Robotics

After Automating Order-Taking, Fast Food Chains Had to Hire More Workers (theatlantic.com) 109

An anonymous reader quotes the Atlantic: Blaine Hurst, the CEO and president of Panera, told me that because of its new [self-service] kiosks, and an app that allows online ordering, the chain is now processing more orders overall, which means it needs more total workers to fulfill customer demand. Starbucks patrons who use the chain's app return more frequently than those who don't, the company has said, and the greater efficiency that online ordering allows has boosted sales at busy stores during peak hours. Starbucks employed 8 percent more people in the U.S. in 2016 than it did in 2015, the year it launched the app...

James Bessen, an economist at Boston University School of Law, found that as the number of ATMs in America increased fivefold from 1990 to 2010, the number of bank tellers also grew. Bessen believes that ATMs drove demand for consumer banking: No longer constrained by a branch's limited hours, consumers used banking services more frequently, and people who were unbanked opened accounts to take advantage of the new technology. Although each branch employed fewer tellers, banks added more branches, so the number of tellers grew overall. And as machines took over many basic cash-handling tasks, the nature of the tellers' job changed. They were now tasked with talking to customers about products -- a certificate of deposit, an auto loan -- which in turn made them more valuable to their employers. "It's not clear that automation in the restaurant industry will lead to job losses," Bessen told me.

Businesses

Exhausted Amazon Drivers Are Working 11-Hour Shifts For Less Than Minimum Wage (mirror.co.uk) 228

schwit1 quotes the Daily Mirror: Drivers are being asked to deliver up to 200 parcels a day for Amazon while earning less than the minimum wage, a Sunday Mirror investigation reveals today... Many routinely exceed the legal maximum shift of 11 hours and finish their days dead on their feet. Yet they have so little time for food or toilet stops they snatch hurried meals on the run and urinate into plastic bottles they keep in their vans. They say they often break speed limits to meet targets that take no account of delays such as ice, traffic jams or road closures.

Many claim they are employed in a way that means they have no rights to holiday or sickness pay. And some say they take home as little as £160 for a five-day week amid conditions described by one lawyer as "almost Dickensian"... The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency has vowed to investigate after drivers contacted them to complain about conditions.

Security

Touting Government/Industry 'Partnership' on Security Practices, NIST Drafts Cybersecurity Framework Update (scmagazine.com) 13

Remember NIST, the non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce? Their mission expanded over the years to protecting businesses from cyberthreats, including a "Cybersecurty Framework" first published in 2014. "The original goal was to develop a voluntary framework to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk in the nation's critical infrastructure, such as bridges and the electric power grid," NIST wrote in January, "but the framework has been widely adopted by many types of organizations across the country and around the world." Now SC Media reports: The second draft of the update to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's cybersecurity framework, NIST 1.1, is meant "to clarify, refine, and enhance the Cybersecurity Framework, amplifying its value and making it easier to use," according to NIST. Specifically, it brings clarity to cybersecurity measurement language and tackles improving security of the supply chain. Calling the initial NIST CSF "a landmark effort" that delivered "important benefits, such as providing common language for different models" of standards and best practices already in use, Larry Clinton, president and CEO of the Internet Security Alliance, said "it fell short of some of the most critical demands of Presidential Executive Order 13636, which generated its development...

"To begin with, the new draft makes it clear that our goal is not some undefined metric for use of the Framework, but for effective use of the Framework. Moreover, this use-metric needs to be tied not to some generic standard, but to be calibrated to the unique threat picture, risk appetite and business objective of a particular organization"... Clinton praised the process used by NIST as "a model 'use case' for how government needs to engage with its industry partners to address the cybersecurity issue." The internet's inherent interconnectedness makes it impossible for sustainable security to be achieved through anything other than true partnership, he contended.

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace reminds you that public comments on the draft Framework and Roadmap are due to NIST by 11:59 p.m. EST on January 19, 2018. "If you have an opinion about this, NOW is the time to express it."
Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 225

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
Power

China Has Launched the World's First All-Electric Cargo Ship (futurism.com) 142

slash.jit writes: China has launched the world's first all-electric cargo ship. It can travel 80 kilometers (approximately 50 miles) after being charged for 2 hours. As noted by Clean Technica, 2 hours is roughly the amount of time it would take to unload the ship's cargo while docked. Oh...and Ironically, the world's first all-electric cargo ship is being used to move coal.
China Daily reports that the 230 foot long vessel is equipped with a 2,400 kWh lithium-ion battery, a cheaper and cleaner power supply. And Clean Technica notes that that battery is comprised of 1,000 individual lithium-ion packs, while "Adding enough power to carry more cargo is simply a matter of adding more battery packs."
Businesses

Reporter Regrets Letting Amazon's Delivery People Into His House (washingtonpost.com) 112

An anonymous reader writes: Washington Post reporter Geoffrey A. Fowler describes his short-lived experience with "Amazon Key", a $250 smart lock system with a security camera that grants Amazon's delivery people access to your home. The lock sounds "like R2-D2 with constipation," and at one point it actually jammed (though his persistent delivery person eventually got it working properly). The unlocking of the door triggers a live video feed of the delivery -- which is also stored in a private archive online -- plus an alert to your phone -- and the Post's reporter writes that "The biggest downsides to the experience haven't been the strangers -- it's been Amazon."

They missed their delivery windows four out of eight times, and though the packages all arrived eventually, all four were late by a least a day. But his larger issue is that Amazon "wants to draw you further into an all-Amazon world... Now Amazon wants to literally own your door, so it can push not just packages but also services that come through it, like handymen, dog-walkers, groceries, you name it." His ultimate question? "Who's really being locked in?"

The Post's reporter notes that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, "but I review all tech the same." He did identify some advantages to the $250 smart lock system -- the door can now also be unlocked with the Amazon Key app, and he can even share that access with his friends by giving them a special access code.

But he also notes that security researchers discovered a way to freeze Amazon's security camera, potentially allowing a rogue delivery person to lurk in your house. And all things considered, it was apparently all too creepy. "After two weeks, my family voted to remove the Amazon Key smart lock and take down the camera."
Businesses

Patreon Hits Donors With New Fees, Angering Creators (venturebeat.com) 142

Patreon's changing their fee structure to make donors cover payment-processing fees (standardized to 2.9%) -- plus an additional 35 cents for every pledge. Long-time Slashdot reader NewtonsLaw reports that Patreon's users are furious: Despite Patreon's hype that this is a good thing for creators, few of these actually seem to agree and there's already a growing backlash on social media... many fear that their net return will be lower because the extra fees levied on patreons are causing them to either reduce the amount they pledge or withdraw completely... For those patrons supporting only a few creators the effect won't be large, but for those who make small donations to many creators this could amount to a hike of almost 40% in the amount charged to their credit cards. Without exception, all the content creators I have spoken to would have:

a) liked to have been consulted first

b) wanted the option to retain the old system where they bear the cost of the fees.

As a content creator, I've already seen quite a few of my patreons reducing their pledge and others canceling their pledges completely -- and I understand why they are doing that.

"Everyone hates Patreon's new fee," writes VentureBeat, adding "Many creators are saying it's unfair for patrons to have to pay transaction fees. In addition to that, most people support multiple creators and not just one, and they'll have to pay the extra fee for each pledge they make."

Tech journalist Bryan Lunduke is already soliciting suggestions on Twitter for an open source or Free Software solution that accepts donations from multiple payment systems, and while the change doesn't go into effect until December 18th, NewtonsLaw writes that "it's starting to look as if many content creators will be getting a slightly larger percentage of a much smaller amount as a result of this lunacy by Patreon -- something that will see them far worse off than the were before."
Privacy

People Keep Finding Hidden Cameras in Their Airbnbs (buzzfeed.com) 162

"Airbnb has a scary problem on their hands: People keep finding hidden cameras in their rental homes," reports the New York Post. "Another host was busted last month trying to film guests without their knowledge -- marking the second time since October that the company has had to publicly deal with this sort of incident." BuzzFeed reports: In October, an Indiana couple visiting Florida discovered a hidden camera disguised as a smoke detector in their Airbnb's master bedroom. Earlier that same year Airbnb was forced to investigate and suspend a Montreal listing after one of the renters discovered a camera in the bedroom of the property... Hidden cameras aren't just an issue for Airbnb -- it's been a hot-button topic in hospitality for years. There are hundreds of stories about hotels using unlawful surveillance. [For example, this one.]

Airbnb recommends its customers read the reviews of the host of any rental property they might be interested in, and also offers an on-platform messaging tool that allows communication between host and guests... "Cameras are never allowed in bathrooms or bedrooms; any other cameras must be properly disclosed to guests ahead of time," Airbnb spokesperson Jeff Henry told BuzzFeed News.

This time the couple discovered hidden cameras that were disguised as a motion detectors. Airbnb says they've permanently banned the offending host -- and offered his guests a refund -- adding that this type of incident was "incredibly rare."
The Almighty Buck

Insurers Are Rewarding Tesla Owners For Using Autopilot (reuters.com) 135

Britain's largest auto insurance company Direct Line is testing out an idea to let Tesla owners receive a 5% discount for switching on the car's autopilot system, seeking to encourage use of a system it hopes will cut down on accidents. Reuters reports: The move - confirmed by company representatives in response to Reuters' questions - is Tesla's only tie-up in the UK and comes at a time when the company is trying to convince insurers that its internet-connected vehicles are statistically safer. Direct Line said it was too early to say whether the use of the autopilot system produced a safety record that justified lower premiums. It said it was charging less to encourage use of the system and aid research.

"Crash rates across all Tesla models have fallen by 40 percent since the introduction of the autopilot system ... However, when owners seek to insure their Tesla vehicles, this is not reflected in the pricing of premiums," Daniel Pearce, Financial Analyst at GlobalData, said. Direct Line, which is enjoying soaring motor insurance prices in Britain, said it sets premiums for Tesla drivers based on the risk they present, including who is driving, their age, driving experience and claim history.

Music

Apple Is Reportedly Buying Shazam For Nearly Half a Billion Dollars (phonedog.com) 59

Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, one of the most recognized services for music recognition. While the exact amount is unknown, the service may be purchased by Apple for around $400 million. PhoneDog reports: Apple is close to acquiring Shazam, say sources speaking to TechCrunch. The deal will reportedly be signed this week and could be announced as early as next Monday. A report from Recode echoes the news of Apple acquiring Shazam, adding that Shazam will likely be valued at around $400 million. Apple -- and other companies -- already offer a music recognition service, but Apple must see something in Shazam's services that it thinks can help improve its own music recognition if it's going to drop nearly half a billion dollars on this deal. Shazam is able to identify TV shows, films, and advertisements in addition to music, so perhaps Apple sees some benefit to these abilities, too.
Music

YouTube to Launch New Music Subscription Service in March (bloomberg.com) 57

An anonymous reader shares a report: YouTube plans to introduce a paid music service in March, according to people familiar with the matter, a third attempt by parent company Alphabet Inc. to catch up with rivals Spotify and Apple. The new service could help appease record-industry executives who have pushed for more revenue from YouTube. Warner Music Group, one of the world's three major record labels, has already signed on, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private talks. YouTube is also in talks with the two others, Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group, and Merlin, a consortium of independent labels, the people said.
Businesses

Bangladesh Bank, NY Fed Discuss Suing Manila Bank For Heist Damages (reuters.com) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: Bangladesh's central bank has asked the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to join a lawsuit it plans to file against a Philippines bank for its role in one of the world's biggest cyber-heists, several sources said. The Fed is yet to respond formally, but there is no indication it would join the suit. Unidentified hackers stole $81 million from Bangladesh Bank's account at the New York Fed in February last year, using fraudulent orders on the SWIFT payments system. The money was sent to accounts at Manila-based Rizal Commercial Banking Corp and then disappeared into the casino industry in the Philippines.
Businesses

Amazon Bringing Echo and Alexa To 80 Additional Countries in Major Global Expansion (geekwire.com) 36

Amazon is launching three of its Echo devices with Alexa in 80 additional countries starting today -- a major international expansion for the company's smart speakers and voice-based assistant. From a report: New markets for the Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Plus include Mexico, China, Russia and other countries in regions and continents including Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia. Other Echo devices, such as the touch-screen Echo Show, are not included as part of the international expansion. Echo devices were previously only available in the US, UK, Germany, India, Japan, and Canada. Amazon earlier announced plans to bring Echo and Alexa to Australia and New Zealand next year. In addition, Amazon says its Music Unlimited subscription streaming service is available in 28 additional countries, including many of those where the Echo is now expanding, as well. Recommended reading: Don't buy anyone an Amazon Echo speaker.
Businesses

'Face Reality! We Need Net Neutrality!' Crowd Chants Across the Country (arstechnica.com) 290

ArsTechnica staff took to the streets in Washington DC, New York, and San Francisco to capture rallies in support for net neutrality, a week before the FCC is scheduled to take a historic vote rolling back network neutrality regulations. From their report: Protestors say those regulations, which were enacted by the Obama FCC in 2015, are crucial for protecting an open Internet. Organizers chose to hold most of the protests outside of Verizon cell phone stores. Ajit Pai, the FCC Chairman who is leading the agency's charge to repeal network neutrality, is a former Verizon lawyer, and Verizon has been a critic of the Obama network neutrality rules. The protest that got the most attention from FCC decision makers took place on Thursday evening in Washington DC. The FCC was holding a dinner event at the Hilton on Connecticut Avenue, just north of the city's Dupont Circle area. Protestors gathered on the street corner outside the hotel, waving pro-net neutrality posters to traffic, blaring chants, projecting pro-net neutrality messages on a building across the street, and telling personal stories about what net neutrality meant to them via a megaphone. The FCC's two Democratic commissioners also joined the demonstration, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel. They both gave brief speeches to the protestors, rallying for the cause and discussing the importance of a neutral Internet.
Bitcoin

About 40 Percent of Bitcoin Is Held By 1,000 Users. If a Few of Them Want To Sell, That Could Tank Values (bloomberg.com) 237

On Nov. 12, someone moved almost 25,000 bitcoins, worth about $159 million at the time, to an online exchange. The news soon rippled through online forums, with bitcoin traders arguing about whether it meant the owner was about to sell the digital currency. From a report on Bloomberg: Holders of large amounts of bitcoin are often known as whales. And they're becoming a worry for investors. They can send prices plummeting by selling even a portion of their holdings. And those sales are more probable now that the cryptocurrency is up nearly twelvefold from the beginning of the year. About 40 percent of bitcoin is held by perhaps 1,000 users; at current prices, each may want to sell about half of his or her holdings, says Aaron Brown, former managing director and head of financial markets research at AQR Capital Management. What's more, the whales can coordinate their moves or preview them to a select few. Many of the large owners have known one another for years and stuck by bitcoin through the early days when it was derided, and they can potentially band together to tank or prop up the market.
United States

November Jobs Report: Economy Adds 228,000 Jobs; Unemployment Steady (npr.org) 118

An anonymous reader shares an NPR report: The U.S. economy added 228,000 jobs in November, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained steady at 4.1 percent, unchanged from October. "Employment growth has averaged 174,000 per month thus far this year, compared with an average monthly gain of 187,000 in 2016," the agency's Acting Commissioner William J. Wiatrowski said of the report. The number of unemployed people was "essentially unchanged at 6.6 million," the bureau said. Of that number, 1.6 million are considered to be long-term unemployed -- workers who have not had jobs for 27 weeks or more. "Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers increased to 15.9 percent in November," the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. Other groups saw little change from the previous month. As for wages, the agency says, "In November, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $26.55. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 64 cents, or 2.5 percent."
Businesses

GE Cuts 12,000 Jobs In Response To Falling Demand For Fossil Fuel Energy (qz.com) 130

In response to the drop in demand for fossil fuel energy, General Electric -- the world's largest maker of gas turbines -- announced plans to cut 12,000 jobs. Quartz reports: Those cuts will mostly come from GE's power division, which makes energy-generation technologies. The reduction will account for 18% of the division's workforce and affect both professional and production employees, the company said in a statement. The majority of job losses will occur outside the U.S., Bloomberg reports. In a statement, Russell Stokes, the division's president and CEO, said disruptions to the power market were "driving significantly lower volumes in products and services." Demand for GE's power-generation equipment has stalled in part because of renewable energy growth, says Robert McCarthy, an analyst at Stifel Financial.

The move is part of a larger restructuring effort under GE's new chief executive John Flannery, who has faced immense pressure to regain the company's footing since taking the helm in June of this year. GE's stock price plunged 44% this year, the worst performer on the Dow, according to Bloomberg. The company aims to cut $3.5 billion of expenses across its divisions by the end of 2018, including a $1 billion cut from the power division.

Mars

Boeing CEO Says Boeing Will Beat SpaceX To Mars (space.com) 121

Boeing's CEO says the megarocket his company is helping to build for NASA will deliver astronauts to the Red Planet before billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX. Space.com reports: According to Fortune, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg was speaking on CNBC today when host Jim Cramer asked whether Boeing or SpaceX would "get a man on Mars first." "Eventually we're going to go to Mars, and I firmly believe the first person that sets foot on Mars will get there on a Boeing rocket," Muilenburg said, according to Fortune. Boeing is the main contractor for the first stage of NASA's giant Space Launch System , which is designed to launch astronauts on deep-space missions using the space agency's new Orion spacecraft. (United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK and Aerojet Rocketdyne are also SLS contractors.) NASA hopes to build a "Deep Space Gateway" near the moon before using SLS and Orion vehicles to send explorers to Mars. The first test launch is scheduled for 2019. "Do it," Musk tweeted.
Businesses

ISP Disclosures About Data Caps and Fees Eliminated By Net Neutrality Repeal (arstechnica.com) 277

In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. Since the requirements were part of the net neutrality rules, they will be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week. Ars Technica reports: While FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to keep some of the commission's existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won't have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service. There have been two major versions of the FCC's transparency requirements: one created in 2010 with the first net neutrality rules, and an expanded version created in 2015. Both sets of transparency rules survived court challenges from the broadband industry. The 2010 requirement had ISPs disclose pricing, including "monthly prices, usage-based fees, and fees for early termination or additional network services." That somewhat vague requirement will survive Pai's net neutrality repeal. But Pai is proposing to eliminate the enhanced disclosure requirements that have been in place since 2015. Here are the disclosures that ISPs currently have to make -- but won't have to after the repeal:

-Price: the full monthly service charge. Any promotional rates should be clearly noted as such, specify the duration of the promotional period and the full monthly service charge the consumer will incur after the expiration of the promotional period.
-Other Fees: all additional one time and/or recurring fees and/or surcharges the consumer may incur either to initiate, maintain, or discontinue service, including the name, definition, and cost of each additional fee. These may include modem rental fees, installation fees, service charges, and early termination fees, among others.
-Data Caps and Allowances: any data caps or allowances that are a part of the plan the consumer is purchasing, as well as the consequences of exceeding the cap or allowance (e.g., additional charges, loss of service for the remainder of the billing cycle).

Pai's proposed net neutrality repeal says those requirements and others adopted in 2015 are too onerous for ISPs.

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