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The end of check-out lines? Retailers explore grab-and-go shopping

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Michael Liedtke and Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press


Published Friday, February 8, 2019 4:27PM EST


Last Updated Friday, February 8, 2019 5:36PM EST

SAN FRANCISCO — Get ready to say good riddance to the checkout line.

A year after Amazon opened its first cashier-less store, startups and retailers are racing to get similar technology in stores throughout the world, letting shoppers buy groceries without waiting in line.

If they work, cashier-less stores will not only save time but maybe money too, for both cost-cutting merchants and customers whose shopping habits are dissected.

From cameras and sensors, the stores will know when shoppers pick up a product and put it down, and can send them a discount to tempt them to buy it. Merchants will be able to create more space for merchandise, better track when shelves need replenishing and draw more business from the hordes of customers who detest long lines.

But the monitoring system underlying cashier-less technology is bound to raise new privacy issues and worries about customer data falling into the wrong hands, especially if stores deploy facial recognition software in the omnipresent cameras watching shoppers.

“It could be scary, and it could be creepy,” says Peter Trepp, CEO of FaceFirst, a Los Angeles company that so far has only sold its facial recognition tools to retailers trying to identify shoplifters and other criminals. “But if it’s used to give people a 30 per cent coupon on something they want that is going to be a nice benefit. That kind of experience will help people embrace the technology.”

Amazon has a head start in the U.S., opening 10 convenience stores in three cities: Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle. The stores sell salads and sandwiches for lunch, everyday items like toilet paper and Advil, and groceries such as Cheerios and raw ground beef.

Shoppers scan an app to enter the Amazon Go store, grab what they want and walk out. Cameras and sensors on the ceiling track what’s taken so their credit or debit cards are automatically charged when they leave. Shoppers will know how long it took to shop, since Amazon sends an alert with their shopping time.

“It was just a phenomenal experience,” said Tom Hadfield, who bought a Coke Zero in a minute and five seconds at one of the Go stores in San Francisco while visiting the city recently.

Hadfield, who runs a technology startup in Austin, Texas, said it reminded him of the first time he rode an Uber.

“You just know it’s going to be the future,” he said.

Amazon doesn’t say how much money its cashier-less stores make. But analysts from RBC Capital Markets recently visited Amazon Go’s two San Francisco stores to come up with a number. Based on their observations of traffic patterns, they estimated about 400 to 700 customers per day will visit each of the roughly 2,000-square-foot Amazon Go stores, generating sales of $1.1 million to $2 million annually, assuming an average purchase of $10. At the high end of that range, it works out to twice the sales of a typical U.S. convenience store, RBC calculated.

Several startups are pitching technology to retailers who want to create Amazon Go-like stores of their own. One of the companies, called AiFi, says it has signed deals with the Carrefour chain in France and Zabka convenience stores in Poland. Others, including Zippin, Grabandgo, Trigo Vision and Inokyo, say they are negotiating deals with retailers in the U.S. and other parts of the world, although none are ready to identify them yet.

“Once a few big retail chains begin to deploy this technology, it’s going to snowball and we will see more and more of them doing it,” says Michael Suswal, co-founder of Standard Cognition, another cashier-less technology startup.

So far, companies working on the technology are finding ways to do without facial recognition. Their systems rely on cameras for identifying objects rather than people. Like Amazon, they rely on tailored smartphone apps to identify who is entering the store and to process the sale for whatever products are taken.

Both Standard Cognition and Zippin opened small stores in San Francisco last year that have held invitation-only demonstrations or been open for limited hours with a scant selection of merchandise.

“I like the idea of being able to come into a store, grab what you want and just walk out,” says Tomonori Nishimura, a 30-year-old researcher for Fujitsu Laboratories after getting a bag of Funyuns at Standard’s small store in San Francisco recently.

Amazon appears the most likely to make cashier-less stores a more common sight, partly because it can afford to open stores with the technology already built into them, given its current market value of about $800 billion — ranking among the most valuable companies in the world.

But the country’s biggest retailers are also trying to speed up the shopping process. Sam’s Club, the warehouse-style club owned by Walmart, opened a test store in Dallas that has no cashiers. Instead, shoppers use their smartphones to scan products and pay. 7-Eleven is testing something similar at 14 stores in Dallas.

“Waiting in line is torture,” says 7-Eleven’s Gurmeet Singh, the company’s chief digital officer and chief information officer.

Though, he added, there are no plans to get rid of cashiers. He wants people to have a choice on how they pay.

As cashier-less stores become more common, there will likely be more political pressure to ensure they still offer an option to pay by cash to avoid discriminating against lower-income consumers without bank accounts and credit cards. In anticipation of that likelihood, Standard Cognition already has set up a separate kiosk for all-cash purchases in its test store.

RBC believes Amazon eventually will also introduce its cashier-less technology in its Whole Foods supermarkets, though Amazon says it has no plans to do so. For now, Amazon seems to have its eye on smaller stores: Late last year it introduced a 450-square-foot version of Amazon Go that can be plopped into office buildings or hospitals, like a walk-in vending machine.

“Within five years, I think just about everyone will have experienced what autonomous checkout is like,” says Suswal of Standard Cognition. “And within 10 years, regular checkout stands will be very rare.”

——

Pisani reported from New York.



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The most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

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LGBTQ+ in tech 4x3Paul Sakuma/AP; Ben Margot/AP; Rachel Murray/Getty; Ramin Talaie/Corbis via Getty; Amy E. Price/Getty; Yutong Yuan/Business Insider

  • Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
  • There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
  • Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”

That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.

But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.

Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.

Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:


Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+…

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

LGBTQ,Out Insider,Features,BI Graphics,Tim Cook,Arlan Hamilton,Megan Smith,Peter Thiel,Chris Hughes,Keith Rabois,David Blumberg,Martine Rothblatt,Joel Simkhai

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

2019-02-17T13:00:00+01:00

2019-02-07T00:09:59+01:00

2019-02-15T23:04:31+01:00

https://static2.businessinsider.de/image/5c6737b5bde70f39f2798a10-500-250/the-23-most-powerful-lgbtq-people-in-tech.jpg

BusinessInsiderDe



Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”
That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.
But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.
Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.
Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:

international

Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+…

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

LGBTQ,Out Insider,Features,BI Graphics,Tim Cook,Arlan Hamilton,Megan Smith,Peter Thiel,Chris Hughes,Keith Rabois,David Blumberg,Martine Rothblatt,Joel Simkhai

The 23 most powerful LGBTQ+ people in tech

2019-02-17T13:00:00+01:00

2019-02-15T23:04:31+01:00

https://static2.businessinsider.de/image/5c6737b5bde70f39f2798a10-500-250/the-23-most-powerful-lgbtq-people-in-tech.jpg

BusinessInsiderDe



Tim Cook is arguably the most prominent LGBTQ+ person in tech, but he isn’t the only one.
There are LGBTQ+ identifying individuals in prominent roles as venture capitalists, diversity in tech advocates, and C-suite level executives at large tech companies like IBM and Microsoft.
Here are 23 of the most influential and notable people in tech who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The atmosphere in Silicon Valley, where “bro culture” is rampant, is not know for being kind to anyone “different.”
That can especially be true for LGBTQ+ identifying individuals, who only gained the right to marry in the US in 2005. Gay marriage is still only legal in around 30 countries.
But a number of diversity initiatives aimed at LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector have emerged in recent years. Groups like Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, and TransTech Social Enterprises have worked to improve office culture at tech companies, connect LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with venture capitalists, and make resources more readily available to the queer tech community.
Business Insider has compiled a list of some of the most influential and notable people in tech who identify as LGBTQ+. Some techies on this list have harnessed their gender identities and sexual orientations to speak out about and further the presence of LGBTQ+ people in tech. For others, being LGBTQ+ is simply a part of their personal life, which they strive to keep separate from business.
Here are 23 of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in the tech industry:

international



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Machines vs. cashiers: Why shoppers are so divided over self-checkout

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More than a million people clicked on a CBC News story last week about some retail stores removing their self-checkout machines. Thousands of readers also left comments, many staunchly taking a stand either for or against self-checkout.

The machines are now ubiquitous in many large retail stores, yet self-checkout remains a divisive issue among Canadians.

So what’s driving the debate? Turns out, age can be a factor as well as one’s view on whether the technology represents progress or a step backward as shoppers — aided by machines — do the work of cashiers.

“A lot of people do see self-checkout as a threat to workers,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Halifax-based Dalhousie University specializing in food distribution and policy.

“That’s probably why the debate is so emotional for a lot of people.”

These tweets in reaction to a CBC News story on self-checkout show how divided readers are.

The age factor

Self-checkouts are supposed to cut costs for retailers and provide choice for consumers. A recent U.S. survey suggests age can influence who’s drawn to them. 

Forty-six per cent of respondents aged 18 to 34 said, when given a choice, they prefer using self-checkout over a cashier.

That preference declines with age: 35 per cent of respondents aged 35 to 54 said they favour self-checkout, and only 19 per cent of those 55 and older would choose the machine over a cashier. 

CivicScience, a U.S. data collection and market research company, surveyed 1,969 adults online in July 2018.

“Obviously, they haven’t created [technology] that boomers want to adopt, so maybe that’s a user-experience issue,” said Casey Taylor, of CivicScience.

Although the machines have improved over the years, they’ve frustrated many shoppers, especially when they involved extra steps like weighing produce or applying a discount.

Consumer behaviour expert Brynn Winegard says that tech-savvy millennials may be more willing to accept such challenges.  

“They’re not daunted,” she said. “Troubleshooting a self-checkout terminal is not an issue for them. It doesn’t ruin their day.”

A recent study suggests that age might be a factor when it comes to choosing self-checkout over a cashier. (CBC)

David Ruta, 65, of Napanee, Ont., was turned off self-checkout about four years ago when, after scanning the only item he had, the machine insisted he scan a second item.

I didn’t have one,” he said. “Then it stopped working for the [employee] who tried to help me, and that’s when I left the store.”

In contrast, 34-year-old Matthew Easter, of Ottawa, says he’s found self-checkout machines quite seamless and believes they speed up the process.

“Why would I wait 10 minutes, maybe more, when I can check myself out in 30 seconds?” said Easter, who will only shop at grocery stores that offer the machines.

“It’s a more convenient option, especially if you’re a busy person.”

Matthew Easter of Ottawa will go out of his way to shop at a grocery store that offers self-checkout. (Submitted by Matthew Easter)

What about the jobs?

Many people believe self-checkouts are part of an inevitable shift to automation.

“There’s always going to be progress. There’s always going to be technology that’s going to come along to make things better, smarter, faster,” said Easter.

But those who prefer to use cashiers often fear the machines will lead to fewer of them and longer lineups — and they don’t see that as progress.  

Although he’s a senior, Ruta says he’s not intimidated by self-checkout technology but instead is concerned about its effect on retail workers. 

“I just would rather interact with a person,” he said. “You put in these self checkouts, you’re going to eliminate jobs.”

Nadine MacKinnon, 59, of Toronto, agrees.

“They shouldn’t be able to take away jobs from workers, force the customer to do that work for them for free.”

Nadine MacKinnon of Toronto says she avoids self-checkout machines when shopping. (Submitted by Nadine MacKinnon)

Although it has added more self-checkouts to many stores, Walmart Canada told CBC News the move hasn’t resulted in any job losses. Instead, some employees were re-deployed to other positions such as customer support for self-checkout.

But that may not always be the outcome. U.K.-based research and consulting group RBR said the number of self-checkout kiosks shipped to Canada tripled in 2017 compared to 2016, though it declined to provide exact figures. RBR attributed much of the growth to “labour pressures” created by recent minimum wage increases in some provinces.

Over the past couple of years, grocery chain Metro and retail giant Loblaw both announced they would increase their self-checkouts in select stores to help offset the higher cost of wages.   

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2018Future of Jobs report, many jobs that can be replaced with automation, including cashier positions, are “expected to become increasingly redundant” over the next four years.

However, the study suggests that the job losses could be more than offset by the emergence of many new positions. But the questions remains what type of jobs will emerge and what happens to less-skilled workers. 

Walmart Canada says some cashiers have been re-deployed to other positions such as customer support for self checkout. (CBC)

Self-checkout fan Kyle Ross, 19, of Summerside, P.E.I., points out that even self-checkout kiosks generate jobs.

“You have the people that are creating the self-checkouts, the people that come and repair the machines when they need updates.”

That doesn’t placate shoppers like Ruta and MacKinnon, who still worry about displaced workers and how automation will change the shopping experience.

“I prefer to be served by a human being,” said MacKinnon.



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La Bretagne, berceau de la culture mégalithique

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Les mégalithes sont parmi les structures préhistoriques les plus facilement reconnaissables. Ces agencements peuvent prendre plusieurs formes, allant d’une série de pierres verticales placées en demi-cercle jusqu’à des agencements complexes servant de tombeaux à d’anciens guerriers de tribus aujourd’hui oubliées.

Ces constructions ont été érigées à travers l’Europe, de la période néolithique jusqu’à l’âge du bronze, et environ 35 000 d’entre elles y sont encore observables. Malgré cette importante présence et les centaines d’études les concernant, les mégalithes ont toujours conservé une part de mystère, leur origine restant cachée derrière les brumes des mythes européens.

Or, une scientifique de l’Université de Göteborg, en Suède, pourrait lever une partie de ce mystère.

Ses travaux (Nouvelle fenêtre) montrent que ces structures de pierres pourraient remonter à une culture originaire de Bretagne. De là, cette technique se serait ensuite répandue à travers l’Europe, en passant par la mer, lors de trois vagues distinctes.

On voit le monument de pierres dressées de Stonehenge, sous un ciel nuageux. Image captée au site de Stonehenge lors de l’éclipse solaire du 11 août 1999. Photo : Reuters

Une origine entre science et légendes

Jusqu’à maintenant, deux grandes hypothèses expliquaient l’origine des mégalithes.

La première, élaborée entre le 17e et le 18e siècle, avançait que ces pierres étaient l’œuvre d’un peuple ancien, dont les origines pourraient remonter à la Méditerranée ou au Proche-Orient et qui aurait propagé sa culture en Europe par voie maritime.

Cette hypothèse fut abandonnée dans les années 70 avec l’apparition des premières techniques de datation au carbone 14. Les données obtenues lors de fouilles autour de ces sites semblaient indiquer que les mégalithes seraient apparus au cours de la même période à travers le continent, créés indépendamment par diverses cultures européennes.

Pendant 10 ans, la professeure Bettina Schulz Paulsson, une archéologue spécialiste de la préhistoire, a alors passé au peigne fin la littérature scientifique concernant les mégalithes. Ces travaux lui ont permis de recenser 2410 datations au radiocarbone, en plus d’informations sur l’architecture des sites, les coutumes funéraires appliquées et les types d’outils qui y ont été employés. Elle a ainsi pu obtenir une ligne du temps de l’évolution des mégalithes à travers les âges.

Trois vagues, en partance de Bretagne

Selon ses données, les mégalithes les plus anciens se situent au nord-ouest de la France et auraient été assemblés il y a 6500 ans.

Ces premiers exemples étaient formés de quelques pierres agencées au-dessus d’un monticule de terre. D’autres structures étaient toutefois plus complexes comme des alignements de menhirs retrouvés dans la région de Carnac, en Bretagne, aussi produits autour de la même période.

Les datations suggèrent que les plaines de Bretagne seraient le point de départ de ce type de monument. Par la suite, ce style distinctif se serait répandu en France en suivant la côte atlantique, puis autour de la péninsule ibérique jusque dans la Méditerranée, au cours d’une période de deux à trois siècles.

Un millénaire après cette « première vague », on assiste à l’apparition d’un second style : des tombeaux formés d’une ou plusieurs chambres funéraires reliées entre elles par des passages en pierre. Ces derniers ont été retrouvés dans plusieurs régions de France, d’Angleterre, d’Espagne et à travers les pays scandinaves, toujours dans des régions facilement accessibles par voies maritimes.

Enfin, il y a entre 5000 et 4000 ans, la troisième et dernière vague de constructions s’amorce; c’est la période au cours de laquelle sont érigées, entre autres, les célèbres pierres de Stonehenge.

La propagation de ce type de constructions, en plus de leur quasi-inexistence en dehors des régions côtières, laisse croire, selon la scientifique, que cette culture s’est répandue par voie maritime. Cela impliquerait toutefois que l’émergence de techniques de navigation nécessaires à une telle diffusion de connaissances serait survenue au moins deux millénaires plus tôt que ce qui était précédemment accepté.

Même si la communauté archéologique a particulièrement bien accueilli cette étude, certains doutes persistent, et il est toujours possible que d’autres sites aient été construits indépendamment des trois vagues identifiées.



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