Alexa makes a great warehouse assistant
Texas-based software firm ShippingEasy will be integrating its shipping software with Amazon’s Alexa devices, enabling warehouse employees to manage orders, print labels, check postage and undertake various other tasks through voice commands. Using Alexa during the packing process will free warehouse employees from computer-based interruptions. Instead of manually clicking ‘print’ or selecting shipping functions, Alexa can do it for them.
This is not the first case of voice-directed technology in warehouses; it is commonly used in warehouses to direct workers during the order picking process, via headsets that are connected to the warehouse management software. As ecommerce demand is increasing, the use of familiar technology has also been on the rise, particularly during the high-pressure pre-holiday season. Devices like Alexa would simplify training for temporary workers, and lead to an overall increase in productivity.
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Airlines racing to offer end-to-end traceability for air cargo using Bluetooth
Competing airlines Delta Cargo and Cathay Pacific have taken the lead in the race to implement Bluetooth in unit load devices (ULDs). On Tuesday morning, Delta claimed its real-time tracking could be extended all the way to customer facilities, and it will be ready to launch in January 2019. In addition to traceability, the Bluetooth technology eliminates the need for paperwork at the dock whenever ULDs are loaned out. All uniform control receipts are emailed to shippers directly and customers receive push notifications with access to all tracking information.
Delta has already deployed the technology at 80 of its warehouse locations, planning to extend this by a further 70 locations. The airline said the information transmitted by asset trackers could be used to reroute and monitor delayed shipments caused by irregular conditions, such as extreme weather. So far it can successfully track 40% of its fleet.
Similarly, Cathay Pacific is close to delivering full end-to-end visibility, after successful trials with its ULD partner Unilode. Unilode’s technology consumes less energy and the data capture can be accessed on mobile devices. The airline has taken further measures by trialing the use of blockchain to create a timeline for the custody of each unit.
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3D printed objects that can track their own use
Researchers at the University of Washington have been working on a project that could offer an alternative to conventional smart objects and the way data is collected. They have been developing a method that enables plastic 3D printed objects to collect and transmit data without the use of embedded batteries or electronics. The researchers have already demonstrated last year that their devices could measure factors such as wind speed and liquid flow, and then transmit the data using an antenna that reflects Wi-Fi signals.
The researchers saw its potential use in the medical field, so they developed the technique further for assistive technologies such as smart pill bottles or insulin pens. Rather than only tracking movement in one direction, as done previously, movements can now be tracked in two directions by incorporating two antennas; a critical feature for smart pill bottles and prosthetics. But how can they store usage information without electronics? They put a spring inside of a ratchet and every time a button in the device is pushed the spring gets tighter. When the object is in the range of Wi-Fi, the user can release the ratchet and unwind the spring, triggering a switch which makes contact with the antenna. The frequency of contact is translated into frequency of use data.
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Have a great weekend.