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From The Editors Technology

Alexa Can Now Wake You Up Shaking a Leg to Your Favorite Tune

On Monday, Amazon announced the addition of a new feature to all Alexa-compatible devices that will allow you to use it as an alarm clock but with an exciting twist.

You will now be able to set your alarm to wake you up with music from the streaming service of your choice, be it Amazon’s own Prime Music or Amazon Music Unlimited or third party services supported by Alexa-powered devices such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, and SiriusXM.

Some Alexa-device users even found some innovative workarounds to set up their alarms to music.

Well, with the introduction of the new feature, Amazon has finally addressed that particular user grievance.

It is no different from how you play music on your Alexa-friendly devices by asking it to play music by singer or band name, song name, playlists, genres, mood and in case you don’t know or remember the song name or singer, Alexa is happy to play it for you using the song lyrics.

It must be mentioned that requests using lyrics and mood is only possible with Amazon Music.

With the exception of Fire TV, the feature works on all Alexa-easy devices and is not just restricted to the Echo range of speakers.

Let’s take a look at how you can get Alexa to set up your music alarm using each of the options the feature allows you.

Set up alarm by Album: If you wish to wake up to music from a particular album, say for example Ed Sheeran’s Divide (÷) this is how you do it.

“Alexa, wake me up to the album Divide by Ed Sheeran at 8 am.”

Now, if you wish to wake up at a different time the next day, or wake up at the same time but to music from a different album, change your request accordingly.

However, if your wake-up time is standard and you are okay to wake up to music from the same album every day, all you need to do is put in a onetime request until you want to change it.

“Alexa, wake me up every day to the album Divide by Ed Sheeran at 8 am.”

The request can even be worded differently like, “Alexa, set an alarm for 8 am to the album Divide by Ed Sheeran.”

Set up alarm by News:  “Alexa, set an alarm for 7 a.m. using NPR news on TuneIn,” or “Alexa, wake me up at 7 am to NPR news on TuneIn”

Set up alarm by Song: “Alexa, set an alarm for 7 a.m. using Perfect by Ed Sheeran”

Set up alarm Genre (recurring request): “Alexa, wake me up to heavy metal music at 7 a.m. every day of the week.”

If you have Amazon Music, you can even use song lyrics or mood from the mood playlist.

Using Lyrics: “Alexa set an alarm for 8 a.m. to the song that goes, “Down every road there’s always one more city”

Using Mood: “Alexa, wake me up with relaxing music at 6 a.m”

 

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon Loses YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV as Dispute with Google Escalates

Google-owned YouTube announced Tuesday afternoon that it was discontinuing the video-sharing service on Fire TV as well as Echo Show – Amazon’s only smart speaker with a screen.

“We’ve been trying to reach agreement with Amazon to give consumers access to each other’s products and services. But Amazon doesn’t carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn’t make Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of Nest’s latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and FireTV. We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon.”

It is not the first time, though, that Google has withdrawn YouTube from the Amazon Echo Show. In a similar move in September this year, the tech giant had withdrawn the service citing breach of “Terms of Service” on the part of Amazon.

It was the retail behemoth which had first accused Google of discontinuing the service without prior intimation, saying that the unannounced move was a source of disappointment for both Google and Amazon customers.

Here’s what Amazon had said in its September 26th statement:

“Google made a change today around 3 pm. YouTube used to be available to our shared customers on Echo Show. As of this afternoon, Google has chosen to no longer make YouTube available on Echo Show, without explanation and without notification to customers. There is no technical reason for that decision, which is disappointing and hurts both of our customers.”

However, in a statement given to THE VERGE, Google had countered Amazon’s claim, saying that the way the retail company had implemented YouTube on its Echo Show was in violation of the “Terms of Service”.

“We’ve been in negotiations with Amazon for a long time, working towards an agreement that provides great experiences for customers on both platforms. Amazon’s implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violates our terms of service, creating a broken user experience. We hope to be able to reach an agreement and resolve these issues soon.”

Apparently, YouTube features like channel subscriptions, related videos, commenting and sharing, among other services, were not available on the Echo Show version of the Google service.

About a fortnight ago, YouTube returned to Echo Show – an indication that differences between the two companies had been ironed out and that Amazon was now in compliance with Google’s conditions.

An Amazon representative had confirmed the reinstatement, saying that in addition to the Google service, the company was also providing other sources of video content to its Echo Show users.

“We’re excited to offer customers the capability to watch even more video content from sources such as Vimeo, YouTube, and Dailymotion on Echo Show. More video sources will be added over time.”

When Amazon brought back the new version of YouTube on the Echo Show a couple of weeks ago, it overlaid voice controls on top of the service which, according to Google, was again a break away from its “Terms of Service.”

However, from Google’s Tuesday announcement that it was not only taking away YouTube from the Echo Show once again but was discontinuing the service from Amazon Fire TV as well, it appears that there is more to the feud than meets the eye.

In order to promote its own products such as Echo Show and Fire TV, Amazon has been known to discourage similar competitor products on its online site.

It stopped selling Google products like Chromecast and Google Home in addition to other company products including the Apple TV and LINE smart speakers. Also, it doesn’t provide Prime Video to Google Cast users.

More recently, it stopped selling Nest’s latest products including Nest Thermostat E, Nest Camera IQ and Nest Secure alarm system, which is, probably, why Google is on a warpath with Amazon once again.

While Amazon was happy to sell Nest devices earlier, promoting them with catchphrases like “working with Alexa” and calling the Nest Thermostat an “Amazon’s Choice,” its sudden decision to remove them from its online retail outlet seems to be an attempt to pressurize Google into easing up on its YouTube “Terms of Service.”

While the Echo Show version of YouTube stopped working from Tuesday, Fire TV users will lose the app on January 1, 2018, giving them enough time to make alternative arrangements like going for other company streaming players. Or perhaps, they can opt for the Amazon workaround by using the newly included Amazon Silk web browser to access the YouTube site on Fire TV.

The feud does not seem to be benefiting either of the two companies, in that both their customers are being deprived – while Amazon Echo Show users are missing out on one of the most popular video-sharing sites in the world, Google customers will not be able to buy its products like the Google Home, Chromecast and Nest devices on the world’s biggest retail website.

The sooner the two companies resolve their disagreements the better for them as well as their customers. Until then, Echo Show and Fire TV redirect their users to the YouTube website according to an Amazon statement.

“Echo Show and Fire TV now display a standard web view of YouTube.com and point customers directly to YouTube’s existing website. Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website. We hope to resolve this with Google as soon as possible.”

 

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From The Editors Technology

The Best Alexa – Compatible Smart Home Devices Under Different Categories

The Amazon Echo along with the virtual assistant Alexa has made quiet inroads into our homes and suddenly we find it compatible with almost all categories of smart home devices including lighting, switches, dimmers and outlets, smart home hubs, locks, cameras, and home security, heating and cooling, automobiles, services, and more.

Third party integration is happening at such a frantic pace that it is hard to keep abreast with all the compatible smart home devices in each of the categories mentioned. This effectively means that you don’t really need an Echo to make the most of Alexa’s skills. Every other tech company is looking to link its devices to the versatile Alexa.

We have compiled below a list of some of the best products under each major smart home category that is Echo/Alexa compatible including Amazon’s own Alexa devices.

Amazon’s Alexa Devices

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Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is a 9.25-inch Bluetooth speaker with a seven-piece microphone array which responds to the default “wake-word” Alexa with the provision of changing it to “Amazon”, “Echo” or “Computer” should the user choose to.

The device which is priced at $180 responds to your voice commands to control a rapidly increasing range of smart home products, pause or play music from your smartphone, Amazon Prime, or Spotify, let you know the weather or the time remaining in the completion of a task ordered earlier and even place an order for you with Amazon by simply listening to your voice.

Amazon Echo Show

The new addition “Amazon Echo Show” with a price tag of $230 kind of augments the “Amazon Echo” with the inclusion of a camera and touchscreen, making it possible to make video calls, watch Amazon Prime and YouTube videos, and make Amazon purchases and much more.

Amazon Echo Look

The fashion-friendly “Amazon Echo Look,” another recent addition to the Echo line-up is an Alexa enabled camera which serves as your very own fashion consultant. Alexa can be instructed to build your personal “ lookbook” with the help of photos and videos of your outfits which it captures.

It can be made to use machine learning to let you know which outfit looks good on you. Not only this, you can even ask for its suggestions before buying new clothes. At $200 with Amazon, it is not a bad buy at all.

Amazon Echo Dot

Priced at $49 the “Amazon Echo Dot” is the poor man’s version of Echo – an abridged version really. Standing just about 1.5 inches tall it is minus the top-of-the-line built-in speaker of the Echo.

While you can still talk to Alexa via a smaller inbuilt speaker for most of Alexa’s services, you will not be able to stream music. You can work around that problem, though, by connecting to existing speakers via Bluetooth or an audio-out jack.

Amazon Tap

The Amazon Tap is a portable battery-powered Bluetooth speaker incorporated with the core features of Echo. Unlike the Echo or the Echo Dot which is always listening, the Tap requires you to press its mic button to be able to speak to Alexa. An updated version, however, allows you to activate hands-free listening but you lose out on an hour of battery life at least.

With no LTE option available with Tap, you need a Wi-Fi connection to communicate with Alexa. You will have to use your smartphone as a hotspot if you wish to carry it around as a portable device.

Amazon Fire TV

While the Amazon Fire TV is an Alexa device it does not have the same Alexa features the makers have blessed Echo with, but there is still enough of Alexa built into it to control smart home products and utilize other Alexa features.

The difference is mainly in the way you communicate with the device. With the Fire TV there’s no permanent listening mode; instead, you need to turn your TV on and interact with Alexa via the Fire TV Remote – it can be seen as a blessing in disguise by privacy-conscious users. At $ 90 it is not a bad buy.

Amazon Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote

Priced at $50, the Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote is the most budget-friendly virtual assistant option. It boasts the same features and uses the same remote interface as the Fire TV Box.

Amazon App

Amazon has upgraded its shopping app for iPhone to include Alexa but with limited features as compared to Echo. However, it is all the time with you and is pretty handy when it comes to searching the store for products you may be interested in buying. There is no update, yet, on when Alexa will be made available on the app for the Android platform.

Automotive

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Ford Sync – Alexa, with the core features of Echo and some automobile-related ones, will be integrated with all Ford vehicles with the latest version of the Ford Sync infotainment system.

Automatic – The Automatic is a small device with Amazon’s Alexa integration that can be connected to the diagnostic port in your car for data such as fuel level, engine light codes and other driving data beamed straight to your smartphone via Bluetooth. In addition to fuel levels, you can ask Alexa about where you last parked the vehicle, or what distance you have driven over a defined period of time.

Garageio  WiFi enabled gadget, the Garageio can be connected to a maximum of three garage doors to remotely open or close them using your smartphone. With Alexa enabled devices you can do the same by simply asking the virtual assistant.

Services

IFTTT

“If This, Then That” or IFTTT is a very handy service indeed and when connected to your Amazon Echo it serves as a tireless and versatile intermediary between you and a host of other products and services that are yet to be integrated with Alexa.

Spotify

With the Echo integration, you can control your Spotify music with your voice – thanks to Alexa.

Capital One Bank

Capital One is the first bank to integrate Alexa enabling you to check your account balance, pay utility and other bills, and keep tabs on your spending – all you need to do is ask your VA Alexa.

Uber

Hailing an Uber service or checking the location of your Uber can now be done with your voice after the Uber-Alexa integration.

Google Calendar

While the two tech giants may not see eye to eye most times, Amazon has integrated Alexa for Google Calendar support. Alexa can now be asked what’s on your calendar or be told to add an event to your calendar – how cool is that!

Domino’s

The Alexa-Dominoes integration allows you to order a pizza from whatever position you are in without moving a finger – just let Alexa know how you want your pizza.

Other services that are Alexa compatible area:

  • USA TODAY Network
  • 1-800-Flowers.com
  • Kayak
  • HomeAdvisor
  • KidsMD
  • OurGroceries
  • Pandora
  • iHeartRadio
  • TuneIn
  • Amazon Prime Music

Locks, Cameras, and Home Security

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August Smart Lock (2nd Gen)

While the unlocking option is available with all Alexa-friendly smart locks, the second generation August Smart Lock is the only one that can even be locked by giving Alexa a PIN code to work with – a real clever safety feature.

Scout Alarm

Among all the other Alexa enabled security systems, Scout Alarm is the only one that is considered a “pure” security system that connects to Alexa. It allows you to arm and disarm the system and even call for help with your voice commands to Alexa.

Netgear Arlo Pro

One of the best outdoor security cameras available today, the Netgear Arlo Pro is compatible with the Amazon Echo Show. Live feeds from compatible security cameras can be viewed on its touch screen.

Ring Video Doorbells and Security Cameras

Similar to the Netgear Arlo cameras, live feeds from Ring doorbells and cameras can be also viewed on the Echo Show.

Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets

While smart plugs, switches, and outlets allow you to control lights, ceiling fans and even your garbage disposals, Alexa integration makes it possible to do the same things and more with voice commands. The products below give you that Alexa flexibility.

  • Samsung SmartThings Outlet (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Belkin WeMo Light Switch
  • Belkin WeMo Switch
  • Belkin WeMo Insight Switch
  • iHome Smart Plug (via Wink Hub)
  • Insteon Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets (via Insteon Hub)
  • GE Z-Wave Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Leviton Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets (via SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub)
  • Lutron Caséta Wireless Switches, Dimmers, and Remotes
  • Evolve Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Enerwave Switches, Dimmers, and Outlets (via SmartThings Hub)
  • D-Link WiFi Smart Plugs
  • TP-Link HS110 Smart Plug with Energy Monitoring
  • TP-Link HS100 Smart Plug

Smart Home Hubs

There are still many smart home devices out there that are not equipped to communicate directly with Alexa and require a smart home hub to act as an intermediary for the integration. Here’s a list of some of these hubs.

  • Samsung SmartThings Hub
  • Wink Hubs
  • Simple Control Simple Hub
  • Almond Smart Home WiFi Routers
  • Universal Devices ISY Hubs
  • HomeSeer Home Controllers
  • Insteon Hub
  • Alarm.com Hub
  • Vivint Hub
  • Nexia Home Intelligence Bridge

Lighting

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Lighting is the first category of smart home devices to have integrated with Amazon Echo. Currently, there are countless switches, dimmers, small bulbs, and outlets that are Alexa-friendly. Here are some of the more popular ones.

  • Philips Hue White Starter Kit
  • Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit
  • Philips Friends of Hue Lighting Bloom (via Hue Bridge)
  • Philips Hue Go (via Hue Bridge)
  • LIFX Smart Bulbs and Light Strip
  • Cree Connected LED (via SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub)
  • GE Link Bulb (via Wink Hub)
  • TP-Link WiFi Smart Bulbs
  • TCP Connected Smart Bulbs (via SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub)
  • Osram Lightify Smart Bulb (via SmartThings Hub or Wink Hub)

Heating and Cooling

Alexa’s capabilities are continuing to reach out to more and more smart home device categories and thermostat control (Heating and Cooling) is also within its ambit now. Please find below a list of the leading Alexa-enabled thermostats.

  • Honeywell Total Connect Comfort Thermostats (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Honeywell Lyric Thermostat (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Ecobee3 Smarter WiFi Thermostat
  • Nest Learning Thermostat
  • Haiku Home Ceiling Fans
  • Keen Home Smart Vents (via SmartThings Hub)
  • Sensi WiFi Programmable Thermostat
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Business From The Editors

Amazon Gears Up for a 14-Billion-Dollar Buyout of Whole Foods – It’s Biggest Ever

Amazon is all set to take over “Whole Foods Market” by the end of the year for a stupendous sum of $13.7 billion, its largest acquisition by far, surpassing its buyout of online shoe store Zappos in 2009 by a huge margin of $ 12.7 billion – more than 14 times.

As of now, Zappos continues to be Amazon’s biggest acquisition until the Whole Food deal, pending regulatory approval, is closed; it will then become a distant second – way distant.

The tit-for-tat buyout decision is seen by many as a direct faceoff with its long-time rival, Walmart, the largest grocery retailer in the United States.

In a bid to keep up with the internet shopping business, Walmart paid $3.3 billion for Amazon-competitorJet.com last year and made the chief executive of Jet, Marc Lore, the chief of Walmart’s complete e-commerce business. To further shore up its internet retail presence, Friday it announced its decision to acquire Bonobos, the Internet apparel retailer for $310 million.

With this deal going through, Amazon is looking to take a foothold in the $800 billion grocery industry, and a big one at that, what with over 400 stores spread across the United States, Canada, and Britain. If this is not a direct challenge to Walmart, what is?

“This deal should leave no doubt that Amazon is deadly serious about dominating all aspects of retail,” Paul Cuatrecasas, chief executive of Aquaa Partners, a London-based investment banking firm said. “Amazon is effectively saying that if retailers are going to tool themselves up with technology, then they will tool themselves up with a physical presence and high-street brand.”

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As of now, Amazon is rather taciturn about it is plans for Whole Foods. However, the fact that it opened a prototype grocery store/supermarket (Amazon Go Store)in Seattle this year, with droids running the cashier-less store, is indicative of the automation plans Amazon may have for the 400+ Whole Foods stores.

The online giant’s announcement of the takeover does not come as a surprise as it has been testing the waters of the lucrative grocery business for over a decade. “Amazon Fresh” was launched in August 2007 delivering grocery and pantry staples through its fulfillment centers.

Yet, even after a decade, Amazon continues to see great potential in the grocery industry, evident from the massive takeover, to ensure a physical dominance in this area, as well.

Launched in March this year, “AmazonFresh Pickup” is another pointer toward Amazon’s growing interest in the produce business.

Walmart and Kroger have similar modules where a customer orders groceries online, drives to a company-run store, where an employee brings the bag/s right up to the customer’s car. However, they take to 2-4 hours to process an order whereas Amazon does it in fifteen minutes.

Both the business models, Amazon Go, discussed earlier, and AmazonFresh Pickup, are not only novel ways of ensuring a ‘minimum-friction shopping experience’ for customers but effective labor cost cutting tools as well.

“Amazon buying Whole Foods is a good fit with the company’s larger strategy for groceries,” says Jason Goldberg, vice president of commerce at the digital marketing company Razorfish. “Fresh groceries is the biggest category of consumer spending in retail that hasn’t been disrupted by online yet,” as reported by Wired.

Amazon may be all prepped up to give Walmart a run for its money but it must be pointed out that the competition will be restricted to urban areas as Whole Foods doesn’t take Amazon to rural America where Walmart rules the roost.

“Amazon is stronger in bigger cities, and the map of Whole Foods locations shows it is closer to these cities,” says Goldberg. “If this strategy proves out for Amazon, you could well imagine it could be opening a bunch more stores or doing more acquisitions just to cover the US,” says Goldberg. ”

The Friday announcement sent competitor shares crashing as investors tried to come to grips with Amazon’s big time incursion in the grocery industry. SuperValu, running a network of 2,000 stores across America, was the biggest casualty, with a 14 percent drop on Friday while Kroger saw its share value going south by 9 percent.

Shares of Whole Foods, on the other hand, took off by almost 30 percent and Amazon was up by 2.4 percent raising its share value to $987.71, adding a cool $11 billion to its market capitalization – almost covering the cost of the acquisition, in a way.

This is what Mickey Chadha, vice president and senior credit officer at Moody’s Investors Service, had to say about the acquisition:

“Supermarkets will now have to contend with not only competition with each other and non-traditional grocers like Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp, but with a retailer like Amazon which has the financial capacity to price aggressively.”

In a statement released Friday, Marc Perrone, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, said: “Amazon’s brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs. That is the reality today at Amazon, and it will no doubt become the reality at Whole Foods.”

However, for now, Amazon has assured that the acquisition will not result in any downsizing.

If Brittain Ladd, former senior manager at Amazon, is correct in his assessment, the e-commerce giant may well build out non-grocery areas within the stores, particularly for pharmacy and Amazon devices, reports Reuters.

“There’s no value in Amazon keeping the status quo at Whole Foods. Whole Foods was losing market share to Kroger,” Ladd said, according to Reuters. “It’s pharmacy. It’s having the ability to put stores that are similar to Apple stores inside Whole Foods.”

Being the powerhouse that it is, Amazon is being looked at by some analysts to bring a massive buying strength to Whole Foods, although Amazon’s grip on the food market is not as firm as it is in other areas. Also a high and growing demand for organic food give farmers a bargaining edge.

About Amazon

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com on July 5, 1994, initially setting up his business in his garage.

Portfolio.com has very aptly described Bezos as “at once a happy-go-lucky mogul and a notorious micromanager: “an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases.”

What actually inspired and pushed him into founding Amazon, leaving a lucrative job at a New York City hedge fund, was the “rapid growth in internet use.”

Jeff Bezos referred to it as “regret minimization framework,” which basically means he wanted to capitalize on the internet boom at the right time and not regret the delay in joining in sooner.

However, another factor that propelled him toward the Amazon idea was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling at the time that mail order companies were exempt from collecting taxes in states where they did not have a physical presence, such as offices, warehouses or any other physical property directly or indirectly related to the business.

Headquartered in Seattle, the company was initially named “Cadabra” by Bezos, changing it to “Amazon” a year later. The humor behind the name change is that a lawyer happened to have misheard the name as “Cadaver” which, as we all know, means corpse or a dead body.

The story goes that Amazon was named after the mighty Amazon River, “exotic and different,” which matched Bezos’ vision of making his company different, exotic and the biggest in the world.

From its rather humble beginnings as an online bookstore, Amazon has grown into an “electronic commerce and cloud computing company,” the largest internet retailer in terms of total sales and market capitalization.

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Of course, the growth of Amazon into what it is today went through different stages of diversification – from selling books online to DVDs, CDs, video downloading and streaming, Bluerays, MP3 downloading and streaming, audio books downloading and streaming, electronics, software, video games, furniture, apparel, food, toys, jewellery – you name it and they have it delivered to your doorstep! Amazing Amazon!

It does not end here; Amazon is also into manufacturing consumer electronics such as Amazon Kindle e-books, Fire tablets, and Fire TV, to name a few, in addition to being one of the world’s largest providers of cloud computing infrastructure services.

Amazon’s long history of acquisitions and mergers dates back to 1998 and has continued ever since.

Here’s a look at its acquisitions in the last 5 calendar years (source – Wikipedia).

2013:

* IVONA Software
* Goodreads
* Liquavista

2014:

* Double Helix Games
* comiXology
* Twitch

2015:

* Annapurna Labs
* 2lemetry
* ClusterK
* Shoefit
* Safaba Translation Systems
* Elemental Technologies

2016:

* Amazon increased its overall investment in India to $5 billion, and with that, reduced seller fees to take on its Indian competitor, Flipkart
* NICE
* Curse, Inc.
* Biba Systems

2017 (till date):

* Harvest.a
* Thinkbox Software
* Do.com
* Souq.com
* Whole Foods Market
* And now, it’s grocery!

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon’s New Go Store Will Be Run by Robots

Droids will run Amazon’s giant new two-storey supermarket minimizing human intervention by a huge margin. A minimum of three and a max of 10 employees at any given shift will be enough for the automated store to run smoothly.

The store, reportedly, will be a massive version of its earlier concept covering an area anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 square feet and stocking as many as 4,000 items.

Sources close to Amazon told the New York Post that the 4000 items will include eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables, meats, and grab-it-and-go products like wine and beer, spread over two super-sized floors.

According to insiders, there is a strong likelihood of pharmacies being included in some high-tech locations as Amazon realizes the money-spinning potential they have.

The long-term plan is to make the Go supermarkets a global endeavor which will ensure big savings for the retail giant in terms of labor costs.

“Amazon will utilize technology to minimize labor,” a source close to the situation told The Post – nobody seems to have given a damn about the loss of potential jobs and livelihood the automation will bring about.

However, when approached by the New York Post for comments, Amazon categorically denied that there were any such plans on the cards. Moreover, in a statement given to The Verge, Amazon reiterated that the Post had wrong information as they had no plans of building the futuristic two-storey Go superstores.

“As we told the New York Post, we have no plans to build such a store and their story is incorrect,” Amazon said to The Verge.

Amazon's supermarket of the future could be run by phones and robots
Amazon’s supermarket of the future could be run by phones and robots

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to remind readers that labor-reduction technology is not unchartered territory for Amazon. The progressive use of robots in its bid to automate its distribution warehouses to cater to the ever increasing demand bears testimony to the fact; not to forget its more recent attempt at adopting job-cutting technology when it made its first ever drone delivery to a customer at a farmhouse in England – a job which humans have been doing.

Read more First Drone Delivery by Amazon to Real Customer

Moreover, Amazon has reportedly won a patent for unmanned flying blimp-like warehouses referred to as the “airborne fulfillment centers” (AFCs) to maintain an uninterrupted supply of goods to a swarm of drones for airborne deliveries to customers.

Coming back to the automated Go supermarket prototype, an average location could be staffed by six humans including a manager whose job would include “signing up customers for the “Amazon Fresh” grocery service,” according to the New York Post.

Two workers would work on the upper level helping out the robots pack groceries for customers waiting at ground level while two workers would oversee the “drive thru” windows where customers would be picking up their grocery items. The lone worker left would be responsible for stocking up shelves.

At the end of last year, Amazon had unveiled its Amazon Go concept of grocery shopping which required just the customer and the app cutting out the need for lines of registers. A test store is due to become operational in Seattle sometime this year.

The gigantic two-storey automated superstore is an extension of the Amazon Go on a much larger and more grandiose scale if at all it is truly what Amazon is planning.

The rapidly expanding automation by Amazon has but two motives, apparently – customer gratification and increased profits. While both are not in any way wrong in that all businesses want customer satisfaction and subsequent profits, cutting down jobs for increased profit is ethically wrong. In addition to making profits and gratifying their customers, responsible businesses have a moral obligation to include job creation in their plans, as well.

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From The Editors Technology

The Amazing Amazon Man – Jeff Bezos – Life and Achievements

According to Forbes list, Jeff Bezos will be the richest man on the planet. He is currently valued at $75.2 billion. He added $1.5 billion to his net worth after Amazon (AMZN, Tech30) gained $9 billion in market value on 29th March 2017.

Early Life

Date of birth – January 12, 1964, born Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen
Place of birth – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Parents – His biological father Ted Jorgensen married his teenaged mother Jacklyn Gise and the couple divorced after a little more than a year.

When Jeff Jorgensen was four years old in 1968, his mother remarried Miguel Bezos, a Cuban immigrant to the United States, who legally adopted his stepson Jeffrey Jorgensen and ever since he has been known as Jeff Bezos.

Jeff Bezos ancestors from his mother’s side were long time Texas settlers with a 25,000-acre ranch near Cotulla acquired over generations.

Bezos maternal grandfather had the distinction of holding the post of a regional director of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in Albuquerque but retired early for the sake of the ranch where Jeff Bezos spent his early childhood.

His mechanical skills were visible from a very early age known to have dismantled his crib with a screwdriver when he was just a toddler.

As of March 2015, Jeff Bezos was one of the largest landholders in the state of Texas.

Schooling & University – After the family moved to Houston, Texas, the young Bezos studied at the River Oaks Elementary School in Houston from fourth to sixth grade spending his childhood summers at his grandfather’s ranch in southern Texas.

His flirtation with science and technology is well documented; he is known to have rigged an electrical alarm to keep his younger siblings from entering his room.

After his family moved to Miami, Florida, Bezos attended the Miami Palmetto Senior High School taking part in the Student Science Training Program at the University of Florida and was even honoured with a Silver Knight Award in 1982 for his efforts, in addition to being a high school valedictorian and a National Merit Scholar.

Jeff Bezos graduated from the Princeton University with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Engineering – electrical engineering and computer science. He also served as the President of the Princeton chapter of the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space.

Career – Completing his graduation in 1986, and after his stints on Wall Street in the field of computer science, building an international trade network for Fitel, working for Bankers Trust and later for D.E. Shaw & Co on internet-enabled business opportunities, he made his entry into the limitless world of technology and entrepreneurship.

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Amazon.com – Bezos founded Amazon.com on July 5, 1994, initially setting up his business in his garage, not unlike Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame but that’s a different story.

Portfolio.com has very aptly described Bezos as, “at once a happy-go-lucky mogul and a notorious micromanager: “an executive who wants to know about everything from contract minutiae to how he is quoted in all Amazon press releases.”

What actually inspired and pushed him into founding Amazon, leaving a lucrative job at a New York City hedge fund, was the “rapid growth in internet use.”

Jeff Bezos referred to it as “regret minimization framework,” which basically means he wanted to capitalize on the internet boom at the right time and not regret the delay in joining in sooner.

However, another factor that propelled him toward the Amazon idea was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling at the time that mail order companies were exempt from collecting taxes in states where they did not have a physical presence, such as offices, warehouses or any other physical property directly or indirectly related to the business.

Headquartered in Seattle, the company was initially named “Cadabra” by Bezos, changing it to “Amazon” a year later. The humor behind the name change is the fact that a lawyer happened to have misheard the name as “cadaver” which, as we all know, means corpse or a dead body.

The story goes that Amazon was named after the mighty Amazon River, “exotic and different,” which matched Bezos’ vision of making his company different, exotic and the biggest in the world.

From its rather humble beginnings as an online bookstore, Amazon has grown into an “electronic commerce and cloud computing company,” the largest internet retailer in terms of total sales and market capitalization.

Of course, the growth of Amazon into what it is today went through different stages of diversification – from selling books online to DVDs, CDs, video downloading and streaming, Bluerays, MP3 downloading and streaming, audio books downloading and streaming, electronics, software, video games, furniture, apparel, food, toys, jewellery – you name it and they have it delivered to your doorstep! Amazing Amazon!

It does not end here; Amazon is also into manufacturing consumer electronics such as Amazon Kindle e-books, Fire tablets, and Fire TV, to name a few, in addition to being one of the world’s largest providers of cloud computing infrastructure services.

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Blue Origin – As part of his fascination with space travel and exploration, Bezos founded the startup company, Blue Origin in 2000. He is also known to have had an early interest in the idea of “space hotels, amusement parks, colonies and small cities for 2-3 million people orbiting Earth.”

After keeping it away from the public eye for over half a decade Blue Origin became common knowledge in 2006 when a large tract of land was purchased in west Texas to build the infrastructure for launch and test purposes.

Blue Origin is basically a privately funded aerospace manufacturing and spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington.

The company is exploring and building technologies to enable humans to get access to space travel by lowering the costs and increasing the reliability factor.

The company is approaching this futuristic probability by adopting an incremental approach, taking it ahead step by step – hence, the company’s motto “Gradatim Ferociter” (Latin for step-by-step) is indeed an appropriate one.

Keeping the company’s step-by-step approach in mind, the focus was initially on sub-orbital space flight tests building the ‘New Shepard’ spacecraft at the Culberson County, Texas, facility.

Following is the list of developmental test flights of the ‘New Shepard’:

1. The first experimental test flight was conducted on April 19, 2015, which saw the unmanned space vehicle reach its planned test altitude of 93.5 km at a top speed of Mach 3 (3675 km/h).

2. The second such flight took place on November 23, 2015, when the New Shepard went beyond the 100-kilometer mark and both rocket booster and space capsule landed back successfully – a “soft landing” indeed.

3. The same New Shepard booster was used for January 22, 2016, test flight – a clear demonstration and proof of re-employment. This time around, the New Shepard reached the apogee of 101.7 km, (the highest point in the development stage) and again the booster and capsule returned to Earth for retrieval and reuse.

4. On April 2, 2016, the same New Shepard booster was re-employed going beyond 330,000 feet mark and returning safely back to earth – this was the third re-use of the same booster.

5. The fourth re-use of the booster was on June 19, 2016, with the same success in terms of altitude and soft landing.

The first manned test flights are scheduled for 2017 and if all goes well Blue Origin is well set to start commercial space flight services by the year 2018.

The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos announced his intended acquisition of The Washington Post at a cost of US$250 million in cash on August 5, 2013.

“This is unchartered terrain and it will require experimentation” was his statement to the press.

The sale, however, was closed and confirmed on October 1, 2014, when Bezo’s Nash Holdings LLC took control of The Washington Post.

Google

One of the first investors in Google in 1998, Bezos’ contribution was US$ 250,000 resulting in 3.3 million Google stock shares.

Bezos is also a Philanthropist of some repute known to have made contributions toward several causes.

In 2012, together with his wife, Bezos contributed US$2.5 million in support of same-sex marriage referendum in Washington which was a success.

His other notable donations worthy of mention are:

* US$ 10 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2009

* US$ 20 million again to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2010

* US$800,000 to Worldreader, founded by a former Amazon employee whose mission is to provide e-books to children and families in developing countries.

* US$ 42 million to the first full-scale prototype Clock of the Long Now, designed to last 10,000 years

* US$10 million to the Bezos Center for Innovation at the Seattle Museum of History and Industry

* US$15 million to the Bezos Center for Neural Circuit Dynamics at Princeton Neuroscience Institute

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From The Editors Technology

Amazon’s Echo-Style Voice Control to Feature in More Appliances

Now the question that arises, more so for the technically non-savvy, is what the hell is Echo-Style Voice Control?

The Echo-Style Voice Control, initially developed by the online retail giant Amazon, in simple terms is a smart speaker which responds to the name “Alexa.”

The Amazon Echo, in its developmental stage, was referred to as Doppler or Project D. The device comes with a 9.25inch- tall cylindrical speaker with a seven –piece microphone array, and as already mentioned, responds to the name Alexa which is the default “wake-word.”

The wake-word is supposed to trigger the Amazon Echo and respond to your voice commands.

However, there is a provision available to the users to change the wake- word to either “Amazon” or “Echo” or continue using the default wake-word Alexa until you get tired of it.

Whirlpool, the American manufacturers, and marketers of home appliances announced on Tuesday that its new appliances will be compatible with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexia.

Without a doubt, a luxury of this type will come at a cost which one feels is justifiable considering the ease with which day to day chores can be done, and more importantly the time it would save in today’s world where time management is of significant importance. It could make a difference between being late for work or create a punctuality record at your workplace.

Think about just shouting out instructions to Alexia to start or stop the laundry, pause or play music, asking out the time remaining in the completion of a task ordered earlier, adjusting the cooking mode on a compatible oven, adjusting the thermostats of refrigerators and air-conditioners, and many such tasks without having to move from where you are at any given time – of course there has to be some level of proximity to the appliance or gadget you are giving voice commands to.

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There are hundreds of third-party appliances and home gadgets that can be made compatible to the Amazon Alexia. Not only this, manufacturers themselves can make similar or even better versions of the Echo-Style -Voice -Control systems and give it a name of their choice.

In fact, Apple is rapidly moving ahead with their version of Amazon’s Echo-Style Voice Control based on its Siri voice system.

According to insiders who prefer to remain anonymous until the system is officially announced, Apple has moved out of the research and development stage and is currently involved in the testing of prototypes. Designed on the conceptual lines of Amazon’s Echo the Apple device has the capability to control appliances, curtains, locking mechanisms, lights etc through voice control.

The company that Apple is, it would make every endeavour to be a step ahead of its competition in quality and performance, if not in terms of time. If Apple’s product ends up among the consumers it promises to be its most significant piece of hardware since the 2014 Apple watch.

Another major company working on a similar device that Amazon certainly deserves credit to have started is Alphabet Inc. calling it Google Home.

As mentioned earlier, Apple in its policy of staying ahead of its competition is making every attempt to differentiate its voice device from Amazon’s Echo and Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home with far more advanced speaker and microphone technology according to Apple’s insiders’ revelations.

The prototype tests over the last couple of years are taking into account facial recognition sensors, acquiring the facial recognition start-ups “Faceshift” and “Emotient” which are designed to enable the device to detect the person in the room and his/her emotional state.

In addition, the speaker would be able to process many other Siri commands made available on the iPhones such as voice commands to read emails, send text messages including tweets and many other futuristic additions like reminding the user that it is time to leave for a pre-scheduled appointment. However, these are talks by Apple’s anonymous sources and the authenticity cannot be confirmed or verified until officially announced by Apple.

Coming back to the amazing Amazon’s Echo-Style Voice Control it has received a rating of 4 out of 5 stars from CNET’s editors’ ratings involving 60 users’ review, and an overall 8.3 rating out of 10 taking into account features, usability, design, and performance.

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From The Editors Technology

First Drone Delivery by Amazon to Real Customer

Jeff Bozos, CEO of the retail behemoth Amazon, had disclosed the company’s plans of introducing the drone delivery system back in December 2016 – the Amazon Prime Air project – and saw the first commercial delivery of the company come through, by successfully making an airborne delivery to a real customer at a farmhouse in England, on December 7, 2016.

And yes, all this in just 13 minutes, amazing!

“First-ever #AmazonPrimeAir customer delivery is in the books,” Bezos tweeted “13 min — click to delivery.”

It may have been ‘a first’ for the retail giant but a similar commercial delivery has been witnessed in New Zealand, just last month.

Amazon's Prime Air makes first drone delivery
Amazon’s Prime Air makes first drone delivery

Dominos combined with the expertise of Flirtey, a company that specializes in drone delivery services, manufacture included, successfully made a commercial pizza delivery in Whangaparaoa, north just north of Auckland, at 11:19 am, NZ time.

It was the first ever commercial food item delivered by a drone or a kind of UAV.

However, in the United States, the project is still some time away from take-off, literally, because of the legal implications in the country and technical hurdles as well.

Read more about the pizza drone delivery project, Dominos and Flirtey in one of our earlier articles on Sounds Futuristic but Commercial Drones Are an Imminent Reality

Well, returning to the topic under discussion, although, it may not be the first ever unmanned airborne commercial delivery in the world; it is certainly a big step toward revolutionizing the delivery system – a great quick and economical system for, both, buyer and seller, in the not too distant future – including the United States one would like to hope.

According to reports, Amazon is working with NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration and other companies to work around the hurdles that face them now. Their endeavour is to integrate the commercial unmanned delivery module with the country’s airspace system and regulations.

If it were to come true, which, in all likelihood it will, is just a matter of time, especially in the commercially viable urban areas; it would be a tremendous achievement of technology and business acumen and the will to move ahead with the help of the available and ever-improving technology in the world today.

It may potentially do away with the long and expensive mode of transport employed in the way deliveries are made today.

Amazon’s customized drone lifted off from a ‘fulfillment center assembly line’ and delivered a payload of a bag of popcorn and an Amazon Firestick to an obviously “delighted” customer from Cambridgeshire, England.

In the United States, in addition to legal limitations, there have been other public concerns in the past, regarding safety, privacy, and package security guarantees, that need to be addressed to make it, a possibility in the country.

Amazon seems to have a similar view, “Safety will be our top priority, and our vehicles will be built with multiple redundancies and designed to commercial aviation standards.”