Category Archives: Automation

Steak ‘n Shake ending table and order service, replacing with self serve kiosks

As far back as 2016, I wrote that many restaurants, especially fast food, would replace wait staff with self service kiosks and app-based ordering as a way to save on labor costs. And they have and post-pandemic, self service may become standard:

Ordering a meal at Steak ‘n Shake is about to look a little different. The popular Steakburger and shake eatery is ditching its table service and transitioning to self-serve kiosks.

Source: Steak ‘n Shake replaces table service with self-serve kiosks | NewsNation Now

Minimum wage laws drive labor costs ever higher – just as the costs of automation have plummeted. The result is a reduction in jobs inside these restaurants, and replacing them with customer self service.

Texas semiconductor factories shut down during power outage

Semiconductor plants – perhaps five of them – were ordered shut down, in Texas, due to the state’s failed electricity grid.

Semiconductors are manufactured in a chemical engineering process that can take weeks, per chip, along the line. The time required depends on the components being manufactured and can range from weeks to two months.

Thus, shutting down these lines could disrupt service for some time.

Source: Samsung, NXP, and Infineon chip fabs shut down in Texas amid record storm – DCD

There is already a global electronic components shortage that has caused most all major auto manufacturers to temporarily close or slow down auto manufacturing. This shortage is compounded by a multi-day fire at AKM Semiconductor in Japan, last fall. That firm made up to 90% of the world’s components for consumer electronics, plus Bluetooth chips and other items and was expected to cause at least six month delays in parts shipments.

I an electronic item I ordered last October has been postponed indefinitely – a key part was made by AKM. Another item I ordered in January, with expected shipment of Feb 12, was delayed until June 21, 2021.

“Hit and Run” will be a thing of the past

Microsoft joins GM in self driving vehicle initiative.

To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.Microsoft will join General Motors, Honda and institutional investors in a combined new equity investment of more than $2 billion in Cruise, bringing the post-money valuation of Cruise to $30 billion.

Source: Cruise and GM team up with Microsoft to commercialize self-driving vehicles – Stories

This past year, the FAA wanted to track toy remote controlled model airplanes in real time, once per second. If the government thought they needed real time tracking of toys, you can be sure they will demand real time tracking of all automobiles.

Every vehicle incident will be tracked – in real time. The era of people driving away in hit-and-run accidents will come to an end. So will privacy but what ever, right? It’s probably for the children anyway.

Automation is coming but new laws may accelerate its adoption

This blog has long pointed out that costs of automating work functions have plummeted just as the costs of labor and benefits have escalated. Naturally, many businesses will invest in tech to lower costs.

Investments in automation were going to be happening anyway – but various labor laws are encouraging the adoption of automation more rapidly than it might otherwise occur. The result will be the loss of “starter” jobs which tend to be low skilled retail services where many of us developed our first work experiences and skills.

Continue reading Automation is coming but new laws may accelerate its adoption

Automation: Stores without any check out staff

It means that in its Amazon Go grocery stores, currently up and running at 27 locations in the US, people can shop with no interaction with a human or a till.

They simply swipe their smartphones on the scanner when they enter the supermarket, pick up what they want to buy, and then just walk out. The AI is watching of course, and sends you a bill at the end.

Source: How artificial intelligence may be making you buy things – BBC News

Plummeting costs of automation, use of machine learning to identify your habits and send you optimal marketing messages collides with $15/hour labor with benefits. The result: no jobs.

Business: We don’t know who won but we know who lost

The results of the Nov 3 national election remain unclear. We do not yet know who won all races.

But we do know that pollsters and the media lost as the election results are quite different than recent forecasts.

In Portland (I live in eastern Oregon), only a few weeks ago, one poll projected the Mayor’s race would be won by the challenger to the incumbent – and by a double digit margin. Instead, the incumbent won by +6%.

Polls are inherently uncertain due to the difficulties of obtaining a representative sample and routine sampling error. Just as with uncertain models, we give too much credence to polls. We have an innate desire to predict the future, but the real world frequently takes its own path.

A poll – and the underlying model used to adjust for sampling problems – produces an hypothesis that is tested by real world data (the votes).

A model is a guess about how we think the world works.

The output of a model is also a guess – and not reality.

And that is a point we must keep in mind when considering model output. A model enable us to play “what-if” games to evaluate possible future scenarios. Models of complex chaotic behaviors can only generate possible scenarios – but cannot tell us which scenario is going to occur.

A model does not confirm anything at all.

California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 

California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered cars to combat climate change starting in 2035, a move that could help reshape the nation’s automobile market and its output of greenhouse gases.

Source: California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 under Newsom order – SFChronicle.com

The State that is currently unable to provide sufficient electricity to its people, will require that all new vehicles sold after 2035 be – basically – electric. Will be interesting to see how they solve the infrastructure challenge in just 14+ years. The State is presently building just half of a high speed rail system over a period of 25 years.

Related: I do not understand the full concept of Executive Orders. The report notes this mandate is done via Executive Order in order to bypass the Legislature and public input. That is not a democracy in action – that is an authoritarian and undemocratic government.

Separately, the SF Bay area Metropolitan Transportation Commission has voted to mandate that 60% of all workers must work from home – with exemptions for work that cannot be done from home.

Issues have been raised as to how this creates social isolation, difficulties for many people who do not have homes suitable for work, and wipes out large numbers of businesses and jobs that support workers downtown. It also treats those who already walk or take public transport to work the same as everyone else – they too would be required to work at home.

Continue reading California to ban sale of new gas-powered cars in 2035 

CBS flags its own marketing material on Youtube as a copyright violation – heh!

When Youtube originally announced they would auto-detect music copyright violations, I noted that they could not tell the difference between a licensed use and an unlicensed use. CBS just managed to issue a take down notice on its own stars – hilarious – and shut down a much watched live stream run put on by CBS marketing.

A bot can’t tell when playback is approved or infringing if nobody tells it.

Source: CBS’s overzealous copyright bots hit Star Trek virtual Comic-Con panel | Ars Technica

One of my videos was flagged on Youtube for a music copyright violation that illustrate that Youtube’s much vaunted AI is a joke.

I put together an edited video of a U.S. Civil War era historical camp and battle re-enactment. I added a recording of Taps, performed by a US Army trumpet player, and posted on an official US Army web page, with unambiguous wording that the recording was in the public domain and could be used for any purpose.

And then two different recording companies, Sony being one of them, flagged my video has copyright infringement!

First, how could both of them claim copyright simultaneously? That right there illustrated their fraudulent claims.

Second, the music was written by a Civil War private and a General during the Civil War and before the enactment of copyright laws. The music itself is not copyrighted.

Third, the music was performed by the US Army and released in a public recording which they said was not copyrighted.

I had to file a complaint to Youtube and my video was eventually released.

It sure illustrated the absurdity of automated copyright strike systems.

This is how you solve the medical mask shortage

DERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHP) – The Hershey Company announced Friday that it is committing $1 million to acquire, install and staff a new manufacturing line dedicated to producing face masks.

The new line, which will be capable of producing up to 45,000 masks per day, will start operating near the end of May.

Source: The Hershey Company commits $1 million to production of disposable face masks | KATU

That’s a small production size but definitely higher output than manual/volunteer labor hand sewing operations.

Transportation: #Drone delivery of consumer packages is mostly hype but does have some specific good use cases

This euphoria is largely based on assumptions that drones inevitably deliver better customer service at lower costs with a better environmental footprint than conventional delivery by a driver in a parcel van. These claims are little more than flights of fancy that cloud a more realistic assessment of the potential for the use of drones in logistics.

For the technology to work in commercial practice, however, the economics must also work.

Source: Commentary: Drone-Delivery Projects Must Look Beyond the Hype – WSJ

The primary value in drone delivery may be

1. Delivering value dense items that need to be delivered quickly. Medicine is the classic example.

2. Very short hop delivery. The USPS is experimenting with drones that launch from your local postal delivery vehicles to carry small packages up to home door steps, rather than having the postal worker have to take time to walk that distant (and deal with loose dogs!)

3. Delivering items to remote customers, not urban customers. When a delivery truck comes through my neighborhood, they commonly stop and deliver packages to multiple homes. This is pretty efficient. But delivering to remote (e.g. farms, ranches) and rural properties is not as efficient.

The dreams promoted by Google, Amazon and UPS of zillions of drones flying miles out from warehouses to drop off low value packages at consumer homes are not realistic at this time.