“Alexa, build me a home…”
Amazon’s newest investment is not only the company’s first foray into the prefab construction segment, it could also give it a stronger foothold in the smart home category.
On Tuesday, the online giant said its Alexa Fund is investing in the homebuilding start-up Plant Prefab, a Rialto, California-based company that uses smart technology, and sustainable construction processes and materials to build prefabricated custom single- and multifamily houses, according to CNBC.
The start-up, which is focused on using automation to build homes faster and bring down costs, is Amazon’s first investment in the prefab marketplace. However, it also segues into Amazon’s growing foothold in the smart home category.
Less than a week ago, Amazon announced its plan to launch more than a dozen Alexa-powered smart home devices, including a microwave oven and an amplifier that can be controlled by the Alexa voice assistant. Earlier this year, Amazon acquired the smart doorbell maker Ring, and home robot is also reportedly in the works, according to CNBC.
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The most important emerging technology for businesses is…
Cybersecurity ranks as the most important emerging technology for businesses around the globe.
That is according to “Global Emerging Technology Trends Survey 2018,” a study from Global Data, which also states that more than half of all respondents put cybersecurity ahead of other emerging areas, from cloud computing to 3D printing. However, enterprises are not limiting themselves when it comes to investing in the latest technology areas.
Other technologies that are also important to global companies include cloud computing (45), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) (40%, respectively), and 3D printing (35%). Technologies that are taking more of a backseat for now are blockchain (25%) and virtual and augmented reality (24%, respectively).
“Cybersecurity is an investment priority for enterprises from all industries, highlighting its emergence as a critical business function in today’s digital economy,” said Ed Thomas, technology thematic analyst, GlobalData.
“The appetite for investment in emerging technologies is not limited to the more mature IT markets of North America and Europe, but is actually global,” he added. “This represents a significant opportunity for technology vendors, as long as they have the capability to secure business in countries that may be outside their traditional marketplace.”
Walmart wants ‘leafy green’ suppliers on blockchain
A discount giant is requiring lettuce suppliers to join its blockchain-enabled food safety and traceability initiative.
On Monday, Walmart sent a letter to “leafy green” suppliers mandating that companies can trace their products back to farms, by production lot, in seconds. This will require suppliers to capture digital, end-to-end traceability event information using blockchain technology.
The program, called the “Walmart Food Traceability Initiative,” requires suppliers to use the IBM Food Trust network, which is based on blockchain technology. Suppliers that provides leafy green vegetables directly to Walmart stores to the grocery chains need to upload traceability data to the blockchain network by Jan. 31, 2019. Third-party companies working with suppliers are expected to enable end-to-end traceability back to farm by Sept. 30, 2019, according to the letter.
“We have worked closely with IBM and other food companies to create a user-friendly, low-cost, blockchain-enabled traceability solution that meets our requirements and creates shared value for the entire leafy green farm to table continuum,” the letter reported.
The program is designed to confirm food safety, as well as to quickly and accurately respond to food safety issues, such as e.Coli and salmonella contamination. It will also replace traditional paper-based methods that many farms, packing houses and warehouses use to capture information between multiple sources. This previous, cumbersome process could take up to seven days or users to track down where a product came from, obtain the paper-based data, and then contact the supplier and company that imported or shipped the product to Walmart’s distribution center.
“The food system is absolutely too large for any single entity to [track]. It was difficult for consumers to know how to determine where their lettuce was grown,” explained Frank Yiannas, VP of food safety at Walmart.
Now farmers use a handheld system to capture product information that is digitized, and add it to the blockchain network. The product’s information is also captured at the supplier’s packing house.
“In the future, using the technology we’re requiring, a customer could potentially scan a bag of salad and know with certainty where it came from,” he added.
(To hear Yiannis discuss the Walmart Food Traceability Initiative, click here.)
This is not Walmart’s first try at blockchain. The company began testing this strategy with IBM in August 2017. The partners used the test to create “a safety system where supplier partners could collaborate, and capture information of product, including where its been, then link it with other data points, including the Internet of Things, to create a safer, more sustainable food system,” Yiannas said in a company video on Youtube.
In addition, on May 17, the discounter filed a patent for a blockchain-based user interface that enables customers to resell merchandise at a new price. This blockchain ledger would track the items that customers purchase from specific Walmart stores and the customer who buys it. The register will enable customers to register the purchased item, as well as choose a price for a resale, acting as a digital marketplace.