This year at CES 2019, Segway announced its new Loomo Delivery product, a robot developed to handle deliveries in buildings and malls. Fully autonomous, Loomo Delivery can navigate around obstacles and through crowds and handle tasks such as mail delivery (straight from the mail carrier) and moving documents through an office environment. It could even bring you a snack. They're smart enough to figure out where deliveries need to go, and feature interactive screens, and can even work an elevator. Its cloud or 4G connectivity also handles dispatch, updates, scheduling, and monitoring.
The Loomo Delivery product serves to fill a niche in busy mailrooms, where getting items the "last mile" can be a time consuming and laborious process for workers. Plus, it also is a time saver for other staff by serving as a go between for documents and other needs.
The Loomo Delivery robots have swappable storage 70 liter containers for a variety of items, and can carry about 110lbs. Plus, they'll find their way to a charging station after a day's work.
This article was based on a January 3, 2019 DesignBoom.com article by Tim Spears
In a humorous twist, this week it's the robots that have lost their jobs to humans. The Henn-na Hotel in Japan was opened with bright hopes of a fully robotic operation, but was recently forced to shelve half of its 243 robots.
Among the layoffs:
Many of these robots had been in service for years and were outdated - their jobs have since been reassigned to humans. Their decommissioning comes as no surprise given the speed at which technology advances. Plus, with very little economies of scale the cost of upkeep and upgrades for bespoke robots can be prohibitive for businesses. Fortunately, humans are a bit more flexible in that regard.
While a fully robotic business is a shiny, exciting venture, perhaps we're not quite ready for it.
This article was based on a January 15, 2019 The Verge article by Shannon Liao.
Kroger, a large player in the American grocery chain market, recently launched a trial of smart technology to make shopping easier for consumers and managing stock easier on store employees. This technology, developed by Microsoft on their Azure cloud platform, utilizes digital displays located on shelves in place of paper price tags as well as the customer's smartphone or a store-supplied device.
The system works through an app that customers plug their shopping list into. Then, the backend system compares the list to the store being shopped and maps out the locations for every item. Then, an interactive map guides shoppers to their items. Here's where the digital displays come in play - using location data the display of the shopping list item will recognize the approaching customer and then change to a user-set icon to catch their attention. From there, the display can also display nutritional information, coupons, advertisements, promotions, and more. In their resting state the displays will show prices, with the plus that they can be remotely updated which saves store employees time and allows for more dynamic promotions.
Once the shopper makes their selection, the item can be scanned with the smartphone app and the shopper can move on. With all items scanned, they can also skip the checkout lines.
An additional plus to the smart grocery system is that customers can input allergies or dietary restrictions. Allergic to almonds? The system can display which breakfast cereals are safe for you to eat. However, the biggest perk to the system thus far has been for online grocery orders fulfilled by store employees. Pressed for time and dealing with a list prepared by someone who perhaps shops from unfamiliar aisles, having the shelves indicate where the ordered item is certainly speeds up preparation of orders. In a hot market with the likes of curbside pickup becoming more commonplace this speedy tech could give Kroger an edge.
This article was based on a January 7, 2019 Business Insider article by Hayley Peterson.
This month PaperFree and its employees again completed a heartfelt charity project for several San Diego-area families in need. This project, now becoming a annual company tradition, gave employees the opportunity to select a needy family of their choice to adopt and to plan, purchase, and deliver gifts to them. All gift purchases were sponsored by PaperFree and adopted families came from local churches, schools, and the Ronald McDonald House center located at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. PaperFree was delighted to again work with the Ronald McDonald House, and supports their mission is to provide housing, meals, schooling, and so much more to the families of critically ill children being treated at numerous hospitals in San Diego's Kearny Mesa area. Learn more about the Ronald McDonald House San Diego.
PaperFree employees have come to look forward to this event and the joy it brings them to facilitate an exciting and happy holiday for families who face tough circumstances - be it financial or health crises.
PaperFree is grateful for its many opportunities to contribute to the local communities and wishes all a happy and safe holiday season and a joyous new year!
We all know the irritation of seeing our phones light up with a number we don't recognize - more often than not it's a spam call promising that we've won an exciting vacation or that the IRS is hunting us down. Sadly, little progress has been made to stem the flow of these scams and they must be working because the spammers keep at it. These calls, often coined "robocalls" due to the tech used to automatically dial numbers, sadly numbered over 5.1 billion in November 2018. This is the highest number ever recorded and is up from 2.9 billion at the beginning of this year.
Why is it? Analysts suspect that it has much to do with the FCC's removal of an Obama-era autodialers that they felt was too broad. However, at the same time they are holding robocallers accountable for their activity. Others are looking for new tactics to end the disruptive calls. Google CEO Ajit Pai implored cellular providers to develop methods to end caller ID spoofing (a method in which a robocaller disguises their number as one local to you).
While this will likely be an ongoing battle, more and more tools are becoming available to help consumers to more readily identify which calls are spam before even answering. Many new phones cross reference internet phone records when a call comes in, and if there's a match to a listing will display the name. This is helpful for numbers that you don't receive calls from often (say, your auto mechanic), but are valid business. More and more mobile operating systems are now allowing users to mark calls as spam, which not only blocks the number on that phone, but reports the number as abusive to network directories and blocks those calls to other numbers on the carrier. Google also recently deployed a call screening feature to their Pixel line of phones that allows users to have the screening service ask the caller questions - all without personally answering.
While these tactics are merely a bandaid to the annoyance of spam calls, they are certainly a helpful feature while real solutions are developed to end robocalls for good.
This article was based on a May 7, 2018 Business Insider article by Prachi Bhardwaj and Paige Leskin
Black Friday 2018 has come and gone, and the results are in - more and more consumers are placing their holiday gift orders through mobile devices. According to Adobe Analytics, nearly half of this year's holiday browsing (not always resulting in a purchase) was placed on smartphones - while millions of dollars worth of orders were placed on devices.
Another darling of the holiday shopping season - Cyber Monday - saw 47% of its traffic and 36% of sales by way of smartphones. Total phone-based sales topped $2.2 billion, a full $800 million more than in 2017. Amazon reported that Cyber Monday 2018 was the best sales day in its history. Its top items? The new Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa voice remote, Fire 7 tablet, Amazon Smart Plug, Instant Pot and 23andMe DNA test.
Why the increase in sales? Convenience, namely. More and more retailers are optimizing their sites for smartphones, which in turn means easier sales (especially when a consumer cannot find a desired item locally). Payment systems like Apple Pay and Google Pay also make transactions easier. Previously, small screens and poor navigation made it worth the hassle for consumers to complete their purchases on computers, but now smartphones have near-tablet sized screens.
Phones as a shopping tool have become more and more ubiquitous in recent years, and those numbers continue to rise. However, it's not yet known if it'll overtake desktops in total orders, but it's certainly on its way. For 2018 alone, Adobe predicted that smartphones would account for 27% of revenue, a solid 12% more than last year. Desktop's 63% of sales is still a lofty target, but with mobile, anything can happen.
This article was based on a November 27, 2018 CNet.com article by Ben Fox Rubin.
Users of Microsoft services such as Outlook, Office 365, OneDrive, Skype, and Xbox Live will now get to enjoy the benefits of not having to remember their passwords. Now, with physical hardware keys using the FIDO2 technology, access to a Microsoft account is as simple as plugging into a USB port or using Bluetooth or NFC to pair a phone to the key.
Initially, the keys were used as part of a two-factor authentication policy, but new browser technology has enabled the elimination of the password requirement. Now, Microsoft's no-password log on process offers three options:
After a generation of having to remember your passwords, switching to (and maintaining) physical keys may seem like a big change. However, time and time again passwords are swiped in data breaches and are especially vulnerable since many of us reuse passwords across platforms. Two-step authentication is a step in the right direction to protect accounts, but the confirmation codes sent in the two step authentication process can be intercepted.
Google has had remarkable data security success by switching its employees to physical keys, and now offers a physical key for its users. And, it isn't alone; Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Github, LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane all offer hardware-augmented login features.
This article was based on a November 20, 2018 CNet article by Stephen Shankland
Five researchers recently announced that they'd developed a way to use AI to mimic human fingerprints - which has recently become a popular security format. Philip Bontrager of the New York University engineering school led the team and the group ultimately named their project DeepMasterPrints.
DeepMasterPrints is a utility that generates fingerprints intended to fool security systems, and it looks to be able to replicate more than one in five actual fingerprints in a biometric security system. This is because biometric security systems don't analyze the entire fingerprint - only a few key points and the relationships between them. As it turns out, fingerprints may be more similar than we previously thought.
The system was developed by feeding actual fingerprints into an AI process that then created unique fingerprints, but kept certain areas more consistent.
In a similar way to how a script could run a "dictionary attack" and run millions of passwords through a system to see what sticks, DeepMasterPrints runs millions of generated fingerprints through a system to see what works. Fortunately, unless the system was optimized for a cell phone it's not likely to work. So, for now, your pictures and texts are still safe behind your phone's fingerprint sensor.
The point of Bontrager's exercise was to encourage development of more secure biometric security systems. His suggestion is that developers come up with ways to confirm that a human is present when granting access to confirm that the system isn't being compromised.
This article was based on a November 15, 2018 Gizmodo article by Jennings Brown.
Samsung, the popular electronics manufacturer, has announced headway into their work to develop technologies that allow televisions to be controlled with brain waves alone. This technology is being developed with the disabled in mind - such as quadriplegics or people with other conditions that affect the use of their hands. Samsung's goal is to create the ability for these people to change channels and adjust sound volume with their mind.
This project was started in partnership with the Center of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Their first task? Figure out what signals the brain puts off when it wants to control a TV. Once they determined those factors, researchers combined those with environmental factors and used machine learning to allow the user to select shows from a menu using eye movements and brainwaves. However, at this time the user must wear a headset that houses 64 sensors and enlist the use of an eye tracker. Samsung's goal is to move the technology a step further and do away with the eye tracker to make the system accessible to those who do not have reliable control over their eyes as well as making the system usable with fewer customizations for individual brains.
Samsung isn't alone in the software for your brain market - Elon Musk has dabbled in the tech with his Neuralink startup and scientists have long been working to create a digital interface for the brain. Should this technology ever come about it stands to replace touch screens and voice assistants.
The current barrier to the technology is that users must coat their head in a conductive gel to allow the sensors to pick up signals. It's not the most stylish thing.
Samsung will continue to work on its technology and refine it with the help of the disabled - only time will tell where the technology goes.
This article was based on a November 8, 2018 CNET article by Shara Tibken.
PaperFree partner OpenText recently announced the introduction of their OpenText Extended ECM Enabler for Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service. This solution combines OpenText's ECM portfolio with Dynamics 365 for Customer Service to improve customer service workflows and customer engagement - in short, it integrates content services into processes. This solution was developed in partnership with Contesto.
From the press release:
"A direct relationship between an organization and its customers is vital for a successful business," said Patricia E. Nagle, senior vice president, CMO, OpenText. "Extended ECM allows customer-facing employees to contribute and consume critical business content from directly within the Microsoft Dynamics 365 business applications. Armed with the right information, data and insight, employees can provide a more personalized experience to customers, helping the intelligent and connected enterprise to drive revenue, loyalty and success."
Nagle continued "With these new capabilities and integrations into Microsoft Dynamics 365, OpenText continues to define the future of work and digital business. This latest announcement is evidence of the strength of our ongoing relationship with Microsoft, including the availability of multiple certified OpenText products, and the ability to run all OpenText solutions on Microsoft Azure."
"As an OpenText partner, Contesto designs, builds and implements OpenText solutions to manage and deliver the right information, at the right time. We specialize in delivering content services to digital enterprises. Leveraging the rich capabilities of the OpenText Extended ECM Platform was a natural choice for us," said Christine Brandtzæg, CEO, Contesto AS. "We see a significant opportunity for organizations using Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service to benefit from information fueled business processes."
The solution improves business processes in sales and service scenarios, collaboration, and customer service from both structured and unstructured content. However, customer-facing roles continue to be supported by the Dynamics 365 application while the improved ECM database feeds the backend to provide enhanced access to information.
OpenText has additional products to connect the digital workplace - OpenText Content Server; Documentum Content Server; Media Management; Archive Center, Application Governance & Archiving for SharePoint; Extended ECM Platform, Web Site Management and Capture Center.
This article was based on an October 29, 2018 OpenText Press Release.