TECHNOLOGY

AmazonFresh adds new menu offering

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon’s a grocery delivery and pickup service is adding a new option to its program.

The online giant now features eMeals within its AmazonFresh offering. Unlike other meal kit companies that pre-portion, package and deliver the week’s recipe ingredients, eMeals partners with online grocery programs, enabling customers to customize their meal kits.

Through the program, eMeal subscribers can now send their shopping list, which is automatically generated for all meals selected each week, to AmazonFresh, as well as to Walmart Grocery, Kroger ClickList or Instacart with one click. Then they can schedule home delivery or curbside pickup, depending on local availability.

Consumers can choose from more than 100 recipes each week. Online carts can be automatically populated with the items needed for the recipe, or shoppers can add or subtract items, or substitute favorites from previous weeks, according to eMeals.

A subscription to eMeals costs $29.99 for three months, or $59.99 for 12 months.

“Meal kits and online grocery programs are reshaping the grocery market, and we are the first company to combine those two trends,” said eMeals CEO Forrest Collier. “Adding AmazonFresh to our fulfillment lineup expands our reach to most of the top players in online grocery and advances our mission of giving customers more choice, flexibility and affordability than any other meal kit service.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Walgreens in new tech commitment

BY Marianne Wilson

Walgreens is doubling down on its tech staff.

The drugstore chain will establish a “technology center of excellence” at its tech office, which is located in downtown Chicago. The number of employees working in the office will double from 300 to 600 through a combination of new hires and relocations from the chain’s Deerfield, Ill., support center.

Walgreens is expanding its square footage in the building to accommodate the new center. It will host much of the company’s retail pharmacy technology team along with the digital, mobile and e-commerce technology teams that currently work there.

“We are excited to bring more technology jobs to the City of Chicago and establish a technology center of excellence that will focus on delivering state-of-the-art systems to our more than 8,000 drugstores nationwide,” said Alex Gourlay, president of Walgreens. “Chicago is where Walgreens began as a single drugstore in 1901, and expanding our downtown presence will help us retain and attract the best talent to continue developing our digital and technology capabilities.”

Walgreens operates 8,175 drugstores with a presence in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with its omnichannel business.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Despite the hype, AI adoption has a long way to go

BY CSA STAFF

The buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) is intense, but adoption is still in the early or even planning stages.

A majority of organizations are talking about AI, and a few have even begun to implement suitable projects. Despite their optimism about the potential of AI, fewer companies were confident that their organization was ready to exploit that potential, according to the “Enterprise AI Promise Study,” from analytics provider SAS.

A big misnomer about slow adoption is that there is a lack of available technology. That isn’t the case, the report said, as there are many options available. More often, the challenges come from a shortage of data science skills to maximize value from emerging AI technology, as well as barriers caused by deep organizational and societal obstacles.

In fact, 55% of respondents felt that the biggest challenge was the changing scope of human jobs in light of AI’s automation and autonomy. This potential effect of AI on jobs includes job losses, but also the development of new jobs requiring new AI-related skills.

Ethical issues were the second-biggest challenge with 41% of respondents questioning whether robots and AI systems should have to work “for the good of humanity” rather than simply for a single company. They also questioned how to look after those who lost jobs to AI systems.

When it comes to organizations’ data scientists’ readiness for emerging AI, only 20% felt their data science teams were prepared. Meanwhile, 19% had no data science teams at all. Recruiting data scientists to build organizational skills was the plan for 28% of respondents, while 32% said they would build AI skills in their existing analyst teams through training, conferences and workshops.

Trust also emerged as a major challenge in many organizations. Almost half of respondents (49%) mentioned cultural challenges due to a lack of trust in AI output and more broadly, a lack of trust in the results of so-called “black box” solutions.

The study also evaluated AI readiness in terms of infrastructure required. There was a contrast between those respondents who felt they had the right infrastructure in place for AI (24%), and those who felt they needed to update and adapt their current platform for AI (24%), or had no specific platform in place to address AI (29%).

“We’ve seen incredible advances in making algorithms perform – with stunning accuracy – tasks that a human could do,” said Oliver Schabenberger, executive VP and chief technology officer at SAS.

“We can use knowledge to build systems that solve business problems as well as or better than the static systems in use today,” he added. “We can build systems that learn the rules of business, then learn to play by the rules and are designed to then improve.”

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