Amazon has narrowed the field down to the final 20 cities for its seconds headquarters. This is just the first step in the process, from the original 238 communities that sent proposals. Each of the proposals was evaluated based on the specific criteria set forth in the RFP, including availability of software developers and other technology talent, good transportation options, cultural fit, and the ability to move into a phase-one site as early as 2019. Not surprisingly, major cities that sent proposals made the final twenty, including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Washington DC. Amazon plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In the coming months, Amazon will closely evaluate each of the twenty candidates to find its desired location. And now, on to this week’s logistics news.
- US regulators eye policy for autonomous trucks, buses
- Ocado to trial humanoid robot warehouse assistant
- Amazon expands Dash button capabilities
- Maersk, IBM to launch blockchain-based platform for global trade
- De Beers turns to blockchain
- Holiday sales exceed forecast
With the development of autonomous vehicles accelerating, the Federal Government is taking steps to ensure regulation. These guidelines go beyond self-driving cars to include trucks, buses, and other ground-based modes. The US Transportation Department is preparing to release requests for public comment on how to cast aside roadblocks for transportation advancements in vehicles, trains, buses, commercial trucking, and transit systems. The comments will be used to develop the third iteration of the department’s Federal Automated Vehicle Policy which should be released this summer. As more and more technology companies look to autonomous vehicles, establishing these policies becomes more important.
Online grocer Ocado is getting ready to test a “humanoid robot” in its warehouse. The humanoid robot goes beyond what we have seen in warehouses with robotics; instead of using robots to help pick items, this test will help Ocado engineers. The robot, dubbed SecondHands, will assist engineers working on Ocado’s handling systems using artificial intelligence to predict their needs and hand them tools. SecondHands and its software was developed by the Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics at the German Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Its features, including voice recognition, are reportedly designed to provide a “fluid and natural interaction between robot and technician”.
Amazon has demonstrated success with a variety of innovations. One of those innovations has been the Dash Button, which allows customers to re-order household products such as laundry detergent and paper towels by pressing a button on a wi-fi connected electronic device tied to a specific product. The big news here is that Amazon may be moving on from the Dash Button; instead, the company has launched a set of software-development tools for companies to build an instant-ordering option into their own products that have a screen so customers can toggle through for multiple items. Given the interest in connected devices, this could fuel a whole other level of instant orders.
The world’s largest container shipping firm, A.P. Moller-Maersk, is teaming up with IBM to expand its blockchain footprint. This is not the first time Maersk has looked into the future of supply chain technology, as it has tested drones in an effort to cut the cost of supplying ships at sea. The test will help manage and track tens of millions of shipping containers globally by digitizing the supply chain process from end to end. Considering that customs and port authorities in the United States, Singapore, the Netherlands, and China have shown interest in using the platform, it is not surprising to see more interest growing.
Speaking of blockchain, De Beers, the international diamond company, is turning to blockchain as well. De Beers is running a pilot program to create a virtual ledger of diamond sales. The technology will enable De Beers to show transactions to all participants while keeping their identities and the value of the sales hidden. The big driver here is to convince buyers of diamonds that their purchases are neither synthetics being passed off as real, nor so-called conflict diamonds, which are used to finance war, despotism, or terror.
And finally, holiday sales during November and December increased 5.5 percent over the same period in 2016 to $691.9 billion. Growing wages, stronger employment, and higher confidence all led consumers to spend more than had been expected, the National Retail Federation reported. The results exceeded NRF’s forecast of between $678.75 billion and $682 billion, which would have been an increase of between 3.6 and 4 percent, and marked the largest increase since the 5.2 percent year-over-year gain seen in 2010 after the end of the Great Recession. NRF had forecast that non-store sales, which include online sales, would grow between 11 and 15 percent to between $137.7 billion and $142.6 billion.
That’s all for this week. Enjoy the weekend, the NFL Championship Weekend, and the song of the week, Wait So Long by Trampled by Turtles.