Modern IT is very focused on economics. We talk endlessly about cost. We debate capital costs vs. operational costs--CAPEX vs. OPEX, in the lingo. We look at Total Cost of Operations (TCO) and we try to calculate our projects' Return On Investment (ROI). But even with all of these economic metrics, we miss an enormous source of costs: Our long-term entanglement with the products, technologies, and approaches we choose.Long ago, we had a bright idea. "We could represent the year portion of dates with just two digits--that would save space!" We happily did that for a few … Read more
Even those of us who cover e-commerce often overlook the reality of connecting the "e" part of the equation to the real world. Webvan and Kozmo.com were great online services, but it was the unavoidable and nonvirtual expenses of moving goods around that did them in. Former Webvan business process guru Mick Mountz said the company lost $20 an order, due to the cost of physical logistics.
Routine use of robotic lift trucks may not be far off.
Researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, along with a team of engineers, have transformed a Toyota 8-Series lift truck into an autonomous bot capable of working alongside human supervisors using voice commands or hand gestures.
The 3,000-pound-capacity lift truck from Toyota Material Handling (TMHU) is capable of locating, lifting, moving, and placing supplies while traversing just about any type of terrain. It was demonstrated last month at an event hosted by the U.S. Army Logistics Innovation Agency at Fort Lee, in Virginia.
"Robotic forklifts have the potential to protect both military and civilian personnel working in high-risk environments, such as hazardous material storage facilities, said Brett Wood, president of TMHU.
The demo included a review of the robot's safety features, sensor capabilities, and human-robot interface.
The researchers and engineers developed a complex network of systems to enable the lift truck to navigate real-time conditions faced by lift truck operators (navigating obstacles and interacting with other moving vehicles, for example). To do this, they added a camera, sensors, laptops, servomotors, Wi-Fi, and a PDA.
"We chose the internal combustion Toyota lift truck because it can be operated outdoors on packed earth or gravel and because, with mini-lever control some of its functionality can be controlled electronically rather than solely mechanically," said MIT Professor Seth Teller, who headed the project.
The modified vehicle wirelessly exports video from its own point of view, so the human supervisor, even if hundreds of miles away, can see whatever is nearby (provided there is network connectivity between the lift truck and supervisor's tablet).
In September 2009, for example, the team demonstrated the lift truck operating autonomously at MIT, in Cambridge, Mass., while under the supervision of an operator in Washington D.C.… Read more
AUSTIN, Texas--OK, there has got to be a better way to do this.
I arrived at the Austin Convention Center 45 minutes before the start of a talk on Friday afternoon that I was hoping to catch, "The Ecosystem of News" led by Outside.in founder Steven Johnson. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough time: the line-waiting time was clocking in at around an hour.
By the time I made it over to the room where Johnson's talk was being held, the room was full and no one else was being allowed in. There was no simulcast. (Luckily, … Read more
Any mom-and-pop retail operation can now tap into Amazon's logistics and fulfillment expertise.
The Web's largest retailer has launched a fulfillment Web service. Fellow merchants can hire Amazon to store, pick and pack, and then ship products for fellow merchants, according to an announcement on Amazon's Web site. The service is free once a merchant signs up with Fulfillment By Amazon and pays the FBA fees.
Participating retailers use a Web interface to send inbound shipments to Amazon, post and track orders, and attach branding information. The service enables merchants to sell goods on Amazon or their … Read more