Cyber Monday gets a Boost from Robots and Drones

Delivery Drone Free PhotoUPS and FedEx both report that they anticipate delivering close to 1 billion packages in the next few weeks.  JUST in the United States alone. That’s a 10 percent more than 2014, and shows just how much more Americans consume.

The computer gurus at ZDNET say robots will play a huge role in fulfilling all those holiday orders:

Moving that much merch quickly and accurately would be impossible without the recent automation revolution in the logistics industry. Robotics technology developed by Kiva has enabled Amazon to fulfill orders same-day in many locations. Though human workers still play a vital (albeit controversial, according to recent reports) role in the picking, packing, and palletizing that go into dispatching goods to your doorstep, there can be no question that we’re getting ever-closer to a so-called lights-out shipping warehouse, one in which all the workers are robots.

One recent automation breakthrough (or job casualties, depending on your slant) is vision guided vehicles (VGV).

robotic-truck-2.jpg

“Our robots run quite nicely in parallel with humans,” said Jim Rock, CEO of Seegrid, the biggest supplier of vision-guided vehicles to industry. “We can show up, drop off one of our robots, and in a few minutes it will be moving around a warehouse without any need for additional infrastructure.”

The working around humans part is important. Temporarily, at least, we’re in a transition period during which humans and robots will work side by side at the fulfillment centers responsible for delivering your last-minute Christmas shopping. Speed is critical, but so is safety, which is why autonomous robots with 3D vision are such a promising development.

Seegrid’s autonomous forklifts zip around carrying heavy pallets crammed with goods from trucking bays to robotic workstations, where the merchandise will be sorted for delivery. They can do this quickly and with far greater safety than human-operated forklifts, which are a menace to worker safety. According to Tools Of The Trade, there are 110,000 forklift accidents in the US every year and more than 100 deaths.

Seegrid’s autonomous vehicles rely on the convergence of two technologies: 3D sensing, which has become affordable in the last few years thanks to cheap cameras and increasing computing power, and evidence grid mapping, a newer strategy that enables autonomous navigation on the fly. Instead of registering objects, which is difficult to do in real time, robotic systems using evidence grid maps accumulate occupancy evidence for an array of spatial locations, slowly resolving ambiguities as the robot moves. (If you yearn for a more detailed explanation, check out this seminal paper, which introduced the idea to the world.)

“We’re buying very inexpensive cameras off the shelf,” says Rock. “That’s the least interesting part of what we do. It’s the evidence grid that’s very very complicated and that frankly took our engineering team decades to work out.”

Read the rest here

Stop Frustrating Your Innovators

A study among US companies shows that employees of corporations are eager to be entrepreneurial. More than half of those surveyed (52 percent) have pursued an entrepreneurial idea within their company. But what they lack, is support from their management. Only one in five employees feels supported by their management to be entrepreneurial. Continue reading

Transform from A Reactionary to Visionary Innovator

Innovation in process and technology are crucial elements in the product lifecycle, especially to a company’s long-term relevancy and success in its industry. However, innovators are often challenged by their company’s mandate to focus investment on products and services that address current markets and customer demands.  While achieving and sustaining financial performance is necessary for […]

The post Transform from A Reactionary to Visionary Innovator appeared first on thinkfuture.

Will drones be under your tree?

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Syncro Radio Controlled Quadcopter drone

One of the hottest and most mysterious gift ideas for 2015 seems to be the Drone. It seems the drone is not just for government surveillance anymore.  I remember when my boys were fascinated by remote-controlled toys that could drive, fly and entertain them for hours. But times are different, and technology has made it possible for people to own and fly their very own drones.

For a mere $1,300, you could give your loved one a live video camera drone, that sends live video to a smartphone from up to one third-mile away. A 5.8 GHz radio remote controls the drone, displaying live video on an iPhone or Android smartphone connected to the remote’s dock. Drones can also be had for under $50, like the Syncro Radio Controlled Quadcopter being sold at Target, Fleet Farm and many other retailers.
But one U.S. Senator is telling shoppers to be careful about their purchases. The Hartford Courant newspaper reports that:
Richard Blumenthal, the former state attorney general, says the explosion in popularity of the flying drones could push sales as high as 400,000 in the upcoming holiday season.

This week, new proposed rules by the Federal Aviation Administration say that consumers would be required to register any drone weighing more than half a pound – a relatively low threshold.

Noting that drones should be flown only below 400 feet, Blumenthal says consumers should be able to see their drones at all times and “steer clear of planes, helicopters, airports,” dangerous weather and people.

“Before purchasing a drone this holiday season,” Blumenthal says, “consumers should make sure they understand the proposed registration process, and the straightforward steps to prevent a non-returnable legal headache or heartbreak. Recreational drones may be fun, but they are not toys—requiring close supervision. Following common sense safety precautions and obeying the law will help ensure that everyone is safe this holiday season.”

Seven Steps to a More Creative Organization

Seven Steps to a More Creative OrganizationFirst, how do you bring diverse knowledge and insights into the organization to create these unexpected connections? Second, how do you ensure that the creative ideas generated are relevant to your business? Third, how do you support a business process that seems fuzzy and turn it into reproducible steps that invite broad contribution? Continue reading

Innovation and The Art of Implementation (Part 3)

Innovation without implementation is mere ideation. And buyer beware: this “mere” ideation can often be expensive, morale-killing, and potentially business-imploding. To prevent getting infinitely stuck in the ideation phase wasteland, remember that innovation typically doesn’t fail due to a lack of creativity but rather due to a lack a discipline. Continue reading

The World’s Most Innovative Universities

Reuters has released its Reuters Top 100 list of most innovative universities in the world. Based on academic papers and patent filings, and compiled by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters,  you may be pleasantly surprised by some on the list. Not surprisingly is the leader of the Top 100: Stanford University, which has built a reputation as a leader in innovating computer hardware and software.

The most innovative university in Europe, Imperial College London, ranked at No. 11 overall. Switzerland has three schools on the list and a population of just over 8 million people,  which means it has more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in the world.

Reuters says this:

Whether they’re in the top five or near the end of the list, all 100 universities in this ranking are among the best in the world. Thomson Reuters reviewed hundreds of universities to produce this ranking, and the ones that appear here are the most elite. Absence from this list does not indicate an institution is failing to innovate, however.

Check out the list here:

The World’s Most Innovative Universities

Reuters has released its Reuters Top 100 list of most innovative universities in the world. Based on academic papers and patent filings, and compiled by the Intellectual Property & Science business of Thomson Reuters,  you may be pleasantly surprised by some on the list. Not surprisingly is the leader of the Top 100: Stanford University, which has built a reputation as a leader in innovating computer hardware and software.

The most innovative university in Europe, Imperial College London, ranked at No. 11 overall. Switzerland has three schools on the list and a population of just over 8 million people,  which means it has more top 100 innovative universities per capita than any other country in the world.

Reuters says this:

Whether they’re in the top five or near the end of the list, all 100 universities in this ranking are among the best in the world. Thomson Reuters reviewed hundreds of universities to produce this ranking, and the ones that appear here are the most elite. Absence from this list does not indicate an institution is failing to innovate, however.

Check out the list here: