Category Archives: Technology

How Retailers Can Stay OFF The Closing List

MultiChannelMerchant

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

Integrate Ecommerce and POS inventory
Omnichannel shoppers see no difference between your ecommerce and POS offerings and neither should you. Make every store’s inventory visible to online shoppers so that you can take advantage of the “buy online, pick-up in store” model. Integrated ecommerce and POS inventory management systems show real-time availability so consumers do not face unexpected out-of-stocks at brick and mortar locations. If an item is not available at the customer’s selected store, provide fast and free transfer from another store.

Use brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers
Every physical store should also double as a fulfillment center for web orders. This opens up every item in inventory to sales from any channel and reduces time in transit for ecommerce orders. Orders that are automatically routed to locations closest to customers can reach front doors faster than from a central warehouse, often overnight or within two days without incurring express shipping charges.

Go mobile
It’s official — mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop traffic. If your website does not display properly on mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge number of consumers. But just displaying properly is no longer enough. Navigation, inventory visibility and checkout must all be optimized for mobile users. This has massive benefits for brick and mortar as well when customers on the go can locate items in your stores; they may even make purchases from inside a competitor’s location.

Automate ordering with vendors
The long-time promise of just in time inventory management finally eliminated worries about out-of-stocks. Set minimum and maximum thresholds for SKUs and let your retail management platform automatically order the right amount of inventory from suppliers at the exact right moment. When you know every product you sell will be automatically replenished before it sells through, you do not have to keep as much inventory on hand and can open up shelf space for additional offerings likely to attract customers. You also don’t have to worry anymore about selling out on popular items and sending frustrated customers home empty handed.

Empower every employee as a checkout
One of the worst things that can happen in a store is when customers with intent to purchase leave upon seeing long checkout lines, or can’t find anyone to take their money. The in-store experience must be as smooth and easy as it is online — consumers are no longer willing to wait. Arm every employee with a tablet loaded with mobile POS software so they can complete transactions, look up inventory, and place customer orders from anywhere in the store.

Personalize direct marketing to customers
Target individual customer segments with the offers most likely to appeal to them through marketing automation. Integrate online and POS customer data to segment personas effectively and send promotions that are personalized to known preferences and likely to bring customers into stores. Specific behaviors should trigger customized messages, and look for opportunities to leverage ecommerce and in-store offerings. For example, an abandoned shopping cart may trigger a reminder message that could also include a note like, “this item is also available at your nearest store, would you like us to hold it for you?”

Expand inventory exponentially with drop shipping
Drop shipping today does not resemble what it looked like 15 years ago. Many vendors offer drop shipping that can use your branding and fulfill lightning fast. Offering items for sale that you do not have hold in inventory opens up your website to endless opportunities and it can also be integrated into “buy online, pick up in store.” Give customers the option of having the item sent to their homes or to their nearest store with no shipping charges. If they select a store, simply have the vendor pack the item along with your next regular order.

The next time you see a headline about a retailer closing stores, refer back to this list. It will become clear that one of the major reasons the merchant is in trouble is because it is not responding quickly enough to the changing demands of modern consumers. Provide the experiences today’s empowered shoppers expect and you will have much less to fear from predictions of impending doom.

BART fare cheaters drain up to $25 million a year

The transit agency’s Operations and Safety Committee, chaired by BART board Director Joel Keller, met Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent fare evaders from riding the system for free.
According to BART documents, the transit agency loses an estimated $15 to $25 million in revenue annually. BART estimates its fare evasion is rate is between 4 to 5 percent.
Funny how a few years ago, LA Metro installed gates at most rail transit stations and dumped the Self Service (selbstbedienung in German where it was invented) ticketing that works well all around the world. The plan behind installing the gates was to reduce the number of fare cheaters. In the process LA Metro “saved money” by reducing the number of ticket inspectors who also act as security on the trains. I guess people who want to avoid paying fares have no problems jumping over fare gates.

“Through a three-tiered strategy of enforcement, station hardening, and education, BART aims to raise the stakes for fare evaders, and assure our riders that we value their patronage and investment and foster the expectation that every rider pay their fair share.”

Some of ways fare evaders get into paid areas include following behind a paid BART passenger entering the fare gate, jumping over the glass barriers or fare gates, and entering through emergency exits.

SFBay via California Rail News

Help for Poor United Airlines is On The Way

United Airlines monopolized the news today and yesterday. They literally threw passengers off their airplane to get their crews for Louisville on board. A PR, Facebook and media thing that made them look SICK.

Soon we have help for them. The Muhammad Ali Hyperlink will bring their people to Louisville in less time than their airplane will!!!!!!

Times Between Chicago and Louisville

HYPERLOOP Downtown Louisville to Gary International Airport

266 miles in 35 minutes

South Shore Line To Downtown

30 miles in 54 minutes

TOTAL 296 miles in 89 minutes

Flight Louisville to Downtown Chicago

Louisville Downtown to airport

10 miles in 15 minutes

Flight

287 miles 30 minutes

Airport to Downtown (CTA)

26 miles 72 minutes

TOTAL 323 miles in 117 minutes

AMTRAK No Service

Drive Louisville to Downtown Chicago

297 miles in 279 minutes

President Trump is Interested in The Hyperloop!!!

Earlier this week, Elon Musk dined at the White House with the president to discuss his infrastructure plan for the country, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal. President Trump in turn expressed his interest in the Hyperloop.

While no concrete plans have been provided, the administration has stated their intentions to dedicate significant budget towards improving America’s roads and bridges. That certainly could include the latest technologies, like the Hyperloop. That being said, Trump’s curiosity for Musk’s ambitious transportation project doesn’t necessarily mean it come to fruition under his administration. According to The American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. would need $3.6 trillion to update the entire country’s infrastructure — and that’s not counting the Hyperloop.

Of course, apart from Musk sitting down with the President, there aren’t any concrete details that would suggest Trump could allot trillions from the federal budget for the project. Still, Trump’s interest could hint that the administration is looking towards privatizing American transportation infrastructure.

Hyperloop One has been in the headlines quite a bit recently, particularly after images of the Nevada test track surfaced online.

While it’s only a third of a mile (and has yet to be tested using actual pods or undergo public trials) the track is the first full-scale Hyperloop track. It also managed to complete a public trial of its propulsion system last year — however, it fell short of targets.

Ideally, the Hyperloop should be able to travel at 750 mph. The five-second, podless rail test only managed to hit 300 mph.

According to Musk, it would cost around $6 billion to create a Hyperloop line from Los Angeles to San Francisco. If that sounds like a lot, when you look at the cost per mile ($11.5 million) it actually works out to be less than a high-speed rail, according to Forbes. Musk’s intention to build the system in tunnels is putting more focus on additional costs, however. Of course, this all rests on the premise that a perfectly working Hyperloop can be built — and it’s still up for debate whether that, and the projected cost, is actually feasible.

Yes, our group is still very interested in the planned Hyperloop between Louisville and Chicago!

Hyperloop One has a short list of cities for its 760-mile-per-hour trains

Above: Hyperloop One’s test site in Las Vegas.

Image Credit: Hyperloop One

Hyperloop One is working on a transportation technology that can make trains go as fast as 760 miles per hour. The company has raised $160 million in several rounds to build the transportation systems that seem like something out of science fiction.

Despite a lawsuit from former high-ranking employees, the company has moved swiftly to add new executives and expand its search for sites where it can build its lightning-fast transportation networks in cities around the world. (The company denied the allegations and countersued the former employees.)

Hyperloop One continues to build out its 100,000-square-foot Metalworks fabrication facility and 137-acre Apex test and safety site in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Construction of the company’s full-system development loop is underway as Hyperloop One prepares for its “Kitty Hawk moment” in the first quarter of 2017.

Last week, during CES 2017, the big tech trade show in Las Vegas, I met with Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One. We talked about the company’s global challenge contest to find the world’s best Hyperloop routes. The list is now down to 35 possible projects around the world, and some cities such as Dubai are actively pursuing approvals.

More than 2,600 proposals were registered in five months, and the semifinalists come from 17 countries. A handful of finalists will be named by May. Lloyd and I talked about that process, as well as what Hyperloop transportation will mean for society in the future.

See an interview with Rob Lloyd by DEAN TAKAHASHI@DEANTAK

We are particularly interested in one of HYPEROOP ONE’s 35 FINALISTS: “The Muhammad Ali Hyperlink”

Designed to provide high speed trannsportation between Louisville and Chicago. It fills a void that AMTRAK has not been able to.

hyperloopmap

Anybody building into Chicago will have a big problem in finding space. As a sensible alternative, We suggested that the new railroad start instead at the Gary/Chicago International Airport. It is already served by the “South Shore” railroad which has a great terminal in downtown Chicago. Gary Airport is receiving Federal funding from Dept. of Transportation and South Shore railroad is receiving State/local funding for expansion.

Very recently Hyperloop One, announced that « cargo will be implemented before passengers ».

We anticipated this with the selection of Gary, Indiana (at the international airport) as our Northern Terminal. Of course passengers will still transfer to the South Shore commuter line operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District. But operating on the same right-of-way is the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad. It provides freight service between Chicago and South Bend. It has important connections to the Indiana Harbor Railroad, Norfolk Southern, CSX Corporation. It is also connected to the in-formation Great Lakes Basin Transportation. It proposes to construct a new railroad line around the metropolitan Chicago area. The purpose of the new railroad is to expedite freight movements across the nation and to provide additional capacity for growing railroad traffic.

New AMTRAK “Charger”Locomotives Testing on Cascades Route in Washington

National certification testing of Amtrak’s new Charger locomotive is being conducted by the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The WSDOT said that the Siemens SC-44 Charger units are testing on the Amtrak Cascades corridor throughout February. If all goes well they are scheduled to enter regular service later this year.

The WSDOT has ordered eight of the 4,400-horsepower locomotives, which are being assembled by Siemens in Sacramento.

Siemens is headquartered in Germany and builds locomotives also for Florida East Coast Railway’s BRIGHTLINE

President Trump is “barking up the wrong tree” about High Speed Rail

Just read a great story by MARK WHITTINGTON about Donald Trump’s interest in high speed rail may be made obsolete by the Hyperloop. Passengers and cargo could be moved at supersonic speeds at a fraction of the cost.

President Donald Trump is interested in building high-speed rail lines across the United States. The idea is that 200 miles per hour trains would whisk passengers and cargo between destinations, substantially cutting down travel times. However, an emerging technology called the #hyperloop may already be about to make the high-speed train obsolete.

The Hyperloop would propel people and cargo in pods down a sealed tube using magnetic accelerators at speeds more than 700 miles an hour. The technology was invented by SpaceX’s Elon Musk and is now being refined by a number of private companies. Musk claims that a Hyperloop line between Los Angeles and San Francisco would cost about $6 billion to build as opposed to the nearly $70 billion (and growing) that the proposed high-speed rail line is estimated to cost. The line would be solar powered and, since it is built on elevated pylons, would have less of a “footprint” than a rail line. Hyperloop lines could be built along Interstate highways.

The Trump administration should approach the siren call of building railroads with caution. To be sure existing rail lines and tunnels, some of them approaching a century old, need upgrading. But if a way can be found to move people and cargo between cities at greater speeds, as less cost, powered by renewable energy, using less land, then that way should be seriously considered. Great care, at any rate, should be taken when spending hundreds of billions of dollars. Perhaps a prototype project, connecting two cities somewhere in the United States, should be undertaken to test the usefulness of the Hyperloop before committing to high-speed rail.

Perhaps President Trump should start with a “smallish” project: connect Louisville and Chicago. AMTRAK has fallen on it’s face over the years on this one. Well, they have an airport and an Interstate Highway.

Our company has already proposed this project to HYPERLOOP ONE, the leading company in the Hyperloop field. We have already published details of this project.

We have tried to make it as simple as possible and bring costs down. We follow Interstate Highway 65 from Louisville to Gary, Indiana. Then, knowing the extreme difficulty of entering Chicago from the East, we took a novel change. Passengers and freight stop at the Gary International Airport and change to the South Shore Railroad (already rebuilt with government funds). Passengers get off at Millennium Station in downtown Chicago.

Looking Forward To 2017?

This time of year, you might be of two minds. You’re excited about the upcoming year and the possibilities of new projects, job opportunities, and maybe an upcoming vacation to someplace warm. But you’ve also read articles aplenty about automation affecting supply chain jobs, some segments of the economy are still struggling, we’re always a black swan event away from disaster and, oh yeah, there’s a new president on the way with some very different ideas. Welcome to the new normal!

Don’t despair, for there are many positives ahead. The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, cloud technology, and robotics have all made their way along Gartner’s Hype Cycle curve and are now in operation. 3D printing is growing and machine learning/AI is picking up steam, as are driverless vehicles, drones, and VR. Even the political front has bright possibilities, with Trump’s infrastructure plan, tax reductions, and possible repatriation of foreign profits having the potential to light a fire under the economy. Things are looking up, right? Well, yes and no.

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Elon Musk’s idea for fixing traffic suffers from one fundamental problem

Elon Musk — the restless billionaire behind Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity — was stuck in annoying traffic and mused that one solution would be to drill more tunnels. All he’d need, really, is a giant machine…

Everyone’s trying to figure out whether Musk is genuinely serious about starting a brand-new tunnel-boring company or not. Who knows! But tunnels are fun to think about, so why not pretend he is serious and think through how this might actually work….

One obvious hitch to Musk’s scheme is that some cities are already trying to dig new tunnels to accommodate traffic — and it’s far from easy! There’s a lot of existing infrastructure buried in the ground beneath cities, from water mains to electrical cables. And the tunnels themselves often need to be reinforced. That makes tunneling slow, difficult, and expensive work.

Seattle is a cautionary tale here: Since 2013, the city has employed a massive 57-foot-diameter boring machine named Big Bertha to drill a 2-mile highway tunnel beneath the downtown area. Yet six months after work began, Big Bertha broke down after overheating. Drilling finally resumed in late 2015 — but then had to stop again after a sinkhole opened up near construction. Perhaps Musk can improve on Big Bertha. But that brings us to an even deeper problem with his idea. Building more tunnels is just not a good way to alleviate traffic congestion. In fact, it would likely do the opposite.

The “fundamental rule” of traffic: building new roads just makes people drive more
In January 2016, during SpaceX’s Hyperloop pod design competition, Musk explained why he thought tunnels could help alleviate traffic:

It’s a really simple and obvious idea and I wish more people would do it: build more tunnels. Tunnels are great. It’s just a hole in the ground, it’s not that hard. But if you have tunnels in cities you would massively alleviate congestion and you could have tunnels at all different levels — you could probably have 30 layers of tunnels and completely fix the congestion problem in high-density cities. So I strongly recommend tunnels.

Except economists and traffic experts have been studying this issue for a long time and they’ve found the exact opposite. When cities add new roads to a congested area, it usually doesn’t alleviate congestion. Instead, it just induces more traffic, as people take advantage of the added road space to drive more.

Granted, there can still be good reasons for fast-growing cities to build new roads. They just shouldn’t necessarily expect traffic jams to disappear as a result. Los Angeles got a firsthand glimpse of this after widening its I-405 freeway, a project that cost $1 billion. “The data shows that traffic is moving slightly slower now on 405 than before the widening,”

So what does help alleviate congestion? If cities really want to erase traffic jams, many transportation economists would instead recommend that they charge people to use roads when they’re crowded — a policy known as congestion pricing that has popped up in places like London, Singapore, and Stockholm.

Early research suggests that pricing really does cut down on traffic, as people decide to move their commutes to non-peak hours, shift to mass transit, or cut down on trips overall. It’s arguably even more effective if cities use the funds to provide alternative transportation options.

The downside is that congestion charging tends to be rather unpopular, since people don’t like it when they suddenly have to pay for something that used to be free. (It’s the same reason why checked-baggage fees on airplanes have incurred such a backlash.) So urban planners tend to favor building new roads and widening existing roads — or, in Musk’s case, new tunnels — even if the research suggests again and again that it doesn’t cut down on congestion.

Now, that doesn’t mean a tunneling machine would be useless! Remember, Musk also has plans to start colonizing Mars within a decade. And humans living on Mars would probably want to spend most of their time underground to avoid the higher levels of solar radiation that hits the planet.

UBER’s Rise From SCAB To Superstar

So in case the term is new to you, what is a SCAB?

The Urban Dictionary defines it as: ” A worker, often temporary, who crosses a strikers’ picket line, going to work in place of the strikers.” An example of usage:
“The scabs had their cars egged when they arrived at the factory.”

SCABS used to be looked down on in America.

Well, this is how UBER arrived on the business scene in 2008.

uber03

What happened? First of all, UBER started using a computer “APP” to order a taxi (or whatever you call it in UBERese).

Uber had some financial problems like trying to break into China. But some smart financial persons solved their money problems by modifying their business plan. Now they are in the “self driving car” business.

uber02

Now they are in the “tech elite” of America!

No word about “scab labor” anymore.

They even got invited to Donald Trump’s “tech conference”. This is the same Donald Trump who counts on support of organized labor embracing a “scab company”.

California could not handle testing of self-driving cars, so they relocated to Arizona

uber04