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The evolution of smart tech: What will our cities look like in 2025?

There’s no question Internet of Things (IoT) technology is pivotal for the future development of smart cities. While smart cities have been depicted in TV shows and movies for years, showing futuristic worlds where cars can fly or where drones buzzing overhead is the norm, the truth is a version of this reality is closer than you think.

In response, companies must be better prepared for the onslaught of demand by today’s consumers who have become accustomed to a convenience-based society. Those movies, and the consumer views that come with them, are focused on the narrow front end or consumer-facing view (the flying car, the delivery drone, or the smart building itself). The “smart city” will only become a reality when the backbone of the city – the infrastructure and moreover, the software that will dynamically bring all these parts together for the efficient and responsible lives of the cities inhabitants – is in place and widespread.

We’re already starting to see forward-thinking companies test futuristic, IoT-driven technologies that have the potential to make a great impact on us day-to-day, making life easier and more immediate. Take Amazon, for example. The innovative retail giant has been publicly testing drones for package delivery, even filing a patent for a drone hive to accommodate and optimize deliveries in urban areas. However, in order to be as efficient as possible, companies that choose to participate in the on-demand ecosystem will need to evaluate the platforms these technologies are powered by to make sure they can withstand our demand-driven and connected world.

Barriers to living in an intelligent world

Many companies investing in smart city technologies are too focused on the consumer side of IoT (the “flashy side”) and are hindered by outdated, inefficient backend infrastructure forcing them to rethink their strategy. Current models rely too heavily on inefficient oversupply of resources, when they should be meeting demand with the appropriate supply to eliminate inefficiencies. That said, companies need to shift their focus and put as much emphasis on backend infrastructure and operations execution as they currently do on the consumer-facing aspects of the business.

Additionally, people are by nature risk-averse, so the concept of creating smart cities is one many will have to overcome – specifically the government organization in which these cities will exist. Knowing that things will go wrong in the early years of smart cities and IoT technology adoption, it will take a select few to be the first movers, take the risk, and carve the path for others.

The important role infrastructure plays in making cities smart

Our society is becoming increasingly dependent on convenience-based, on-demand services for daily tasks like grocery shopping, meal delivery and hailing a ride. In fact, more than 22.4 million consumers currently use on-demand services and researchers believe by 2020, and almost one in five U.S. workers (the equivalent of 31 million people) will rely on the gig economy for employment. This projected growth creates a critical need for efficient, optimized, real-time dynamic software to support our IoT-driven lives. Unfortunately, most companies are currently operating in inefficient, individual silos that bottleneck streamlined services. In order to reach the next phase of “smart cities,” companies involved in the on-demand ecosystem will need to optimize their own resources through a dynamic technology that enables more efficient and effective processes.

Smart technology adoption leaders

Despite what many might believe, we’ll likely see rural areas – not major cities – adopt smart technologies such as delivery drones and autonomous vehicles first. Just think: our densely-populated metro areas with towering skyscrapers and pedestrian filled streets below do not create an ideal location for early testing and longer-term implementation. Instead, rural areas not only provide open skies and sparse populations, but these communities actually stand to benefit the most by utilizing optimized smart technologies that provide efficient, low-cost and timely services.

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BoldIQ quoted in CBNweekly

Loosely translated from Chinese…

“I expect to see (a bit further into the future) a multi-modal ‘last mile’ delivery platform. ” Roei Ganzarski, president of BoldIQ, an optimization solution company, told CBNweekly

Ganzarski believes in the future, Walmart (and other “brick and mortar” stores) will use their actual stores more and more as warehouses, fully integrated with their online retail presence. “For example, we should see a delivery driver pick up some items from a warehouse, then drive by a Walmart store to pick up a few more items that enable the total order delivery to be faster and more efficient for the consumer.” He said.

Click to read the full article online (in Chinese)

Information Age features BoldIQ on AI

True AI doesn’t exist yet…it’s augmented intelligence

With all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence, it is easy to forget that true AI doesn’t exist yet. Instead companies are leveraging augmented intelligence by Nick Ismail, Information Age

Artificial intelligence is easily one of the most popular buzzwords this oear, even sparking heated debates between prominent tech moguls, Musk and Zuckerburg, on the future of AI.

However, one major oversight persists – true artificial intelligence does not exist and will not exist for at least another decade, according to BoldIQ CEO, Roei Ganzarski.

Instead, he suggests, tech companies claiming to do ‘AI’ actually only provide an augmented intelligence.

While many companies claim to provide “AI-driven” solutions, in reality they’re leveraging machine learning techniques at best, developing what Ganzarski refers to as augmented intelligence.

In fact – IBM (who arguably created the first AI tech with Watson) agrees with this definition, and believes today’s technologies are more data-driven than ever but aren’t yet advanced enough to think for themselves – which is how true AI is defined.

While HBO’s Westworld gives us a glimpse at a future where human-like, self-thinking androids are the norm, people will have to wait several years where the technology goes from interpreting predetermined scenarios based on a library of data to an intelligent bot that formulates its own ideas based on morals/rationale – essentially ‘thinking’ for itself.

In an interview with Information Age, Ganzarski’s discussed how he thinks this gap from augmented intelligence to artificial intelligence will be bridged, how long that will take and what the future of AI holds.

There’s currently a lot of hype around artificial intelligence in nearly every industry, but you claim it doesn’t yet exist. If we aren’t experiencing true AI, what are we seeing instead?

Artificial intelligence is easily one of the most popular buzzwords this year, but in my opinion, it does not yet exist and will not exist for some time.

Instead, tech companies claiming to do ‘AI’ are actually providing what I would define as augmented intelligence – very sophisticated, fast decision processing or decision supporting software based on real-time scenarios.

However, even these split-second, computer-driven decisions are based off of highly evolved algorithms that were programmed into the software by a human.

These “AI-driven” solutions are indeed leveraging advanced technologies, but I would contend that this is not yet true artificial intelligence.

To understand my opinion, we should look at how AI is defined.

In the simplest of language, AI is a computer (software, robot, call it whatever you will) that has the ability to do things only a human can do, and use the same level of logic and reasoning that a human would. This last part is the key.

Some could argue robots who just do what humans do already exist like the robots can build cars or even do advanced computations, and might even perform well, if not better, faster, and more consistent than humans.

However, they currently do this following a set of orders, not using reasoning or logic of their own making. Even those using machine learning tell the computer what to make of data that is compiled and how to “learn”.

In fact, as far back as the 1956 Dartmouth Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference, J. McCarthy defined the study of the new field of AI as the following: The study is to proceed on the basis of the conjecture that every aspect of learning or any other feature of intelligence can in principle be so precisely described that a machine can be made to simulate it.

An attempt will be made to find how to make machines use language, form abstractions and concepts, solve kinds of problems now reserved for humans, and improve themselves.

Let’s look at a few examples where human reasoning is critical in decision making and has yet to be imitated by a computer:

• From the simple: Planes from any given airline should be given 45 minutes on the ground between flights to unload and load baggage, and its passengers. However, imagine if a certain flight had to shave off a single minute to avoid projected delays. Is planning for 44 minutes okay? How about adding a minute instead? Will the machine be able to break the ‘rule’ of 45 minutes? Is it taking into account the staff they have on shift that day and their willingness to “hustle” to get things done if they were asked?

The machine, since it does may not be programmed to account for specific scenarios, will likely not have all the information that a human, shift manager might know or take into consideration.

• To the more complex: A driverless car is faced with hitting a wall risking its passenger’s life or hitting a group of pedestrians crossing the street. We can program the software powering the car to react a certain way, but ultimately the software has no capability to consider moral issues (i.e. who is riding in my car, who are the people on the street, how old are they, what’s the best case scenario) – that any driver would consider if ever faced with the situation.

With these examples in mind, we can draw the conclusion that we have yet to achieve a reality where computers have achieved rational reasoning abilities and can be deemed artificial intelligence.

Can you share a few examples of how augmented intelligence is being used today?

Augmented intelligence is being utilised in nearly every industry, from marketing technology to self-driving cars. Nearly every time you read about ‘AI’ capabilities in the news, it’s actually augmented intelligence.

Think about the software that decided on what phone operator is best to answer an incoming call at a call center in order to increase the likelihood of a positive call outcome or the program that decides what traffic stop lights to change when and in what order to decrease the likelihood of a traffic jam. Both of these are augmented intelligence.

Even the software that tailors which advertisement that pops up when you’re browsing websites to increase the likelihood of you purchasing and buying the content is powered by augmented intelligence. This technology is integrated into almost every aspect of our daily lives, whether we recognize it or not.

How will companies eventually bridge the gap from augmented intelligence to artificial intelligence? How long will it take?

As I stated above, true artificial intelligence will not exist until technology begins to think for itself, but that is only the baseline. As humans, our decisions and knowledge of what is right versus wrong, logical versus not, or even worth it or not, is guided by three characteristics: morals, ethics, and logic – perhaps, the combination can be defined as human reasoning.

While logic at a surface level can be programmed into a machine (i.e. if this happens, this is the appropriate response), it is also deeply rooted in morals and ethics which are learned and instilled in humans throughout their lifetime, and throughout generations. Until that threshold can be met, we will be living in the era of advanced machine learning and augmented intelligence.

Are there any real-world applications we should look forward to?

This has a simple answer. If and when AI is achieved, there will not be an industry or market it is not applied to.

Is a Westworld-style AI takeover a possibility in the near future?

While HBO’s Westworld gives us a glimpse at a future where human-like, self-thinking androids are the norm, the truth is we are far from this reality and will not begin to see a world like this for decades – if it even happens at all.

Speculation about artificial bots that can ‘think’ for themselves and live amongst us every day is what people equate the future of AI to look like, but we’ll likely begin seeing these technologies implemented in applications that enhance our everyday lives like autonomous vehicles, customer service, and much more.

However, when we do start to see true artificial intelligence take form, we need to have regulations set in place.

In my opinion, if true AI is created, meaning computers that can in fact think and behave like humans do, then why would we not expect them to behave like humans? For example, aid, work, achieve…and yes, argue, fight, be violent, and kill. If this is the reasoning that should propel our policies, then it becomes much simpler to decide on what policies should be put in place.

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BoldIQ and the Army Rangers

On a beautiful sunny day, a fleet of yachts departed the Tacoma Yacht Club as part of the Rangers’ Regatta. The day, focused on fundraising for the Rangers and their families, was also an opportunity to spend some quality time, standing shoulder to shoulder, with some of best soldiers the United States has at its disposal.

Team members from BoldIQ, an event sponsor, enjoyed sharing a day off from daily optimization work, with the Rangers and their hosts from the Tacoma Yacht Club.

CouldTweaks Q&A with BoldIQ CEO: How Smart Will Your City Be by 2025?


Image Credit: NASA

What role does back end infrastructure play in connecting IoT devices?

Probably the same infrastructure as we would want to see with an efficient regular (i.e. non-IoT) network of resources. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected and reliant upon convenience-based, on-demand services like Lyft, GrubHub or Amazon Prime, it’s inevitable that more companies will follow suit and join the “gig-economy”. In fact, it’s projected that currently 3 out of every 10 US-based employees are actively “employed” by the gig-economy. However, in order to support life on-demand as companies’ scale, they must also evaluate their back end infrastructure which supports our IoT-driven lives to ensure its as efficient as possible. By “efficient” I mean ensuring that all assets – whether cars, people, or machines – are running as optimized as possible within the confines of the network they are operating as a part of. While it’s reassuring that your Uber call will results in rapid response, having it be due to there being multiple Ubers buzzing around your house when you try and catch a ride, is not reassuring at all. In fact, it’s a sign of inefficiency or too much supply for the given demand. While great for the rider and for Uber, not so great for the drivers or society as a whole. In an optimized – and ideal – world, all of the connected “things” would meet demand with the appropriate supply, eliminating inefficiencies. While not a realistic expectation, closing the gap and coming close to it, is a real possibility.

How will advanced IoT-based technology be used to construct smart cities?

You can think of the Internet of Things in two ways. First, you have what the end user is experiencing, like a smartphone, watch or car, these are what we currently refer to as the “things” in IoT. However, as we begin to construct smart cities, these connected “things” will expand beyond what lives in the hands of the consumer. We’ll begin to have connected devices in stop signs, light signals, buildings, etc., and these infrastructure-based “things” will help the city become more intelligent. Cars will communicate with street lights, drones and delivery bots will communicate with buildings, consumer devices will interact with street signs – all with the goal of creating a highly efficient system fueled by connectivity. While each ‘thing’ in this smart city will be able to provide and receive data, it will be the city hub, the ‘smart’ in smart city, that will be able to make rapid, intelligent and informed decisions on what driverless car goes where and when, what bot does what, and so on.

What are the challenges or barriers to widespread adoption?

The biggest barrier to adoption is the actual adoption itself. People by nature are risk averse. More so government organizations in which these cities will exist. Assuming things will in fact go wrong in the early years of smart city and IoT technology adoption, not many are willing to be first movers, take the risk, and lead the way for the rest. If you want to make a city smart, it means you have to have buy-in from all pertinent parties – municipalities, local government, citizens, companies, etc. Without participation from every key player within the city, there’s no feasible way that a city can move forward on its path to becoming smart. This paired with a mindset that is open to take some risk and try new things – like Kansas recently announcing it would be testing the use of drones to map traffic – are the areas that will be most progressive.

What cities will be early adopters/innovators?

Contrary to popular belief, the epicenter of smart city technology is going to happen within rural areas first. Why? Less risk. As new technologies like drones and autonomous vehicles quickly become a reality, we’ll see more rural areas – like the Kansas drone example noted above – that allow the technology developers to more readily and safely test the technology. While San Francisco, Dubai and Singapore are certainly progressive and will likely harness smart city technology, due to the proliferation of people, cars, buildings and other obstructions, smart city technology will emerge first and foremost in rural areas.

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There’s A Lot of ‘Buzz’ on the Promise of Drone Delivery, But What’s Next?


Image Credit: MyDroneLab

In an attempt to shed some light on the development and readiness of disruptive drone technology, The Fast Mode had an email interview with the CEO and President of BoldIQ, Roei Ganzarski to give his opinion on drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Read the interview, conducted below:

Q: What do you believe to be the most promising way drones will be leveraged for delivery?

A: Drones are poised to change the game completely over the next few years. As drone technology advances, I believe we will see three mainline uses:

Replace some of the ‘last mile’ routes traditionally fulfilled with drivers in trucks and vans, thus resulting in increased efficiency across the board. Imagine drones working in tandem with other next gen technologies like autonomous vehicles to optimize delivery fleets. These vans will likely be equipped with drones that deploy to deliver one-off packages, optimizing the driver’s daily route while simultaneously reducing operating costs. Companies such as FedEx and UPS, which already have great distribution networks and infrastructure in place, will have a huge leg up on potential competitors looking to enter the drone marketplace.

Replace long and remote delivery routes. Think of a drone taking a package 50-100 miles into a rural area, away from any of the closest other deliveries to be made. An efficient drone system could save significant costs and create efficiency for other modes of delivery.

Two-way delivery of information during, for example, accidents, emergency situations, flooding, fires, etc., where real-time accurate data is crucial to life saving and business needs. Take for example a fire in a remote home. A drone could be there very rapidly (no traffic, roads to slow down, etc.) and take photos that could be transmitted back to the fire trucks enroute so they are better prepared; photos could be sent to the insurance company to start the claim; the drone could record (including voice) human activity including location, injuries etc. and transmit back to EMT enroute and at the same time transmit information to the people about what to do, where a safe location might be, etc. You could imagine a similar scenario and response during a flash flood, earthquake, plane crash in the wilderness and more.

Q: When will this happen and what cities will be first to capitalize on the benefits?

A: We have already seen the start of drone deliveries but it likely won’t become truly widespread and accepted until 2025. Over the next seven years, we’ll begin to see an overall increase in this new vehicle for deliveries but a large portion of these test runs, followed by operational deployments, will be heavily focused in rural areas where the safety risks are smaller and logistics are much simpler to manage. Contrary to popular belief, dense metro areas present numerous challenges and risks – think traffic, privacy issues, power lines, high-rise buildings, sudden wind gusts, and crowded streets below.

Instead of thinking about smart urban cities, we should shift our focus, at least for drones initially, to smart rural areas. It’s much more likely we’ll see drones used to deliver common goods like food and medication to remote homes and offices versus a busy suburb. Instead of a consumer driving over an hour one-way into town to pick up a prescription, they could choose to have it delivered by drone. Autonomous vehicles and drones could, and should, even partner for optimal efficiency while delivering packages– companies like UPS and Mercedes are already testing a self-driving van and drone combination for the ultimate rural delivery challenge solution. Meanwhile, cities will shift their attention to small, and less risky sidewalk bots to help enable the ‘life on-demand’ luxury in metro areas.

The first cities after rural areas will be flat by nature and less dense. Drones flying around skyscrapers in the middle of ‘downtown’ will be the last to be implemented.

Q: What are the major pitfalls or barriers to widespread adoption?

A: Prior to these services becoming a reality, we need to take on and fix the inherent implementation challenges. Some of these concerns – the ones we should be focusing on sooner rather than later – relate to the deployment of these technologies once they are proven to be safe for flight. Before they can become common to everyday living, live operational testing must take place to ensure we can deploy these technologies without an overcrowded sky or roads congested with driverless cars. If regulations aren’t set in place at the forefront, a potential hiccup during a single fleet deployment could completely overshadow the potential benefits from these technologies.

To set forth regulations and do it right, we need to start thinking about a higher-level network connecting drones, driverless vehicles and other autonomous technologies. This means taking a look at how they should be deployed, managed, and used so not only individual consumers can experience the benefits of these technologies, but society can move into the next generation of deliveries. We need to think strategically about which services are implanted, and where to best utilize each innovation.

Q: What excites you most about the potential future of drone delivery?

A: What really excites me about drone deliveries (both physical goods and information) is the impact it can bring to society as a whole, if done right.

If done and managed as a network, drone delivery could significantly reduce the number of vehicles on our roads. This means less congestion, less pollution, less accidents, less cost.

In this scenario, drone delivery could significantly increase the quality of our day to day lives – better, faster, and more applicable emergency response, decision making, and services.

If implemented and managed as a network, drone delivery would need less drones in the sky than what anyone may be imagining. Again, less congestion, less pollution, less accidents, less cost. Finally, drone delivery will enable new types of companies and services to be created; companies that today are not possible due to logistical reasons, or are not available to smaller organizations or even startups due to cost constraints. It will truly be a whole new world.

Q: On the telecommunications front, how will autonomous commercial drones change the way operators can leverage the technology for inspecting wireless infrastructure?

A: In my opinion, the use of drones in the telecommunications arena will be similar to that of the electrical utility or oil and gas and will fit nicely in the ‘delivery of data’ use I mentioned earlier. Be it a wired telco network, or a wireless one, as the networks expand, the cables, lines, and antenna, will be placed in more and more remote areas so that coverage is seamless. However, even though the technology from the user’s perspective may be wireless, from the telco’s perspective it is still very much hardware that will need to be routinely inspected, moreover after a storm, earthquake, etc. Drones will provide a perfect solution for this. Why send a technician and vehicle out to a remote location to inspect something that needs manual work done? Send a drone to take photos, video, etc. that can be streamed live back to a user (as needed) and determine only then if a person actually needs to be dispatched. This will allow more locations to be inspected, maintained, and repaired in a shorter timeframe. The same model works for power lines, cable lines, etc. A drone flying at high speed with a good sensor can find a downed power line faster than dispatching people to look for it. Moreover, the drone could alert people about hazards on the way or the surrounding area to reduce safety risks.

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BoldIQ featured in the LA Times

Can the flying car, the Uber of the air, become a reality, saving you time and money? By Judy Mandell – L.A. Times

Picture this: You download an app that directs you to the top of a nearby building, where you hop on a flying car.

Is this ride-hailing experience — something like Uber — the wave of the transportation future? Could it save you time and, thus, money?

Roei Ganzarski, chief executive of BoldIQ, a Seattle-based software company, and previously chief customer officer for Boeing’s flight services division, contends that it is just a matter of time before helicopters are replaced with safer, more efficient, lower-cost, pilotless flying machines.

Those, he thinks, will rapidly be followed by consumer-based air taxis.

I asked Ganzarski to offer his insights on the implementation of air taxis and how they will transform everyday travel.

How and why will this type of air taxi revolutionize the way we travel?

Ground transportation is limited to the road infrastructure. Even with smarter cars driving closer together on the road, you are limited by where these roads go and how.

With an air taxi service (and a true vertical takeoff and landing, where a rooftop, grass lawn, or beach can serve as a landing), the sky is literally the limit.

Air travel is multidimensional. If a direct path from point A to B is full, taxis can simply go up or down 500 feet and the same path may now be empty.

The ability to be creative and productive while being very efficient is what this type of system provides.

This is assuming, of course, that it is indeed set up efficiently and not how ground transport is today: wasteful and inefficient.

Which tech companies and manufacturers will compete in this air taxi market?

Traditional aviation companies like Boeing or Airbus will certainly try, as well as car companies. However, the most successful parties will most likely be either a “Google” that is able to think differently and move fast or a new entrant that is not bound by anything.

That is for the hardware. A software able to manage this real-time, on-demand transport system is also needed.

Will this type of travel be affordable for everyday business/pleasure travelers?

Like all new technology, it will initially be limited to very high-worth individuals like corporate executives.

Just as the first automobiles and airplanes were first used by the wealthy and then the masses, air taxis will initially follow this pattern.

With time, it will become commonplace.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see initial short flights priced in the $250-$350 range, for example, flying from a rooftop in Manhattan to Queens, New Jersey or Valley Stream, or downtown San Francisco to a home in Palo Alto (or split that between passengers to pay $50-$100 a person), eventually dropping down even to tens of dollars for short rides.

How will all of this work?

You will ask to go from point A to B using your watch, head-worn mic or other form of communication that will make the smartphones and apps as we know them obsolete.

A central scheduling engine will evaluate your requests against the relevant resources (transport vehicles, rooftops, number of vehicles in the air, etc.) and make an intelligent decision on which vehicle can and should pick you up and then where, when and how it will get you to your destination. This plan will be continuously updated in real time as factors change around you.

Will it clog the airways?

Only if you think about airways in the very old way of thinking about them — as roads in the sky.

Oh, wait…that is how we think today. People, industries and governments will have to (and be able to) think about air travel in a different way than today.

And with the right software managing the network, there will be no clogging.

Who will be allowed to fly these planes?

Really smart software … you don’t want people at the controls.

When will it happen?

I believe we will see this type of service in place in the next 10 years.

In a way, this service could be in place now using helicopters, and yet we have not seen it take off — pun intended.

However, as the technology for the aircraft is developed, costs are lowered, the pilotless technology is proven and intelligent scheduling software takes hold, the paradigm shift will happen.

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Drone delivery is buzzing — but where does it go from here?

With the drone industry netting $8 billion last year and consumer spending for on-demand services topping $57 billion, the implementation and deployment of drone delivery fleets is becoming more of a reality each day. From Amazon’s futuristic drone delivery tower proposal to parachuting packages on the horizon, we are nearing a complete delivery transformation. While these innovations will need to be fine-tuned as the commercial drone industry flourishes, several factors, such as operational inefficiencies, continue to work against the Amazons and Ubers of the world, hindering supply chain innovation.

The mainstream drone delivery timeline

We have already seen the start of drone deliveries, but it likely won’t become truly widespread and accepted until 2025. Over the next seven years, we’ll begin to see an overall increase in this new vehicle for deliveries, but a large portion of these test runs, followed by operational deployments, will be heavily focused in rural areas where the safety risks are smaller and logistics are much simpler to manage. Contrary to popular belief, dense metro areas present numerous challenges and risks — think traffic, privacy issues, power lines, high-rise buildings, sudden wind gusts and crowded streets below.

Instead of thinking about smart urban cities, we should shift our focus, at least for drones initially, to smart rural areas. It’s much more likely we’ll see drones used to deliver common goods like food and medication to remote homes and offices versus a busy suburb. Instead of a consumer driving over an hour one-way into town to pick up a prescription, he could choose to have it delivered by drone. Autonomous vehicles and drones could, and should, even partner for optimal efficiency while delivering packages — companies like UPS and Mercedes are already testing a self-driving van and drone combination for the ultimate rural delivery challenge solution. Meanwhile, cities will shift their attention to small and less risky sidewalk bots to help enable the “life on-demand” luxury in metro areas.

Implementation challenges

Before these services can become a reality, we need to start addressing the inherent challenges to implementation. While there are several concerns that need to be addressed, the ones we should be thinking about sooner rather than later relate to the safe deployment of these technologies. The obvious safety element everyone is looking at, which I am sure will indeed be addressed, is that of the single drone: How will it fly safely, avoid obstacles, carry its packages and so forth? However, it is the deployment of a fleet of drones I am more concerned about. Before they can become commonplace, live operational testing is mandatory to ensure we can deploy several drone fleets without overcrowding the airways — a scenario that could completely erode the potential benefits these technologies present, and moreover create a potentially unforeseen safety risk.

To adopt this technology and do it right, we need to start thinking about a higher-level network of connected drones — no matter the parent company. This means taking a look at how they should be deployed, managed and used so not only individual consumers can experience the benefits of these technologies, but society can as well. Whenever a new method is introduced into everyday use, there is a great deal of strategy that needs to go into thinking about which services are implanted where.

Who will be the first adopters?

One benefit drones exhibit is the lack of overhead required as opposed to traditional delivery methods like trucks and airplanes. A large-scale delivery model requires an enormous amount of capital investment including drivers, trucks, space to store equipment, regional depots and much more in order to be successful. This presents a substantial barrier to small competitors trying to enter the market, even if their model is more efficient than the delivery giants. On the other hand, drones are less expensive to buy, store, maintain and operate and because of this, we’ll likely see many small companies launch drone delivery services. Because of the technologies’ flexibility, there is an opportunity for both corporate giants and mom-and-pop shops to operate in this industry successfully. This in itself also poses an added risk of very large numbers of drones all flying around the same airspace in an uncoordinated fashion. Inefficiency and risk galore.

Additionally, companies like FedEx and UPS will also look to break into the drone business in order to stay competitive. As drone technology improves and new businesses emerge, it’s likely drones will slowly begin to replace some of the last-mile routes traditionally fulfilled using trucks and vans, thus resulting in increased efficiency across the board. Just think: if one delivery in a driver’s route is three miles out of the way of every other stop, that’s six miles roundtrip for a single package. The time spent driving to the delivery destination and back is not only an inefficient use of the employee’s time, but a costly waste of company resources (assuming, of course, the package is small enough to be delivered by a drone instead). In the future, delivery vans will likely be equipped with drones to deploy one-off package deliveries, optimizing the driver’s daily route while simultaneously reducing operating costs. In combination with the great distribution networks and infrastructure in place, FedEx and UPS will have a huge leg up on potential competitors looking to enter the drone arena.

Looking ahead: The future is buzzing

Look for Amazon to continue to push the envelope very publicly, but don’t be shocked to see Wal-Mart come out with a surprise from left field. It has the money, it just has to find the right focus and partner — I think it will. I also anticipate seeing brand-new delivery companies emerge and try to conquer the space, only eventually to get bought out by the delivery giants such as UPS and FedEx to try and maintain pace with Amazon.

At the end of the day, there are two technologies that are going to be required to make this all happen, and happen successfully to the benefit of the consumer and service provider: a safe and effective drone at a price point that is affordable, and dynamic network-level, multimodal scheduling software that will enable the service provider to efficiently deploy a fleet of drones and integrate them with other resources.

Finally, don’t limit your thinking to delivery being of only physical goods. Drones will also be used to deliver data. Insurance companies could rapidly deploy a drone to a car accident scene (especially that of a driverless car) or a home disaster to take photos from multiple directions and collect data in near-real-time to increase the accuracy of the data. That same drone could deliver information rapidly to emergency services, such as the police and fire department, to increase treatment quality and survival rates.

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Life on-demand: What we can expect from the new normal – a TechTarget byline

At the touch of a button, you can request a ride, get groceries or dinner delivered to your door, or have your Amazon order delivered in two hours or less. It’s safe to say a new era is here — we are living in an increasingly on-demand world.

With every three out of 10 American workers employed by the gig economy and new on-demand services appearing daily, there’s no denying the world is trending toward increased convenience, autonomy and flexibility. More than 22.4 million consumers use on-demand services, netting $57.6 billion in spending annually. Online shopping currently leads the on-demand revolution with $36 billion spent, with transportation coming in a not-so-close second at $5.6 billion, followed by food and grocery delivery at $4.6 billion. And the result of this impressive growth in spending? Researchers believe by 2020, almost one in five U.S. workers — the equivalent of 31 million people — will rely on the gig economy for employment. Is the ecosystem ready to support life on-demand?

The future is here. Now what?

The gig economy, and every company born out of it, has propelled consumers to become accustomed to a vast array of services like ride-sharing and food service on-demand — but it doesn’t end there. In addition to what is already available, we can expect an explosion of additional services being offered on-demand.

Imagine a world where healthcare is available on-demand. Doctors and nurses will come to your doorstep (at home or your office), a veterinarian will come to your home to care for your beloved pet instead of having to take your dog to a scary office. In terms of beauty services, stylists will come to you for hair appointments and manicures instead of requiring you to go to the salon. By the way, on-demand doesn’t mean the services have to come to you. It could also mean that you could go to a service location but not have to wait in line because the schedule will be created automatically based on your movements. A nearly unimaginable on-demand world of convenience will be available at the touch of an app — until we hit an inevitable tipping point.

Hitting the on-demand tipping point

Entrepreneurs looking to enter the market and established companies will continue to take advantage of consumers’ infatuation with real-time on-demand services. However, the economy will eventually reach a point where it can no longer support the growing inefficiencies caused by an outdated and weak back-end infrastructure. The inefficiencies are created by companies and industries implementing services with the fastest and most convenient outcome to capture market share, as opposed to the most efficient and effective method to operate the service.

The cost of on-demand: Nearly $58 billion and inefficiency

As growth accelerates, we need to look at the cost. Society, including the consumers using these on-demand services and the companies providing them, need to ensure this trend does not create little-discussed but very impactful side effects — massive waste and inefficiency. The average consumer does not always think about what is happening behind the scenes to provide their products and services on-demand. To get a ride within minutes from a company that only uses contract drivers, there are often more vehicles idling around the area than necessary causing congestion, pollution and overall inefficiencies within the ecosystem.

If we are going to continue ordering rides on-demand, we need to cut the number of cars on the road and ensure they are working intelligently together. If we are buying in real time with a delivery to our front door, let’s make sure companies plan efficiently to decrease the number of delivery trucks on the road. The advantages and conveniences of the on-demand economy require companies to ensure back-end operations are just as efficient and convenient as the services they provide. Data does not show that happening.

When convenience outpaces infrastructure

In order to fully realize life on-demand, gig companies must optimize the systems currently in place instead of simply adding even more unnecessary capacity. Although it will be difficult at first, companies will need to shift their focus and put as much emphasis on back-end and operations execution as they currently do on the front-end, consumer-facing aspects of the business.

When planning or contemplating a new on-demand service, companies and governments must take into consideration the resources needed to fulfill that demand and ensure it is not exceeded solely to increase convenience at the cost of efficiency. The answer: restructure current “gig-based” models (i.e., using contractors who choose their own job) into resource-directed models (i.e., controlled and actively scheduled resources that work based on a schedule provided by the company). Companies using contractors such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates are prime examples of achieving growth through over-capacity versus operational efficiency.

So what’s the difference with these models? Resource-directed models ensure on-demand services are operated efficiently through dynamic optimized scheduling. This means that when you click your ride app, the one most applicable driver will be notified to pick you up instead of a bunch of drivers getting your request (and only knowing your pick-up location and not your destination). The system will take into account your preferences, the drivers’ preferences and the company’s goals, creating an efficient schedule for all in real time and with less waste.

If you take that to the next step, you could actually optimize between networks, creating a coordinated efficient fabric of resources. While there may be more than a few companies that offer deliveries to your home or workplace, these services will be coordinated through a few efficient scheduling networks that make sure resources are used efficiently for the good of society and the consumer — not just the company operating them. This is not to make for a feel-good, “kumbaya” world, but one where we simply allow sophisticated technology to help us be intelligent in our decisions to the betterment of us all.

The future of on-demand is in your hands

In order to reach this on-demand utopia, companies, governments and cities will need to recognize and address the looming inherent risks in IoT, smart cities and on-demand services. However, it will be the will of the consumers that has the final say. The on-demand economy was created by consumers’ desire for convenience and control, and until they demand improvements, things will continue as is.

Take airlines for example. Consumers continue to complain about cancelled flights, poor service and other issues, but planes are still full. United will not be persuaded to provide better customer service unless people actually start boycotting its flights. Uber won’t improve its internal issues until consumers stop using it and the company feels it financially. We won’t see improvements to the on-demand model until consumers demand increased efficiency and accountability from their beloved Lyfts and Amazons. Actions speak louder than words, and $57.6 billion spent by consumers for on-demand services is saying a lot.

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Driverless vans, drones, and the next phase of automated deliveries

Driverless vans, drones, and the next phase of automated deliveries

 


Do you remember the futuristic movies that showed us what daily life might look like 50 to 100 years from now: the autonomous cars in Minority Report or the drone deliveries and parachuting packages in The Hunger Games? Well, you might be surprised to learn these formerly futuristic movie effects are slowly but surely becoming our reality.

Drones, driverless vans, delivery bots, and other futuristic technologies have the potential to make a great impact on us day-to-day, making life easier, more immediate, and perhaps even healthier. From less congestion on the roads to real-time deliveries, this would be the new normal for our society.

This stunning transformation has been propelled by overwhelming consumer demand. Recent studies find that consumer spending on on-demand services currently tops $57 billion. And it continues to grow, with new products and services popping up every day as entrepreneurs scramble to capitalize on society’s desire for convenience.

With that said, these new technologies — which have not yet been fully tested — have more than a few inherent risks. Some of these risks are related to the technological breakthrough itself: for example, the safety of a delivery drone or the decision-making capabilities of the single autonomous car. The recent traffic fatality involving a self-driving Tesla prompted additional testing and scrutiny almost immediately. But some of these concerns, the ones we should be thinking about sooner rather than later, relate to the deployment of these technologies once they are proven safe. Before they can become commonplace, live operational testing is mandatory to ensure we can deploy these technologies without ending up with a sky overfilled with drones or roads congested with driverless cars — a scenario that could completely erode the potential benefits from these technologies.

To do this and do it right, we need to start thinking about a higher-level network of drones and driverless vehicles. This means taking a look at how they should be deployed, managed, and used so that not only individual consumers benefit from these technologies, but society does as well. We need to think strategically about which services are implanted where.

Delivering to a remote location near you

While our cities suffer the most from road congestion, automation can produce significant value in suburbs and remote areas where population is sparser. In these areas, delivery drones and driverless vans can create greater efficiencies and bring a level of service traditionally missing due to location and economics.

For example, it does not make economic or practical sense to send a driver with a car on a two-hour drive to deliver a single package in a rural community, burning through the driver’s time and gas and wearing down the delivery vehicle. The four-hour time frame in itself would take half a workday for a single package, making it a losing proposition. Alternatively, deliveries could be scheduled on a weekly basis, but that solution would greatly diminish the whole concept of “on demand” that consumers have come to expect. To solve this problem, companies like UPS and Mercedes are testing a self-driving van and drone combination for the ultimate solution to the rural delivery challenge. Tying in drone deliveries will bring increased on-demand services to rural areas, along with providing the best R&D environment for drone deployment.

Outside of on-demand deliveries, rural areas will also see an increase in autonomous trucks and vans hauling goods long distance — similar to Uber’s successful cross-Colorado beer delivery. Once they reach a metro hub, these long-haul autonomous vehicles will transport their cargo to depots on the outskirts of cities, like Amazon’s new cargo hub in Kentucky, where workers will then transfer the shipments to smaller delivery bots or drones and complete the “last mile.”

Rural versus urban solutions

Meanwhile, and contrary to popular belief, metro hubs likely won’t be the first to see autonomous trucks or vans delivering goods. Since congestion and parking are still two big issues in the city, using a driverless vehicle isn’t a solution. In fact, it could create even more problems.

Instead, delivery of Amazon purchases or restaurant orders in dense cities will be done through small bots and sidewalk-based drones, alleviating traffic by minimizing the number of delivery vehicles. A small bot makes a lot of sense in an urban area, as long as it can maneuver the sidewalks of Manhattan or San Francisco with ease and without much risk to its surroundings. Just imagine, your pizza could be delivered by a sidewalk bot soon. Want proof? Five states — Wisconsin, Idaho, Virginia, Florida, and Ohio — recently passed legislation making delivery bots legal on city sidewalks.

Taking both the rural and metro next-gen tech implementations into account, rural areas seem ripe for massive innovation, trials, and change. I myself live in a more rural area, and there are significantly fewer cars on the roads, fewer houses in any given area, no high rises, and a lot more open space. This means lower risk for companies trying new delivery methods and technologies. Think about it: Would we rather have a drone flying over a dense neighborhood with playgrounds and schools underneath or in a more secluded area covered in farmland? Take, for example, the recent news about Amazon’s patent applications for a drone delivery tower and packages parachuting down to the receiver. With the cool factor (and resemblance to parachute deliveries to Katniss in The Hunger Games) aside, it would probably be more appropriate to test dropping packages or launching drones from a massive hive in an area with 5-acre homesteads than in a dense townhome community.

While the debate for exactly how smart cities will unfold in the not-so-distant future continues, one thing is certain: Next-gen technologies are not only cool and efficient, they will connect rural and urban areas, providing a higher quality of life for residents of both — ensuring communities are truly “smart.” Businesses will be able to provide efficient, low-cost on-demand rapid services at all times (even in rural areas) and with fewer restrictions. In turn, consumers will be able to get an increased level of service. People may find themselves significantly changing their buying patterns and buying more, simply because they can, which increases business.

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