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Robot delivery: Bots will be bringing parcels to your home

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Ford, FedEx and Amazon are each at an advanced stage with autonomous robot delivery vehicles, designed to bring packages to the doors of businesses and homes. Several successful pilots have been completed.

Each robot looks different but the objective is similar — getting a package to a customer using an autonomous machine. The aim of these new robot delivery tools is to boost efficiency and eliminate the need to pay people to carry out the final part of the delivery process.

Ford / Agility Robotics

Ford, more commonly associated with cars and trucks, is partnering with legged locomotion specialist Agility Robotics to assess how self-driving car deliveries can be improved. The project objective is to ensure self-driving vehicles can accomplish something that’s been very difficult to accomplish: carrying out the last step of the delivery, from the car to the recipient’s front door.

The two companies hope the answer is a two-legged robot called “Digit”.

Digit has been designed to approximate the look and walk of a human. The robot is constructed from lightweight material and it is capable of lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds. In tests, Digit has been shown to be capable of going up and down stairs and to negotiate uneven terrain, thanks to the use of LiDAR and stereo cameras.

FedEx

The courier delivery services company FedEx is developing an autonomous delivery robot designed to assist retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers. The device is called the FedEx SameDay Bot, and the aim is to deliver packages by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day. The device has been developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp., run by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway.

The FedEx device is the most adventurous of the three, in that it will cross roads and is destined to cover longer distances. The interaction with roads is supported by machine-learning algorithms to help the robot to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path, and to follow road and safety rules.

Amazon Scout

Amazon’s autonomous delivery robots are about to begin rolling out on California sidewalks. Amazon Scout will begin with delivering packages to the company’s Prime customers residing in Southern California. The new Amazon device will work during daylight hours, providing small and medium-sized packages to customers. The Amazon Scout is a six-wheeled electric-powered vehicle around the size of a small cooler. In terms of movement, the Scout rolls along sidewalks at what’s described as a walking pace.

Amazon began testing out the Scout in January 2019, running a pilot program using six machines to deliver packages in Snohomish County, Washington. Vice president of Amazon Scout Sean Scott said: “We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle, ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.”

Following the success of the pilot — where the Scout autonomously navigated the various obstacles commonly found in residential neighborhoods like trashcans, skateboards, lawn chairs, the occasional snow blower and more — the device is ready for a wider launch.

The wider launch will feature a small number of Amazon Scout devices, delivering Monday through Friday, during daylight hours in the Irvine area of California, according to Smart2Zero. Customers will order items as they would normally, but in some cases their Amazon packages will be delivered by an Amazon Scout. To make sure things go smoothly, each Scout will initially be accompanied by a human “Amazon Scout Ambassador.”

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IoT + Big Data = Facilities Management Intelligence

In the equation IoT + X = Operations Intelligence, what role does big data play in facilities management?

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The way we work today has changed. The workforce is becoming mobile and companies rent temporary space depending on needs.

At the same time, facilities management professionals have a number of mandates, says Nancy Berce, chief information officer at Johnson Controls. They need to control costs while still delivering personalized experiences. They need to regulate access so only authorized personnel can enter key areas of buildings. They need to conform to wider regulations imposed by the pressing concerns of climate change.

[Download]: Real Estate Manager Goes Digital

The Internet of Things (IoT) helps deliver such efficiencies by helping facilities management professionals harvest and analyze big data — smarter and at scale.

The parallel evolution of big data and IoT

Facilities management professionals have monitored heating and cooling systems and fire and security systems for decades. But IoT has delivered a fundamental shift in how that monitoring occurs. IoT-embedded devices can relay health of the equipment in real time and the big data from such equipment help professionals manage facilities on a much more granular level.

No more blindly replacing all the light bulbs every six months. A digital-enabled platform can alert professionals to systems that are in danger of failing so the appropriate actions kick into action only as and when needed — with minimum cost to the facility and minimum disruption to the worker. “We now have a level of intelligence and insight from smart algorithms where we can be proactive about preventative maintenance and predict efficiency opportunities a lot sooner,” Berce says. 

How to leverage big data and IoT

Johnson Controls’ Bee’ah green building project, illustrates just how smart IoT-driven buildings can drive efficiencies at scale to deliver a nearly fully automated workplace of the future, with temperature and lighting controls just a few of the parameters that adjust depending on workforce distribution. 

IoT increases the number of data sets that facilities can play with and allows them to pinpoint trouble before it brings down the entire system. How does one leverage the benefits of big data and IoT to deliver intelligence?

Case Study: Advancing Smart Manufacturing Operations Value with Industry 4.0 Platform

First, connecting all the big data points together is key to see the larger picture, Berce says. Companies might already have the information they need for smarter operations, but they might be in silos. IoT data related to security, for example, can be connected to an active employee directory, to automate entry to more sensitive areas of buildings (think operating rooms in hospitals). Companies can even marry IoT systems with external weather data to manage their cooling systems.

Second, understand the insights you are looking for and use IoT accordingly, Berce says.

Third, retrofit legacy systems with IoT devices as needed. 

Finally, make the data analysis easy to visualize, advises Berce. A digital platform where professionals can easily detect anomalies makes it better to find the needle in the haystack and act on the intelligence that big data and IoT are delivering. 

IoT and big data allow professionals to do all things at once — to both zoom in and zoom out as needed. Such flexibility allows facilities management to meet the growing demands for efficiency while customizing personalized experiences for each and every worker.

[Download]: A New Approach to PLM

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IoT + Smart Edge Computing = Operations Intelligence

In the equation IoT + X = Operations Intelligence, what role does smart edge computing play?

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You don’t always need a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

The general premise driving the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics to deliver intelligence is that the end actions usually have to be executed through some kind of blanket (often human) intervention. The shaky fallacy at the core of this idea is that it takes a sledgehammer to a nut in that even small adjustments to operating conditions requires a large investment of resources. Smart edge computing addresses this challenge and applies a solution that is more proportional to the size of the problem.

[Download]: Real Estate Manager Goes Digital

Whether it’s a thermostat or a light switch or a card reader, most edge devices that control today’s commercial facilities are passive and wired devices, says Datta Godbole, the chief technology officer for Honeywell Building Technologies. Smart edge computing introduces a more efficient way of corralling the power of IoT to deliver operations intelligence. Smart edge devices can act on intelligence on the frontlines and save the heavy-duty computing for the cloud.

Smart edge computing helps companies, including facility management organizations, distribute computing needs more efficiently: you execute the small changes at the edge and save the heavy lifting for the cloud. “Time critical decisions are executed quickly without going to the cloud, while cloud computing is great for analyzing long-term trends through AI algorithms,” Godbole says.

Decisions at the edge

It is this “quickly” factor, the latency that is saved, that makes smart edge computing so valuable as part of the equation IoT + smart edge computing = operations intelligence.

Imagine a commercial building packed with fire and smoke detectors. Facilities management needs to maintain and periodically inspect these devices, which involves days of intensive work. What if instead the smoke detector could signal when it’s ready for maintenance – much like your car does? “In the future, all equipment in the building will be smart and can diagnose themselves and ask for help,” Godbole says.

The IoT part of the equation comes from the many sensors measuring a variety of parameters including temperature, humidity, light, foot traffic, occupancy and more. The introduction of IoT expands the working data set so management can more finely calibrate the final experience. “If we have IoT sensors that blanket a whole building, that conduct micro-measurements of every part of the building, we get a much truer picture of what’s happening in the building and you can control air conditioning or heating accordingly,” Godbole says.

Case Study: Advancing Smart Manufacturing Operations Value with Industry 4.0 Platform

In a sense, IoT allows for both personalized comfort and efficiencies at scale. When an employee swipes her card and enters her workspace, what if IoT-embedded edge devices automatically gave her what she was looking for: a slightly warmer conference room, lighting that adjusted depending on where she was working and her favorite snacks lined up in the kitchen?

Foot traffic sensors and occupancy patterns in the long term can dictate heating and cooling requirements so management can optimize these over time.

The use of IoT in conjunction with smart edge computing will lead to a more efficient allocation of computing resources and better and faster decision-making. No longer do you need a sledgehammer for every problem, a fine scalpel will work even better.

[Download]: A New Approach to PLM

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CIRA Made a Terrible Mistake with a Domain Name Ad

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This article is sponsored content produced by Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP)—a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis, and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cybersecurity companies.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) recently launched a commercial that encourages Canadians to register a “.ca” domain name instead of a “.com”. While CIRA’s campaign seems commercially sound, it has failed to meet one expectation: Doing sufficient domain name monitoring to ensure it wasn’t infringing anyone’s rights.

In fact, CIRA’s ad showed a banner with a “.com” domain name in the background — leading to a problematic situation. The registrar did not realize the domain name shown was trademarked and owned by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR). This incident was a terrible oversight on the domain registrar’s part, with potential legal implications for the registry.

When CIRA learned about its mistake, its representative delivered this message:

“We are really proud of, and stand behind, the ad. The reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive. We look forward to helping as many Canadian businesses as possible get online with a .ca domain name.”

Domain names are crucial to any business with an online presence. Without a domain name, it would be impossible for an organization to send corporate emails or put up its own website. During the early days of the Internet, registering a domain name was a tedious and costly process. 

Today, however, the trouble with domain name registration lies more in that anyone can do it. Even cybercriminals can purchase and register a top-level domain (TLD) and put up malicious websites in hopes that victims would land on them and give out their personal information.

Easy-to-recall domain names related to brands have also become scarce because even individuals compete with businesses for them. Even famous brands have to deal with this challenge. 

Google, for instance, could not use alphabet.com because someone else owns it. Nissan, meanwhile, had to spend more than 20 years before it could acquire nissan.com from an individual named Uzi Nissan.

This scarcity, however, is now being alleviated by the introduction of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .bmw, .nike, and .mcdonalds along with country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) like .ca.

Despite the influx of new gTLDs and ccTLDs, however, .com domains remain the most sought after. As such, some businesses resort to convincing registrants to give up their domain names sometimes at exorbitant prices. The average price of a domain name bought from someone who already owns it is thousands of dollars. Cars.com is probably the most expensive domain to date, valued at US$872 million.

Other companies get lucky in that they find their hearts’ desires among discarded domains. In such cases, though, they should do due diligence to make sure the domains they wish to purchase were not given up for excellent reasons such as search engine results pages (SERP) and security violations. They should keep in mind that domains in Google’s blacklist, no matter how memorable, would never show up in search results because of SERP violations. Domains in security vendors’ blacklists, meanwhile, would always be blocked on computers where their solutions are installed.

To avoid ending up with domains that have a checkered past, users can use a WHOIS history checker before purchase. Such a tool would reveal everything about the domain in question. It can help future domain owners ensure that their websites do not have ties to any malicious activity, individual, or organization at any point in their life cycle.

Domain names have become more than just a means to gain online visibility. They are now unique identifiers that point to organizations’ brands. That is why it is important for all companies to make domain security a priority.

About the Author

Jonathan Zhang is the founder and CEO of Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) — a data, tool, and API provider that specializes in automated threat detection, security analysis, and threat intelligence solutions for Fortune 1000 and cybersecurity companies. TIP is part of the Whois XML API family, a trusted intelligence vendor by over 50,000 clients.

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