News

Amazon Flow app uses image recognition technology to make shopping list

BY Dan Berthiaume

Seattle – Amazon.com is using image recognition technology to allow consumers to simply wave an iPhone in front of a product and automatically have it placed on their Amazon shopping list. The feature, called Flow, is designed to be a quicker way to search for products than by typing their name or scanning their bar code. To access it, users must have the latest Amazon app update.

"Flow is a way to search for products without typing, scanning a bar code or taking a photo," Amazon said in a statement. "It allows customers to simply move their iPhone camera over multiple items while standing in their kitchen, bathroom or laundry room, identifying and purchasing most of their shopping list in seconds."

Flow’s history feature gives the user access to all their scanned items, sorted by date, product category, item name or scan type.

While Amazon is promoting Flow as a way to quickly create shopping lists, presumably another purpose to make it easier for consumers to “showroom,” or use mobile devices to make online purchases of in-store items. The retailer displaying the item in the store then loses the sale.

Flow is currently available only on Amazon’s iPhone app. So far, it is not available for Android or Windows smartphones.

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STORE SPACES

Report: HVAC vendor confirms possible link to Target breach

BY Dan Berthiaume

Minneapolis — Fazio Mechanical Services Inc., a heating and refrigeration vendor based in Sharpsburg, Pa., has reportedly confirmed it was the victim of a cyber attack that may have allowed hackers to gain access to financial and personal data of millions of Target customers. According to the Associated Press, the Secret Service confirmed it is investigating Fazio, which released a public statement acknowledging the investigation.

The investigation centers on a hack of a data connection Fazio dedicates to electronic billing, contract submission and project management for Target. The company said it does not remotely monitor actual heating/refrigeration activities and that it does not use the compromised connection for any other clients.

"Like Target, we are a victim of a sophisticated cyber attack operation," Fazio president and owner Ross Fazio said in a statement. "We are fully cooperating with the Secret Service and Target to identify the possible cause of the breach and to help create proactive initiatives that will further enhance the security of client/vendor connections making them less vulnerable to future breaches."

Target declined to comment in the article.

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OPERATIONS

NRF: Retail employment up year-over-year, could be higher

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – The National Retail Federation (NRF) calculated that retail employment was down 21,600 jobs in January 2014, yet up 230,000 jobs year-over-year. December retail employment figures were revised up to a gain of 57,000 jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation report showed that January total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 113,000, with the unemployment rate at 6.6% and the labor force participation rate at 63%.

NRF research shows that much of the retail job loss was due to severe weather and localized in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said the government needs to do more to improve the job situation.

“While it is always positive to see an increase in private sector hiring and a decrease in unemployment, it is alarming that employment can’t shift into a higher gear,” said Shay. “Despite seasonal factors at play in today’s employment report, it remains incumbent on policymakers to lead the nation’s recovery and move beyond partisan disputes over raising the debt ceiling and refocus attention on patent, tax and immigration reform, which will spur economic growth, opportunity and job creation.”

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