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Robots in Aisle 5: Supermarket Tech for the Way We Shop

Self-driving cars haven’t fully made their way to Main Street, in part, because of the unpredictable conditions and occurrences on everyday roads. But a more controlled and mappable environment exists in the everyday supermarket or big box store, where autonomous vehicles (robots, really) are already cruising the aisles. At the recent National Retail Federation trade show in New York, several examples of autonomous robots were on display. Inside Intel’s booth, the Bossa Nova robot scanned mock store shelves to identify missing products and track inventory. Currently deployed at 50 Walmart stores, the robot uses 2D and 3D depth-sensing cameras, along with multiple sensors to capture items with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and invisible barcodes. ​How we shop Real-time analytics are one way retailers are responding to the way consumers shop today. “As we move forward with retail, with this click-and-collect or buy-at-home-and-pick-up-in-store, you need to have an accurate inventory,” said Alec Gefrides, general manager of transactional retail at Intel. Gefrides said the technology allows retailers to adjust stock accordingly and better serve customers. “They can say, ‘Yes, you can come into the store and pick up a new pair of jeans that you’ve just bought online.’” The emphasis on seamless and frictionless shopping experiences remains a key theme in the retail sector. “Customers don’t think in terms of channels, they don’t make a distinction between e-commerce and online and mobile and the store. They want it how and when they want it, where they want it,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. “I think that’s really causing this rapid innovation transformation and huge investment in the retail industry.” ​Robot in your shopping cart One of those innovations is the Dash robotic shopping cart by Five Elements Robotics, which creates a digital map of store layouts and leads customers directly to what they need. It can even lead customers to their parked car and return itself to a docking station afterward. “The problem that it’s solving for the customers, is that they don’t have to wander around the store trying to find their items,” said Wendy Roberts, CEO of Five Elements Robotics. The Dash cart could be potentially useful in big box or warehouse club stores. Roberts adds that retailers also benefit from targeted advertising opportunities, as the cart navigates through certain store sections, it can generate relevant ads or promotions on its tablet display. “Nowadays, users like to look at screens, sadly, not what’s around them,” Roberts said. “They stare at the screen while it’s moving in front of them, so you’ve really got their attention to do those targeted advertisings.” Customers can also pay right at the cart, which Roberts says builds on the trend of self-checkout lanes in stores today. “So many stores are moving to self-checkouts and this is really a mobile self-checkout,” Roberts said. The Dash robotic shopping cart costs about $5,000, depending on the level of software and hardware customization. Models are also available for leasing and cost “a few hundred dollars a month” according to Roberts.

Robots in Aisle 5: Supermarket Tech for the Way We Shop

Robots, artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies were all on display at the National Retail Federation (NRF) 2018 trade show. The event showcased the ways retailers are keeping pace with shoppers' round-the-clock spending. Tina Trinh reports.

Facebook to Prioritize 'Trustworthy' News

Social media giant Facebook said Friday that it would begin to prioritize "trustworthy" news outlets on its site in order to counteract "misinformation." The company said it would ask its more than 2 billion users to rank the news organizations they trusted in order to prioritize "high-quality news" over less trusted sources. It said the new ranking system would seek to separate news organizations trusted only by their own subscribers from ones that are broadly trusted across society. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post that the company was not "comfortable" deciding which news sources are the most trustworthy in a "world with so much division." "There's too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today," he wrote. "Social media enables people to spread information faster than ever before, and if we don't specifically tackle these problems, then we end up amplifying them," Zuckerberg added. ​Outside experts rejected He said Facebook considered asking outside experts to choose the most reputable news sources, but that doing so would most likely have led to an "objectivity problem." He said the company decided to rely on member surveys as the most "objective" way to rank trust in news sources. Zuckerberg said it's important that Facebook's News Feed "promotes high-quality news that helps build a sense of common ground." He also announced that Facebook would shrink the content on its News Feed from 5 percent to 4 percent. This means users will see fewer posts from news organizations while scrolling through their feeds in favor of more posts from friends. Facebook has been struggling with how to handle its distribution of news in an era of fake news and claims of media bias. The social media company has faced accusations that it helped spread misinformation as well as Russian-linked content meant to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Also last year, U.S. Republican lawmakers expressed concern that Facebook was suppressing stories from conservative news sources. The Pew Research Center has found that more than two-thirds of Americans are getting at least some of their news from social media, making such outlets prime sources of information.

Former IBM Developer Sentenced for Espionage, Theft of Trade Secrets

A former software engineer for IBM in China has been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing the source code for highly valuable software developed by the tech company, the U.S. Justice Department announced Friday. Xu Jiaqiang, 31, was sentenced Thursday by a federal judge in White Plains, New York, months after he pleaded guilty to three counts of economic espionage and three counts of theft, possession and distribution of trade secrets. Prosecutors said Xu stole the source code for computer performance-enhancing software while working for IBM from 2010 and 2014, with the intent to benefit China's National Health and Family Planning Commission.  Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana J. Boente of the Justice Department's national security division said the agency “will not hesitate to pursue and prosecute those who steal from American businesses.” Xu, a Chinese national, “is being held accountable for engaging in economic espionage against an American company,” Boente said in a statement. U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman for the Southern District of New York said, “Xu's prison sentence should be a red flag for anyone attempting to illegally peddle American expertise and intellectual property to foreign bidders.” IBM was not identified in court documents. But a LinkedIn profile of Xu identifies him as a system developer for IBM in China from 2010 to 2014 with a master's degree from the University of Delaware. A Justice Department spokesman declined to say whether the company in question was IBM. IBM didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Xu appeared on the FBI's radar screen in 2014 after the bureau received a tip that Xu, who had by then left the company, claimed to have the source code to one of company's most closely guarded software packages and was using it in “business ventures” unrelated to its clients.   The software is described as a cluster file system sold to governments and large companies and used to enhance computer performance. Undercover FBI agents posing as an investor and project manager for a large data storage company approached Xu, who tried to sell them the software and admitted that he’d built it with stolen source code, according to prosecutors. IBM employees later confirmed to the FBI that the software had been built by someone with access to the company’s proprietary source code. Xu was arrested in December 2015 after meeting with an undercover agent at a White Plains hotel.  

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