as part of the deal. Bombardier officials noted that they long planned to exit commercial aviation after the company reportedly flirted with bankruptcy in 2015, but the CBC noted the company’s core operations remain something of a “moving target” after years of shedding aerospace assets.And despite leaving the commercial aerospace market altogether, the company still likely isn’t done — reports indicated that Bombardier is close to a sale of its rail operations to French rail giant Alstom.
A Northeast Wisconsin heavy-duty vehicle manufacturer stands to bear the brunt of tens of millions in proposed spending reductions if the White House gets its way.Defense contractors are always subject to the whims of global conflict and political considerations, but a new report suggests that orders for hundreds of Oshkosh Corp.-built Army trucks could be a casualty of the administration's efforts to build fencing along the border with Mexico.The Defense Department recently issued plans to divert more than $3.8 billion to construct 177 miles of fence along the nearly 2,000-mile border. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that most of that funding comes from cancelled aircraft and drone purchases, but more than $100 million would also be diverted from the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck program.Those trucks are used to carry munitions and other supplies for the Army. Oshkosh has rebuilt more than 12,000 of them over the past 25 years, and received a $232 million contract to revamp more than 400 more early last year.Oshkosh officials didn’t answer questions about how the changes could impact its operations or payroll, but Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s office told the Journal Sentinel that the Trump administration appears to be taking funding from the state’s manufacturing sector for a wall that the president famously promised Mexico would pay for.Pentagon budget documents, meanwhile, defended the cut by noting that spending hundreds of millions on legacy trucks was inconsistent with its goals of modernizing its tactical vehicle fleet.Oshkosh is far from the only firm that would be affected under the plan. The company touts more than 700 suppliers, and Fairbanks Morse — another Wisconsin company — was set to make the engines for a Navy ship program that now faces $650 million in cuts under the proposal.
The F-35 program has been the target of a lot of criticism. Like, a lot.The military aircraft, said to be the most lethal and connected fighter jet in the world, has been plagued by ballooning cost, delays and technical problems for years, and the F-35’s annual assessment by the Pentagon’s test center isn’t exactly giving its reputation a boost.It’s being reported by Bloomberg that, while Robert Behler, the Defense Department’s director of operational test and evaluation, didn’t pinpoint any major problems in flying capability, he did stress there were many Category 1 – or “must fix” items – to address before the project’s next phase.The report identifies some 873 software deficiencies, down from 917 in September of 2018. The low rate of progress is due to what sounds like a game of “wack a mole” – as problems are snuffed out, more continue to arise.And software glitches are not the only thing here: the jet is said to have some cybersecurity vulnerabilities and its Air Force version has a pretty serious gun problem, in that it doesn’t shoot straight. While the 25mm firearms on the Navy and Marine versions are mounted externally and have passed muster, the Air Force gun is internally mounted. The test office reportedly “considers the accuracy, as installed, unacceptable” due to “misalignments” in the gun’s mount that didn’t meet specifications.”But one of the stranger things about this whole situation as that orders for the F-35 continue to pile up. The US is accelerating purchases this year – 20 in this fiscal versus 15 last year – and foreign countries like Japan, Australia and the UK all count themselves as customers.According to Time, a spokesperson for the F-35 program office had no comment on the latest report from the testing office.
Over the past two years, Fiat Chrysler has seen some dramatic highs and some crushing lows. After the automaker endured the sudden passing of longtime leader Sergio Marchionne in 2018, it concluded 2019 with a binding agreement to merge with Peugeot to form the world’s fourth largest car company.Sandwiched in between these events was FCA’s quiet settlement of a lawsuit that stemmed from a 2016 case where the company was accused of manipulating dealer sales figures. A group of dealers in Illinois had held fast to a lawsuit claiming FCA was guilty of racketeering and anticompetitive practices when it pressured dealers to inflate sales numbers in exchange for a greater allotment of the fastest-selling models.And while FCA settled this dealer suit and averted a lawsuit, it appears they weren’t able to breathe easy for long. Automotive News is reporting that a new group of dealers, this time in New York, is threatening FCA with a lawsuit for an entirely different reason.The New York State Automobile Dealers Association has reportedly sent a cease-and-desist letter to Fiat Chrysler, alleging the auto maker’s dealer incentives give an unfair advantage to larger dealerships.Fiat Chrysler is attempting to clear inventory at the manufacturing level, a strategy designed to avoid saddling plants with thousands of unassigned vehicles when dealer orders mismatch what’s been produced. This year, FCA is offering dealers a $1,500 voucher for every vehicle they buy from the inventory pool and some angry dealers say this is tantamount to 2-tiered pricing: rewarding larger dealers -- those, typically, with more cash to carry inventory -- by selling them vehicles at a lower price.According to Automotive News, Fiat Chrysler claims its vehicle surplus is due to a production method that’s been trimming costs at the manufacturing level and not, as the dealers claim, because it’s over-producing and pressuring dealers to ease the glut. Bloomberg reported last fall that CEO Mike Manley said that “Working with our dealer network to achieve and maintain discipline with stock levels continues to be one of (the company’s) top priorities.”
The UAW has been struggling, for a while now, as fallout from corruption investigations has implicated more and more of its ranking members, including president Gary Jones, who abruptly resigned from the organization this past November.Jones, who was being charged by the union of misusing funds, was just one of more than a dozen UAW execs pursued for various corruption allegations. But one exec that’s still leading the charge is Rory Gamble, the union president who stepped in take Gary Jones’s place. And what better way for the UAW to commemorate Gamble and the union’s fresh start, than by handing out promotional pens at a lobbying event this week with his name on them.But there’s one problem. The Detroit News published a story last week that detailed backlash from union members who were not pleased to see the pens emblazoned with the name of their country of origin: China.Meoshee Edwards, a 23-year UAW member who works at Detroit’s Hamtramck plant reportedly called the pens “hypocritical” and a spokesperson for the union said, simply, “the UAW agrees.” The UAW’s bidding process requires that items purchased come from union-made U.S. plants. So what happened? In this case, the union says the manufacturer flubbed the order.And New Jersey-based Bankers Pen, Inc. says the union is 100 percent right – they did mess up the order, by grabbing pen parts from their China-made inventory, rather than the U.S.-made stock, due to a processing error. Bankers President Richard Danziger told the Detroit News that it was “absolutely someone in my facility” and that the company would do whatever it takes to make it right.Unfortunately for the UAW, it’s just more drama at a time when the union doesn’t need it. The organization has been known for wearing a mantle of “Buy American” and even publishes shopping guides on where to buy union-made goods.
Nashville-based Atlantic Natural Foods’ is a producer and distributor of plant-based food products, and its flagship brand, Loma Linda, has a number of plant-based meat products, ranging from hot dogs and veggie steaks, to its most popular offering, seafood. The company’s TUNO brand of plant-based seafood has recently gained expanded distribution. TUNO, a soy-based protein with a texture similar to tuna, is currently sold at Costco, Walmart in the US and Aldi stores in the UK.This past October, Atlantic requested to attend the annual International Boston Seafood Show, held this coming March 17-19, to exhibit its TUNO brand.The group vice president of Diversified Communications, who are the organizers of the expo, told Undercurrent News, quote, “One of the unique aspects of Seafood Expo North America for our attending buyers is that we are specifically seafood-focused compared to other general food events. As we are monitoring this alternative protein option, for 2020, it has been determined that protein products be limited to seafood proteins, where a majority of the product’s ingredients need to be seafood or aquatic in nature. Similarly, buyers would not find chicken, pork, or beef products exhibited at the event.”This isn’t sitting well with Atlantic, which announced in late January that it is considering legal options, threatening to file a formal complaint against Diversified Communications for the restraint of trade and violation of the company’s first amendment rights. Atlantic has asked Diversified to reconsider its decision, on the grounds that, one, in addition to soy, TUNO is made out of ocean-based ingredients, including seaweed and algea, and two, Atlantic is currently developing seafood applications.The company said it was denied again, and despite multiple requests for further clarification and a chance to review the show policy, it has yet to receive a response from Diversified as of January 29. In a press release, Atlantic it believes Diversified Communication’s actions are directed solely towards Atlantic Natural Foods and its owners, who it said are long-term veterans of the seafood industry.Atlantic chairman J. Douglas Hines, who the company notes is a 40-year seafood industry veteran, said, quote, “Leaders in the seafood industry are again attempting to ignore innovation and groups out of their control. Instead of embracing change and delivering on new consumer expectations, they continue on a path to repeat past practices.”In its January 29 press release, Atlantic said it has not finalized its decision to file a lawsuit but is demanding that the event planners formalize a policy that is fair and equitable for all.
A New York City based startup is facing the wrath of some the world’s biggest tech companies due to the way it’s populating a database for its facial recognition product.According to its website, Clearview AI’s mission is to enable law enforcement agencies to identify perpetrators and victims of crimes. It apparently does this by using a “research tool” that’s, essentially, a searchable database of photographic images. And they’ve been obtaining these images, reportedly, by scraping them from the web, including from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook.The New York Times reported in late January that Twitter had contacted Clearview AI and demanded they stop “collecting faces.” Now, according to Business Insider, Google and YouTube have joined Twitter in blasting Clearview AI for violating their policies.These companies basically all employ language that says that individuals are forbidden from collecting information that’s then used to identify a person or, as Twitter explicitly says, “for surveillance purposes.”But the startup, whose legal team is certainly being kept busy, says that it is simply accessing publicly available information, which is a right it is afforded by the First Amendment.BBC News says the startup has amassed more than 3 billion images from a variety of websites, and so far Clearview AI is being used by more than 600 law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and Homeland Security.
A Denver-area autonomous vehicle startup made its public debut this week with a more than $50 million fundraising haul and the announcement of pilot projects at several large companies.Outrider says it offers first-of-its-kind technology to help automate the distribution yards of large companies. A video issued by the company shows driverless cabs maneuvering containers at loading docks as an employee monitors the operation from a computer.Although distribution yards offer the kind of confined, repetitive environment that could make it perfect for autonomous technologies, Outrider officials noted they can also be complicated and chaotic, with human workers still performing many different tasks.In addition to moving containers around a yard, Outrider’s autonomous, electric cabs, according to the company, can also hitch and unhitch trailers and connect and disconnect their brake lines.Officials also said its system integrates with supply chain software already in use by large companies. Outrider is conducting tests at four unnamed Fortune 200 companies and at paper goods giant Georgia-Pacific.The company’s fundraising campaign, meanwhile, took in $53 million from numerous venture capital firms as well as logistics giant Prologis and the venture arm of Koch Industries — Georgia-Pacific’s parent company.Ultimately, Outrider executives hope to establish logistics hubs that are safer, more efficient and more sustainable — founder Andrew Smith set a goal of rapidly retiring the more than 50,000 yard trucks in the U.S. that run on diesel fuel.
About a year ago, Polestar — the electric vehicle brand founded by Swedish automaker Volvo — unveiled a compact car touted as a potential challenger to Tesla’s Model 3 in the still-young industry of mass-market electric vehicles.The Polestar 2 debuted at the 2019 Geneva auto show with plans for the car to become available this year.That’s still the plan, but the brand is also headed back to Geneva next month with a look at where it thinks it’s headed next.Polestar this week introduced a concept sedan it’s calling the Precept, which officials characterized as a “manifesto” for sustainable, high-performance automaking.The vehicle features an advanced human-machine interface based on the Android operating system — made by Polestar collaborator Google — along with interior sensors capable of, among other things, tracking the driver’s gaze.On the exterior, cameras and sensors replace the front grille, while camera-based technologies replace conventional mirrors, and a glass roof with a mounted LIDAR pod anticipates evolving driver assistance systems.Polestar also touted a variety of sustainable technologies, including wing designs to improve its aerodynamics and range, and interior features comprised of more eco-friendly materials: panels made from flax-based composites, seats from recycled bottles, headrests from recycled cork vinyl, and carpets from reclaimed fishing nets.The Precept is only a sign of Polestar’s ambition at this point, but the brand itself could be in for some upheaval of its own as Volvo and Geely — its Chinese owner — consider combining their operations into a single entity.
In an era filled with smart cars, smart phones and smart TVs, it doesn’t sound too far-fetched that the Army would like to develop some smart weapons for what we’d like to believe have always been some pretty smart soldiers.Last month at the annual SHOT Show, Israeli-based Smart Shooter Ltd. unveiled their SMASH Fire Control System. The company is working with Sig Sauer on the Army’s advanced fire control system project, which will be used with their new Next-Generation Squad Weapon.This new weapons system, which includes semi and fully automatic variants, will replace the M4A1 rifle and M249 machine gun, commonly referred to as the SAW. Designed with shooter accuracy in mind, the SMASH system can engage both stationary and moving targets during the day or at night via a weapon-mounted optic site, specialized pistol grip, and a button on the handguard.The shooter looks through the optic, placing the crosshairs on the target and then pressing the button to “mark” the target. This information is fed back through the system’s computer as the shooter keeps the crosshairs on the target and squeezes the trigger. Pressing and releasing the button essentially locks the weapon onto the target, while the crosshairs reinforce the aiming point. This technology removes a number of variables that can affect the accuracy of the shot, such as sighting in the weapon for each user, breathing patterns that can raise or lower the round’s trajectory, weapon recoil, and even unplanned body movements. This stems from the fact that the weapon only fires if the crosshairs are properly aligned. Additionally, if the target moves suddenly and the shooter keeps the crosshairs trained on it, the system will fire automatically once the shot lines up. This makes moving targets easier to hit without wasting rounds or revealing the direction of fire.The system is only activated by pushing that button on the handguards, so rapid shots can still be fired without SMASH when necessary. Depending on how both the SMASH system and the new weapons test out, infantry soldiers could see both by early 2023.
A recent announcement from Subaru reveals that it will be the latest automaker to commit to an electric vehicle future – and it won’t go it alone.Subaru plans to harness Toyota’s more mature hybrid technology to get off the ground, and that’s because Toyota owns about a nine percent stake in the brand. The partners are also working on a few joint projects including some electrics expected sometime around the mid-2020s.Subaru’s EV goal progresses further when it says that 40 percent or more of its vehicles will be driven by some sort of electrification by 2030. And by 2035, Subaru says that effort will apply to all vehicles in its lineup.But let’s digest that carefully: Subaru is NOT saying there will be no gas in its lineup, just that at least some power for all its models will be electric – meaning Subaru will, at a minimum, offer an extensive line of hybrids. By 2050, however, Subaru says it will have slashed carbon emissions from its model by 90 percent or more.In more excitement than the Subaru brand has ever had in one week, the carmaker also unveiled a new concept car that’s a fully EV crossover. Automotive News Europe described it as “a low-slung ride with a raked rear window, elongated cabin, digital sideview mirrors and short front and rear overhangs. The front fascia is aggressively creased, while the wheel wells get heavy black cladding that lends the tires a rugged, oversized look.”Sounds cool, but on top of a drawn out timeline, Subaru makes it clear that it doesn’t prioritize the US market for its EVs. CEO Tomomi Nakamura called the US EV marker “really tough” and that “only Tesla’s EVs are selling well.” So maybe what feels like a commitment towards EVs is just as much an announcement that Subaru will also watch and wait for other automakers to take the first, and bigger, risks.
A recent announcement from Subaru reveals that it will be the latest automaker to commit to an electric vehicle future – and it won’t go it alone.Subaru plans to harness Toyota’s more mature hybrid technology to get off the ground, and that’s because Toyota owns about a nine percent stake in the brand. The partners are also working on a few joint projects including some electrics expected sometime around the mid-2020s.Subaru’s EV goal progresses further when it says that 40 percent or more of its vehicles will be driven by some sort of electrification by 2030. And by 2035, Subaru says that effort will apply to all vehicles in its lineup.But let’s digest that carefully: Subaru is NOT saying there will be no gas in its lineup, just that at least some power for all its models will be electric – meaning Subaru will, at a minimum, offer an extensive line of hybrids. By 2050, however, Subaru says it will have slashed carbon emissions from its model by 90 percent or more.In more excitement than the Subaru brand has ever had in one week, the carmaker also unveiled a new concept car that’s a fully EV crossover. Automotive News Europe described it as “a low-slung ride with a raked rear window, elongated cabin, digital sideview mirrors and short front and rear overhangs. The front fascia is aggressively creased, while the wheel wells get heavy black cladding that lends the tires a rugged, oversized look.”Sounds cool, but on top of a drawn out timeline, Subaru makes it clear that it doesn’t prioritize the US market for its EVs. CEO Tomomi Nakamura called the US EV marker “really tough” and that “only Tesla’s EVs are selling well.” So maybe what feels like a commitment towards EVs is just as much an announcement that Subaru will also watch and wait for other automakers to take the first, and bigger, risks.
GM Rolls Out Robo-Taxi

GM Rolls Out Robo-Taxi

2020-01-3001:36

San Francisco autonomous driving startup Cruise’s more than six-year existence has been a wild ride even by Silicon Valley standards.The company was purchased by General Motors for nearly $1 billion less than three years later, and its ambition, fundraising and payroll skyrocketed in subsequent years.Putting autonomous cars on the road, however, proved much more difficult. A fleet of self-driving, ride-sharing Chevrolet Bolts was supposed to be on San Francisco streets already, but was delayed indefinitely last summer.This week, the subsidiary unveiled a decidedly different approach to autonomous transportation. The Origin, introduced to great fanfare at a San Francisco warehouse, is a boxy, all-electric shuttle without a steering wheel or brakes.Cruise CEO Dan Amman wrote in a blog post that company engineers, rather than work off the template of the passenger car, sought to build a new mode of transportation from the ground up.The result is a vehicle with extra-wide, sliding doors and six passenger seats that face towards each other. There’s no room for a driver whatsoever — as well as no pedals, rearview mirrors or windshield wipers.GM officials plan to deploy the Origin as part of an app-based robotic taxi service, promising the type of consistent rider experience that might be lacking from a conventional cab or an Uber.Despite the excitement, reports cautioned against expecting the Origin to roll around cities anytime soon. The New York Times reported that Cruise officials would not share details about the vehicle’s testing regimen, regulatory approvals, production goals or a target date for the service to debut.
Is nostalgia enough to get you to pay $1,500 for the same phone you had in college?Motorola thinks so. And in their defense, it’s not exactly the same phone… but it is a flip phone and if you thought we moved away from that, remember: everything old is new again.Late last year, Motorola announced the reboot of the Razr, the world’s most popular phone before the iPhone. Back when flipping made sense because people actually made phone calls… but I digress.Perhaps Motorola was emboldened to bring back the Razr because of the not-quite-market-proven foldable phone efforts from competitors like Samsung. The updated Razr is said to feature a new hinge that Motorola made in-house with zero gap, protecting the new “Flex View” display from dust. A “Quick View” display sits on the exterior of the device, so when it’s closed it still offers basic smart phone features, allowing the user to do things like read text messages or take selfies.This week the company announced it would begin taking pre-orders for the device on January 24th and that the formal US release date would be February 6th. If $1,500 is too much for you up-front, Verizon, the phone’s exclusive carrier, is pitching 2-year payment plans.And there might just be some takers. When Motorola first announced the reboot in November, CNN Business Managing Editor, David Goldman, summed it up best when he said: “The camera isn't great. The battery life stinks. The screen is plastic. The processor is slow. It's superdupercrazy expensive … But ... I kinda want the new Motorola Razr.”
For those of you who don’t know, Jersey is the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands located between England and France.The island itself isn’t that important for this story, except that a dad from Jersey recently sacrificed his weekend so his daughter could most likely spend a great number of hers ignoring her father. Rory Steel, who heads up the Jersey Digital Academy, which provides training and education for those pursing a career in digital technologies, took up the challenge of customizing an Xbox Adaptive Controller, which is designed to help those with mobility issues play video games. Steel’s daughter Ava is challenged with what he describes as “fine motor neuron issues”, which can make traditional gaming controls a challenge to use. Steel used parts and tools sourced from ebay and a local hardware store to build a control panel that sits on top of the Adaptive Controller. This panel features two joysticks. This first is for moving the on-screen player through their game. The second allows for properly positioning a camera that is part of the gaming system, which is used to bring human movements of the player into certain games. The next step was adding 16 buttons around the console, each representing a unique gaming function. After what Steel describes as some “serious soldering and wire management”, the console was tested and, well, Ava’s reaction pretty much says it all. Now, states her dad, she can play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, just like all her friends. In addition to one very happy daughter, Steel’s work has also impressed the folks at Microsoft and Logitech. The companies have reached out to him about designing additional controllers for those with other types of mobility impairments.
It stands to reason that global disease outbreaks would have a measurable impact on the sales of cleaning and sanitation products, and a few years back, a study by IRI suggested that the 2014 Ebola outbreak sent hand sanitizer product sales up 56 percent year-over-year.But for Gojo Industries, the parent company behind Purell hand sanitizer, a ramp-up in the wake of the Wuhan Coronavirus may be accompanied by a change in its marketing message. That’s because the FDA has sent a warning letter to the company over claims that Purell helps to eliminate Ebola, MRSA or even the flu.But the reason for the letter, says CNN Business, is more about compliance than effectiveness. The FDA actually doesn’t allow over-the-counter topic antiseptics to make claims about effectiveness against certain viruses and, in this case, the agency says the claims are unproven.Further complicating the issue, the FDA says Purell’s marketing claims are positioning the products as if they were pharmaceutical drugs, which makes for a slippery slope forward. CNN Business says Gojo may have two choices: to try to get the products reclassified as drugs or stop making their marketing claims altogether. Until then, the products will be viewed as unapproved drugs.And while Gojo works to get its house in order, don’t fret so much about yours: the CDC actually recommends using alcohol-based hand sanitizer for flu prevention, a note that the FDA acknowledged in its recent attempt to stop Gojo from claiming that alcohol-based hand sanitizer should be used for flu prevention.I think I speak for everyone here when I say… huh?
Last year, Walmart had in-store robots installed at nearly 1,500 locations. Despite creeping out customers and making human counterparts feel uneasy, Walmart is rolling out robot workers in 650 new stores. According to Bloomberg, the new robots are shelf-scanners that alert human employees when items are out of stock. According to the IHL Group, out-of-stock items cost retailers about $1 trillion each year. Designed by Boss Nova Robotics, a company based out of San Francisco, the robots are outfitted with 15 cameras and roam the aisles looking for empty shelves. With the addition, Walmart now has 1,000 shelf-scanning robots in service. However, the company also has robots scrubbing floors, unloading trucks, and fulfilling online orders. According to Bossa Nova, the robots allow retailers to redesign store operations, from product flow to replenishment. The robots scan the shelves and use artificial intelligence to recognize everything on the shelf, from prices and labels to products. What's interesting is that they not only know when something is out-of-stock but also misplaced. The robots can also make sure that the tag on the shelf matches the price in the system.According to Walmart, embracing automation is vital if the retailer plans to keep up with Amazon.Walmart now operates 4,750 stores in the U.S., and robot workers will eventually enter service in each location in various roles.
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