Shake Shack restaurant trials self order systems to reduce labor costs #Robotics #automation

Having customers place their own order has been in trials – or already implemented – at many restaurant chains as a way to reduce labor costs.

“We need to answer how we take care of our team with that federally mandated wage,” said Chief Executive Officer Randy Garutti during a phone interview. “Our labor costs are skyrocketing.” The new location is “our way of seeing how we are going to do that.”

Source: Shake Shack Claims Automation Won’t Hurt Its Famed Hospitality – Bloomberg

Automation was going to reduce the need for labor regardless of wage laws; however, sharp increases in minimum wage laws are accelerating the trend to reduce the number of workers, where possible.

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Workaround: Barnes and Noble Nook e-reader app no longer available for PC, Mac #BarnesAndNoble

I discovered after a Mac OS X update that my very old Nook e-reader app for Mac OS X no longer works – and that Nook discontinued the app for PC and Mac desktops in 2013. Barnes and Noble says we should use their cloud-based/web-based app from a browser (presumably this means we must have an Internet connection in order to read?)

Problem 1 – Barnesandnoble.com Inaccessible

Unfortunately, an attempt to access the Barnes and Noble web site returns

This page is unavailable due to either geographic restrictions or other restrictions in place at this time. NOTE: other restrictions can be a result of our security platform detecting potential malicious activity. Please try again later as the restrictions may be lifted, or contact your service provider if the issue persists.

ID: 8387029820181080074

As best I can tell, this means Barnes and Noble has blocked our IP address for unknown reasons. Their recommended solution is to reboot our Internet access modem and/or attempt to request a new IP address. This is absurd. Our IP address works fine for accessing all other web sites.

Problem 2 – No Nook E-Reader app available – Work Around

If Barnes and Noble e-books can no longer be read on a PC or Mac, what can we do?

One solution is to install an Android emulator, and then install the Android B&N e-reader app in the emulated Android. An emulator is basically a simulator – it simulates and Android device but its really just software running on a PC or a Mac.

I installed the Nox Android emulator app on my Macbook. After dealing with odd user interface issues, I went into the Google folder and opened Google Play, and then downloaded and installed the Nook e-reader app for Android. I ran that and was able to synchronize my library of purchased e-books and can now read them using the Nook app for Android running in an emulator on my Macbook. The emulator seems to be a bit hard on the battery – may want to use this solution when you can plug in the notebook computer to AC.

I had the same IP address when I synchronized the Nook library, pointing to something very weird (and possibly very stupid) in Barnes and Noble’s web site operation.

 

 

 

Record growth in #automation, #robotics technology sales

The Association for Advancing Automation (A3) just rolled out new research confirming record growth in the areas of robotics, machine vision, motion control, and motor technology for the first half of 2017.

Source: Automation by the numbers: Record-breaking year for sales of robots, components | ZDNet

AccuWeather app continues spying on user’s location #privacy

New tests reveal that while one privacy-invading feature was removed in an app update, the app still shares precise geolocation coordinates with advertisers.

Source: Despite privacy outrage, AccuWeather still shares precise location data with ad firms | ZDNet

This is done without the user’s consent.

Accuweather says it uses one’s location data to provide local weather forecasts but it appears the primary purpose is to optimize ad revenue. A side effect is that a dossier of our movement is constantly maintained by corporations.

With Android, if you use the GPS location features of the phone for any purpose what so ever, Google logs your location in the cloud. You cannot opt out of this – your choice is to use location services and be surveiled by Google, or not to use any GPS location features.

We now use an offline Garmin navigation product which presumably is not logging our location as it is only connected to the Internet a few times per year to update the software. But we really don’t know – may be Garmin is also logging our location albeit with a months long delay.

As tech companies regulate speech, will they lose their safe harbor?

Source: Silicon Valley escalates its war on white supremacy despite free speech concerns – The Washington Post

Tech companies have long argued they are not responsible for the content posted by others on their platforms. Under this view, a tech company is not responsible if someone posts threats to kill others or instructions for building a bomb or details on how to hack into government computers.

Companies have stood behind this principle, especially in regards to users posting defamatory content to online forums. They have argued that they are not responsible for the content and that it would be impossible for them to police the content of their forums.

Now however, the tech companies, including social media companies, are arguing that they can and do police all speech on their platforms. This implies that they do, in fact, control and have responsibility for the speech on their platform. These actions are likely to emerge in future anti-defamation suits filed against online tech firms and they could find themselves liable for all types of infringing speech conducted on their platforms.

Tech companies can certainly condemn offensive speech[1]. But censoring offensive speech puts tech companies into a area that may have legal ramifications.

Related from St. Louis Dispatch:

“A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all. The First Amendment does not entrust that power to the government’s benevolence. Instead, our reliance must be on the substantial safeguards of free and open discussion in a democratic society.” — Justice Anthony Kennedy

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T-Mobile’s Coverage Maps

T-Mobile has announced that over the past two years it has greatly expanded coverage. And it has! But many users will not have access to that coverage. The newest coverage, shown on the maps, is not actually usable until 2018 and then, only if your are willing to buy a brand new phone!

T-Mobile makes it challenging to discern actual coverage on their web site. If you click through their prominent “Coverage” link, you’ll see a map like this one (for my area in the PNW):

Lots of Magenta coverage shown everywhere. Except this is their coverage at the end of 2017 using their 700 and 600 Mhz spectrum allocations. The 600 Mhz spectrum will not have phones available to use it until sometime in 2018! (Well, may be one by the end of 2017.)

A better representation is this map, which includes their 700 Mhz spectrum allocations – good coverage but less than the above. Plus, you need a recent model phone, typically high end and expensive, to access LTE Band 12 (700 Mhz) that supports VoLTE (Voice over LTE) to work on the 700 Mhz spectrum.

If you have the kind of phone that most customers typically have in 2017 – which does not support LTE Band 12 and VoLTE, then this is your coverage map – with a lot of “no coverage zones”.

This news report has a very nice map showing the entire U.S. with 700 Mhz versus the future 600 Mhz network.

As you can see, a customer switching to T-Mobile, perhaps from AT&T or a mobile virtual network operator like Tracfone, may have an older phone that does not support the newer 700 Mhz band and will only get the more limited coverage. Unfortunately, its tedious to dig this information out of the T-Mobile web site – some customers may switch to T-Mobile only to find they have inadequate coverage unless they also buy a new phone.

  • T-Mobile is correct that they have built out their network aggressively and will eventually provide access over a much wider area than their older network.
  • In the very near future, T-Mobile, with a newer phone, will likely have the best coverage of any operator in the U.S.
  • T-Mobile’s coverage is today far better than it was just two years ago. They are seriously improving their network.

However, some of this expansion uses new frequencies and technologies that many consumers do not yet have (and may not realize when they sign up for service), or uses the newest 600 Mhz frequencies which are not yet supported on any phone.

If you are switching to T-Mobile to take advantage of their “expanded” coverage you need a phone that supports LTE Band 12 and VoLTE. If you do not have that, you’ll have to factor in the cost of purchasing a new phone! And if you are in the area covered only by the new 600 MHz network, you’ll have to buy your new phone in 2018!

T-Mobile is doing a lot of “right” things with their network expansion and attractive, competitively priced service offerings. Unfortunately, their marketing is somewhat misleading on the coverage issue – unless you plan to buy a new LTE Band 12 compatible phone today or a still newer phone, not yet available, to use the 600 Mhz band.

Your best bet is to poke around the T-Mobile web site and explore all the maps on coverage. You can – in fact – once you get to the right location on their web site – select your phone device from a list and there they will show you the coverage you should expect for your phone.

In Spite of That, We Switched to T-Mobile!

Please note – in spite of this we switched our own phone service to T-Mobile. We had a chance to really give the network a work out on a cross country driving trip through Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Northern California and Oregon.

The good newswe are glad we switched to T-Mobile.

Data service has been much faster than our previous provider, and as long as you look at the coverage map representing your actual device (in my case, LTE Band 12 700 Mhz supported), their coverage maps are accurate (unlike some other providers). Do be sure to zoom in to the map as the colors change as you zoom in. What appears as solid magenta coverage in the wide angle view is, in some places, particularly in some rural areas, is just voice and text messaging. That’s not a problem in our view – they are honest with their coverage maps once you select the right one.

Overall, we are glad that we switched to T-Mobile and have no desire at all to go back to “the other carrier” we were using before we switched.

San Diego’s minimum wage experiment accelerating adoption of automation

San Diego raised its minimum wage very rapidly. Data suggests that while the wage hike benefits those with minimum wage jobs, it is also rapidly eliminating low wage jobs all together. Read the entire (and long) story for the details.

This blog has long noted that while automation is going to happen regardless, rapid minimum wage hikes accelerate the adoption of automated systems, eliminating jobs more rapidly:

And California’s decision to speed Darwinian selection also encourages automation. McDonald’s is rolling out ordering kiosks, Starbucks is testing robotic baristas, and hamburger-making machines are nearing production.

One local restaurant owner told me that all his future locations will allow customers to buy and pour their own beers.

A 50-handle system costs $1,800 per handle. That’s well above $1,000 per handle for the bartender-based system, but it pays off in a year by eliminating one or two workers per shift. Presumably someday robots will listen to our problems, too.

Rising productivity is good for the bulk of consumers, because fewer workers equate to lower bills.

Source: Is San Diego’s new minimum wage already hurting its poor? – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Eliminating jobs through automation is not necessarily a bad thing. ATM machines, self service gas, self service check outs are all examples of recent semi-automated services that we take for granted. Throughout history, many jobs have gone away – elevator operators and telephone “manual switch” operators all went away.

If automation frees up labor to be put to more productive uses, this is a good outcome. However, there will be some who are not able to transition to higher value added work and may be come unemployable.