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FedEx enlists the help of a robot army to compete with Amazon

Using the IoT is a natural extension of FedEx’s core business of moving physical objects from one place to another and tracking their progress at every step of the journey.

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In hindsight, it was perfectly predictable.

Amazon, which has become the world’s largest e-commerce business, ships a lot of packages.

If you look at the history of the company, a distinct pattern emerges: When it discovers it’s good at something, it proceeds to disrupt established businesses that do the same thing. It did it with books, when its Kindle e-reading platform tore into the traditional paper publishing business. It did it with cloud computing, when it launched Amazon Web Services to compete with behemoths like Google, Microsoft, and IBM.

The formula has repeated itself with hardware, like tablets and streaming media sticks, and digital goods like music and movies.

It’s most ambitious move however, might be its most recent one: Logistics.

Disrupting Logistics

Now, two years after its launch, Amazon Logistics is perched on the edge of disrupting not just one business, but an entire industry, which includes UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service.

To meet this challenge, FedEx is responding by digging deep into Amazon’s traditional strength: Digitalization — specifically, robotic automation, and the IoT.

Using the IoT is a natural extension of FedEx’s core business of moving physical objects from one place to another and tracking their progress at every step of the journey. Its SenseAware — a device that provides near-real time data on packages for factors like location, relative humidity, temperature and light exposure — is seen as a key competitive advantage over its rivals.

“We have long known that information about the package was as important as the package itself,” Ed Clarke, Managing Director of Hub Operations for FedEx Express UK, recently told supplychaindigital.com. For customers like pharmaceutical manufacturers, being able to track the temperature of a shipment of vaccines, could literally mean the difference between life and death.

On the robotics front, the company faces a steeper climb. It has been investing for years in automation, but successful automation relies on a consistency of task, a luxury FedEx doesn’t have. “One of the challenge we’ve always had in our world of robotics is that every single package is different in terms of size, shape weight, materials,” Ted Dengel, Director of Operations Technology and Innovation at FedEx Ground, told Diginomica.

Challenging or not, it’s an area FedEx must master. With e-commerce volumes expected to increase between 15% and 18% over the next five to ten years, the alternative is to cede ground to the competition.

“Our digital transformation is underway,” Clarke said. Now all FedEx has to do is deliver.

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GM’s electric vehicle strategy leads to fast-paced battery innovation — and 3,000 new tech jobs

Engineering, design, and IT hires will “help transform the future of product development and software as a service,” says the automaker.

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General Motors has recently announced that by mid-decade, it will offer 30 all-electric models globally (at a variety of price points) investing $27 billion in EVs and autonomous vehicles through 2025 — increased from the planned, pre-pandemic amount of $20 billion.

In conjunction with this statement comes the pledge to hire 3,000 new employees across engineering, design, and IT to help shape product development and SaaS goals. 

According to the automaker’s press release, the company will offer more remote work opportunities than ever before, citing the fast-pace of autonomous and electric vehicles, and advanced platforms like the Ultium battery system. This system is unique to the industry because its large-format, pouch-style cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack.

As ZDNet reports, this EV-heavy strategy of GM is “closely linked to its digital transformation…GM is looking to deliver profits via ongoing customer relationships and digital experiences.”

 

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GM CEO Mary Barra explains to the publication that the customer experience is at the heart of these decisions. “To drive and guide our profitability moving forward, our growth strategy is a 360-degree view of the business designed around delivering world-class customer interactions,” she says.

“This strategy is the compass for every business choice we make as we move forward.”

Battery innovation

According to ZDNet, GM plans to lower battery prices over time, make EVs more affordable, and “keep customer relationships through the purchase and ownership experience.” 

It was just eight months ago when the Ultium batteries were revealed, but GM is already projecting second-gen packs for mid-decade, which they say will cost 60% less with twice the energy density.

“Ultium is already changing the way customers – and investors – view our company,” explained Barra. “We are resolved as a management team to move even faster to expedite the transition to EVs. The all-electric future we are building integrates all the things we do better than anybody else – so we can put everyone in an EV, generate profitable growth and create shareholder value.”

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Trucking industry looking to mobile technology for fleet optimization

Fleet managers can utilize mobile tech to “build intelligent, efficient, and scalable fleets,” reports Frost & Sullivan.

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With trucking undergoing an industry-wide digital transformation, fleet managers can deploy mobile tech to “build intelligent, efficient, and scalable fleets,” reports Frost & Sullivan.

Driver safety, efficiency, better profits, and government compliance can all be better managed thanks to faster cell data networks, an increasing number of GPS applications, and a better range of smartphones and tablets, the report found.

New Table Stakes in Trucking: Optimizing Fleets with Mobile Technology includes analysis from industry thought leaders, and dives deep into the challenges and solutions they’re facing and utilizing, and what they’re learning along the way.

When it comes to optimizing their fleets, managers looking to deploy mobile technology are often left in the dark, because there’s little internal expertise — both of the tech itself and how best to plan, execute, and manage, explains Jeanine Sterling, Industry Director of Information and Communication and Technology at Frost & Sullivan. 

The solution? Partnering with an external mobile technology organization.

“Outside partners can provide that expertise and are becoming increasingly crucial to successful implementations,” she says. 

“When evaluating potential mobility partners, thought leaders recommend looking for industry-specific knowledge, technology roadmap support, device lifecycle management capabilities, and a commitment to ongoing R&D.”

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Autonomous Vehicles in 2020? “Less hype, more progress” finds KPMG

Third edition of the Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index finds Singapore is best prepared for AVs.

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Which countries and jurisdictions are most ready for autonomous vehicles? What does AV readiness look like? 

KPMG’s Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index — now in its third year — asks this question, evaluating how 30 regions are adopting driverless technology and preparing for the “ubiquity” of AVs. The index measures countries and jurisdictions across 28 indicators to determine their readiness and progress. Framing these indicators are four pillars: policy and legislation, technology and innovation, infrastructure, and consumer acceptance.

Making up the top 5 regions best positioned to advance AV are:

  1. Singapore
    • Expanded AV testing, covering all roads in Western Singapore.
    • Incentives to purchase EVs, plus an increase in charging points.
    • Leads the index in consumer acceptance, and policy and legislation pillars.
  2. The Netherlands
    • Most EV charging stations per capita. 
    • Extensive AV testing, with 81% of people living near a testing site.
    • Increased its use of smart road furniture (eg. traffic lights).
  3. Norway
    • Increased use of AVs, as several bus routes in Oslo are now driverless.
    • The majority of passenger vehicles bought in Norway in 2019 were battery or plug-in hybrids.
    • Testing of AVs in extreme weather.
  4. United States
    • Second only to Israel on technology and innovation. (420 AV company headquarters)
    • American companies are leading the AV development pack. (eg. Apple, Google, GM, and Ford)
    • Detroit and Pittsburgh are included in the index’s ‘Cities to Watch’ section, for their work in introducing and promoting AVs.
  5. Finland
    • Highest ratings for AV-specific regulations.
    • The country’s entire road network is open for AV trials.
    • Helsinki (a ‘City to Watch’) and Espoo both operate public AV bus services. 
    • Thanks to the legacy of Nokia, the country is home to top digital talent — specifically engineers.

Alongside Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Helsinki asCities to Watchare Beijing (investing $50M to develop a 100 square km AV testing zone ahead of the 2022 Olympics) and Seoul (working with Hyundai on widespread AV testing).

Additional insights include:

  • Five countries were added to the index for 2020: Belgium, Chile, Denmark, Italy, and Taiwan.
  • 17 of the 25 jurisdictions profiled in the 2019 AVRI increased their scores in 2020.
  • Piloting and testing are expanding. Approximately two-thirds of the indexed regions have areas designated or approved for testing.

“We’ve just begun to see the transformational potential of AV technology,” explains Richard Threlfall, Global Head of Infrastructure for KPMG International. “Immense progress has been made on AVs operating more safely and effectively.”

Threlfall goes on to explain how COVID-19 and the resulting new ways of moving people and products, could expand the importance of AV. Crowded public transit, he suggests, “could be partially relieved by on-demand, autonomous minibusses to promote social distancing, while AVs for shipping can meet the demand for contactless delivery.”

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