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  • Writer's pictureJohn Ennis

Eye on AI - May 22nd, 2020

Welcome to Aigora's "Eye on AI" series, where we round up exciting news at the intersection of consumer science and artificial intelligence!


Hi everyone! Decentralization is one of the main themes of the fourth industrial revolution, and this theme is definitely being highlighted by the current coronavirus pandemic. So for this week, we decided to look at a few forms of AI-driven delivery decentralization, and how they’re impacting consumers.


Drone Deliveries Find More Positive Impact

We begin by looking at some positive news out of the drone industry. If you were keeping up with the pre-pandemic testing for drones, major companies like Amazon were looking to implement drone armies to assist with mass, rapid deliveries. The pandemic put such testing on hold, leaving many drone companies in limbo. But while mass drone implementations have stalled, some, like Manna Aero, as outlined in the BBC article “Drone-to-door medicines trial takes flight in Ireland,” have transitioned to working with local governments.

“Manna Aero is working with the Health Service Executive to deliver medicines and other essential supplies to vulnerable people in the small rural [Ireland] town of Moneygall,” writes BBC reporters David Molloy and Jen Copestake. “.... The UK has already announced a test of drones to carry supplies to the Isle of Wight during the pandemic…. The idea was born after a very different trial - to deliver takeaways to college students in mid-March - was put on hold because of the pandemic. The drone can carry up to 4kg (9lb) in its cargo cassette, which is about the size of a large shoebox - but the focus has shifted. ‘We're not going to be selling hamburgers,’ Mr Healy, Manna Aero’s chief executive, said. ‘We're going to be selling what the elderly people really need to have - so basic necessities.’

The deliveries focus on essential needs, such as prescription medicines, which many older residents desperately need but find risky to obtain in safe, contactless ways during the pandemic. Manna Aero’s drone program eliminates that risk. Flights go straight to homes, part of a "closed-loop" end-to-end system the company says is a first. While there are still concerns about drone armies flying back and forth across the skies, the initial Manna Aero program has proven successful, with many residents even going so far as to call it “brilliant”, a small indication that local drone partnerships may soon expand throughout the UK and beyond.

Now Entering the ‘Express’ Lane: Walmart Deliveries

To piggyback off the delivery theme, an article out of RIS this week, titled “How is Walmart Express Delivery Nailing that 2-Hour Window? Machine Learning,” touches on a different side of AI delivery decentralization: training delivery systems to look at problems from a local level, a big reason why Walmart’s new express delivery service, which promises to deliver packaging in under two hours, has proven so successful.

“The contactless delivery service employs machine learning to fulfill orders from nearly 2,000 stores, fulfilled by 74,000 ‘personal shoppers,’” writes RIS reporter Lisa Johnston. “Developed by the company’s in-house global technology team, the system accounts for such variables as order quantity, staffing levels, the types of delivery vehicles available, and estimated route length between a store and home. It also pulls in weather data to account for delivery speeds, and Whiteside and Kumar said it’s consistently refining its estimates for future orders.”

Walmart’s express service, which was piloted last month, is now on its way to 2,000 Walmart stores, and is completely reliant on machine learning technology created in-house at Walmart––in other words, the technology was created specifically to address Walmart's delivery needs, whereas outsourced delivery technology would need to address varying delivery needs at different types of retail stores. Because of this, companies that are able to produce effective AI in house for their specific needs should have a leg-up on the competition.

Fast, Smart Pizza Coming to a Kiosk Near You (Maybe)

We conclude this week with an article out of The Spoon, titled “API Tech Bringing Smart Pizza Vending Machines From Europe to the U.S.”, which discusses a smart vending machine that makes pizzas, yet unlike similar concepts, relies on local food vendors to provide ingredients.

“Smart Pizza makes a standalone vending machine that can hold up 96 par-baked pizzas,” writes The Spoon’s Chris Albrecht. “Once a pizza is ordered either through a built-in touchscreen or on a mobile app, the pizza gets a final cook using a proprietary oven before being boxed up and dispensed…. API Tech is an industrial automation company and does not make any of its own pizzas (unlike other pizza vending machine companies). The machine is sold to food companies, which can then stock it with whatever types of pizza they choose. The system menu can handle up to 200 different pizza recipes, with the operator determining the prices for each flavor.”

These pizza machines use a proprietary heating system, which vendors can alter depending on how they want their pizzas cooked. Pizzas are never frozen, and therefore only last a few days, which shouldn’t be a problem so long as these vending machines are positioned in ideal locations. The concept has already had much success in France with over 200 locations, and recently released machines in Florida and California. If initial trials prove successful in the U.S., Smart Pizza could blaze a trail for similar decentralized food vending machines.

Other News


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