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Ecommerce boom driving new robot helpers

The pandemic has hastened the move online for retail and grocers. Robotics development is shifting into gear to meet the demand.

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fetch-pallettransport1500-5.jpg Dave Lin

There’s a new robot available to move pallets around fulfillment warehouses. That may not sound sexy, but the robot is symptomatic of ramped up development in the automation sector to meet demand created by ecommerce pressure.

The robot from Fetch Robotics is called (a bit uninspiringly) PalletTransport1500, and its a workhorse of an autonomous mobile forklift designed to ferry cargo of up to 2504 pounds around warehouses, something that happens hundreds of times per day in busy ecommerce fulfillment centers. The robot utilizes warehouse execution system software by a firm called Honeywell Intelligrated to go about its autonomous business.

And business is booming for automation providers targeting ecommerce and contactless delivery. Distribution centers are slammed with the pandemic-related ecommerce boom. The sector saw sales grow more than 30% in 2020, much steeper growth than could have been imagined at the close of 2019.

“Even the most well-managed distribution centers are struggling to keep up with the ongoing growth of e-commerce, which is putting tremendous stress on facilities and warehouse associates to move goods in and out of facilities at record speed,” explains Fetch Chief Product Officer Stefan Nusser. “By combining Fetch’s new PalletTransport1500 with Honeywell Intelligrated’s Momentum WES, distribution and fulfillment centers will now be able to orchestrate every aspect of automated warehouse execution for maximum facility efficiency and safety.”

The demand surge comes just as many ecommerce suppliers are acclimating to next-day fulfillment, a trend driven almost entirely by Amazon. With the pandemic introducing mew restrictions on work environments and ravaging workforces with illness, automation is viewed as a crucial relief valve.

“To compete in the fast-paced, high-stakes world of e-commerce, modern distribution and fulfillment center operations are introducing increasing levels of automation. Too often these automated systems operate independently, performing very discrete tasks and processes,” says Thomas Evans, CTO of Honeywell Robotics. “This collaboration with Fetch to have a turnkey solution with Momentum gives those in the e-commerce industry a competitive advantage that will optimize productivity, increase operational safety, and provide significant return on investment.”

In addition to reducing the need to hire to keep up, automated mobile robots, which have an excellent safety track record, have the benefit of potentially reducing workplace accidents. According to OSHA, there are 61,800 accidents involving forklifts in the U.S. each year, a staggering figure.

Fetch’s relationship with Honeywell is also symptomatic of larger coupling in the sector as one-time startups come of age and begin to sell themselves, acquire, or strategically partner in a trend of increasing consolidation around the maturing industry. Fetch’s latest robot builds on an ongoing partnership with Honeywell, which combines Honeywell’s software with Fetch’s existing suite of AMRs to support autonomous workflows for smaller payloads.

The demand surge comes just as many ecommerce suppliers are acclimating to next-day fulfillment, a trend driven almost entirely by Amazon. With the pandemic introducing mew restrictions on work environments and ravaging workforces with illness, automation is viewed as a crucial relief valve.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/ecommerce-boom-driving-new-robot-helpers/

ZDNET

Help! How do I turn off my iPhone?

Apple doesn’t make some things easy!

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You’d think it would be easy to turn off your iPhone, right? Just press that power button, and job done.

Except that button you think is a power button — presumably because you press it to turn the iPhone on — is not a power button but a “side button.”

And pressing that side button on newer handsets doesn’t turn them off. Instead, it brings up Siri.

This explains the question that just dropped into my inbox:

How in the name of the power button’s ghost do your turn an iPhone off?

Good question!

Must read: The best browser to replace Google Chrome on Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android

There are two ways.

The easiest way is to simultaneously press and hold down one of the volume buttons — up or down — along with the side button.

Yes, you have to press two buttons.

I guess Apple doesn’t think you’re going to want to turn your phone off that often.

Hold long enough — a few seconds — and the power sider will appear, along with the really cool but noisy emergency SOS slider at the bottom.

There’s another way to power down an iPhone, a way that I think is quicker and easier.

Tap on Settings > General and scroll all the way down to the bottom and tap Shut Down.

So, there you go. You learned two things today. The power button is, in fact, a side button, and shutting down an iPhone is more complicated than you guessed it was.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/help-how-do-i-turn-off-my-iphone/

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Best home office cooling 2021: Beat the summer heat

ZDNet lists the best accessories for you and your office to stay cool while working from home.

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Many of us made the transition from a typical, corporate office environment to a hasty setup at home to keep us working, albeit remotely, and now it appears that post-pandemic either remote or hybrid working models are going to become a permanent offering by a number of organizations.

With warm weather on the horizon and summer fast approaching, you may find your home office is becoming now a stuffy, intolerable place to work effectively for long periods. Cameras, microphones, and monitors can be key in working outside of company grounds, but they can do nothing to regulate the temperature — and few of us want to look hot and sweaty on our now-frequent Zoom and Microsoft Teams company calls.

As the WFH trend looks likely to stay, it is now time to consider investing in home office improvements for the sake of your comfort and health.

To help, ZDNet has created a guide listing useful gadgets and accessories to keep you cool during the coming months, as well as products that can help stop your laptop or tower PC from overheating and disrupting your workday and productivity.

Ozeri Brezza III Desk fan

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If you intend to spend a lot of time at your desk at home, working remotely and attending virtual meetings, you may want to consider a desk fan to take the edge off the heat of summer.

The Ozeri Brezza III desk fan will not take up much space — coming in at 14x10x14 inches — and the dual oscillating motors will keep you cool with a minimum of noise. As a bonus, the fan comes with a remote control for users to select the flow and direction of cooling air they prefer, with four different speeds on offer.

$58 at Amazon

Aicheson Laptop cooling pad

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Sweaty palms and foreheads are not the only consequences of temperatures rising — our devices can suffer, too.

Overheating PCs can slow down, whirring fans can be an annoyance, and in the worst cases, frozen and crashed systems may need time to cool down before you can resume your tasks.

To prevent the temperature in your home office from impacting the performance of your laptop, a cooling pad is a worthwhile investment. Options include the Aicheson laptop cooling pad, a cooler suitable for laptops up to 17.3-inches, which covers the majority of consumer devices out there.

This model, which comes in either blue or red, is equipped with a silicone holder and four fans, and the pad’s height can also be adjusted for comfort.

$30 at Amazon

Mainstays Evaporative Air Cooler Small, portable air cooler

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If you are looking for a small, portable cooler you can bring into your home office and also easily use in other rooms, the Mainstays personal space mini air cooler could be a great fit.

The mini cooler is tiny — coming in at only 8×6.89×7.87 inches — and uses tap water rather than ice or advanced filters to push cold air into a room. Users can pick from two speeds and will be alerted when water levels run low.

$29 at Walmart

Bestand aluminum cooling computer stand Designed to keep your machine cool

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Another laptop-related product designed to keep your machine cool worth considering is on offer from Bestand and is likely to be a hit for home workers who use Apple Mac devices due to its aluminum design.

The stand positions your MacBook — or other 11-16 inch laptops — to maximize airflow and reduce the risk of overheating. The frame is made from aluminum which acts as a heat sink, too, allowing users to work productively without experiencing heat-based lagging or crashes. There is also a cable ring to keep connected wires tidy and out of the way.

$37 at Amazon

Aluminum mouse pad Prevent your hands from becoming too warm

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To match your stand and prevent your hands from becoming too warm while working away in your home office, you might want to consider an aluminum mouse pad.

Available on Amazon in five colors — black, rose gold, gold, silver, and gray — as well as small or medium sizes –Vaydeer’s product line layers aluminum together with artificial leather so the mousepad grips a desk’s surface without sliding. Laser, optical, and mechanical mice are all compatible.

$13 at Amazon

Cooluli mini fridge Keep your drinks cool during summer

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Staying cool while working from home can be achieved through air conditioning but it is important to stay hydrated, too — and who wants a warm drink on a summer’s day?

You could consider snapping up a small fridge such as the Cooluli mini fridge, available on Best Buy, to stash a few drinks in and to enjoy during work hours.

The Cooluli Classic, available in a variety of colors and patterns, cools down items by 35 – 40F below ambient temperature and has a 0.14 cubic.ft. storage capacity. If you don’t have the means to hook it up to the mains, a USB-based power bank can be used as an alternative.

When the weather changes, the fridge can also be used to warm up food and drinks, too.

$50 at Best Buy

NXT Technologies air dusters Clear debris from your gear to prevent overheating

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When we consider heat levels in our home office, we can’t forget tower PCs are also susceptible to overheating.

Inbuilt fans and other cooling systems can be hampered when dust and dirt collect over time in tower shells, and if this debris builds up enough, overheating is almost a certainty, thereby impacting PC performance and reducing the lifetime of your PC.

To combat this, you should consider picking up an air duster — such as those offered by NXT Technologies — which are dual-purpose: featuring a straw to gently remove debris from sensitive electronics while compressed air blows away the dust and mess threatening to disrupt your home system.

$29 at Staples

Dyson Hot + Cool fan heater Cool a full room in style

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The Dyson Hot + Cool fan heater, available in white or silver, is one of the pricier models on the list. If you’re willing to pay for something stylish and multi-functional, this heating and cooling system can be used to evenly warm up or cool a full room, despite its small stature.

You can select direct airflow or oscillation, and as there are no blades, this may also be an option that is safer when children are around. The device also comes with a remote control.

$444 at Dyson

Hydro flask Remember to keep hydrated while working

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The final offering you should consider to stay cool as you work remotely is a flask to keep your drink to hand and icy cold.

The Hydro flask, available on Amazon, is a flask made from stainless steel and is designed to maintain your drink’s temperature — whether cool or hot. When the lid is screwed on, this can prevent any accidental knocks from destroying your devices, and as it is portable, users can also use the flask on their adventures outdoors.

$76 at Amazon VIEW NOW AT HYDRO FLASK

Why do I need to keep my electronics cool?

All modern electronics produce heat. If our devices are working too hard or airflow is interrupted, we may notice more warmth than usual emanating from them — and this can also be a sign that hardware is wearing out and due for replacement.

By regulating temperature, this may extend the life of your electronics, stop your devices from shutting down or becoming unresponsive, as well as prevent any permanent damage to circuits.

What are other methods to keep my devices from overheating?

The easiest method is to keep your electronics out of direct sunlight. Stacking them, too, can put pressure on hardware already feeling the heat, and making sure that dust has not collected or is causing airflow issues on a frequent basis is recommended. You should always leave an air gap between a laptop or tower PC’s vents and walls, too.

Which cooling solution is right for you?

It is important that you make sure that there is a comfortable temperature in your home office, but we can’t forget to maintain and keep our devices as cool as possible, too, to prevent overheating and to extend their overall lifespans.

Beyond stands and the regular removal of dust and debris that can clog up our machines, you should also consider keeping your electronics out of direct sunlight, you should not stack devices on top of each other, and you should position them to allow for as much airflow as possible.

If your organization is mulling over a permanent work from home setup or hybrid model, it might be worth considering an investment for your home office that will keep you comfortable in the long term.

How did we select these cooling solutions?

We considered a range of cooling systems that could be considered long-term investments — especially considering many of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future — as well as budget-friendly options and products that are portable, multi-purpose, and travel-friendly, should users return to their normal working environments in the coming months.

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Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/best-home-office-cooling-solution/

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The biggest investment in database history, the biggest social network ever, and other graph stories from Neo4j

A $325 million Series F funding round, bringing Neo4j’s valuation to over $2 billion. A social network of 3 billion people, distributed across 1000 servers. The latter is a demo; the former is not. But both are real signs that the graph market and Neo4j are getting huge.

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If you’re into the market and investment side of things, how does a Series F funding round as part of a $325 million investment led by Eurazeo and GV (formerly Google Ventures), bringing Neo4j’s valuation to over $2 billion sound? Pretty impressive, probably.

If you’re into the technology and applications side of things, how does a Neo4j demo of a social network application with 3 billion people, running queries designed to test the limits of graph query languages and databases across a 1000 node cluster sound? Equally impressive, probably.

Graph database vendor Neo4j CEO and co-founder Emil Eifrem is announcing the funding and showcasing the demo today at the company’s annual virtual conference NODES.

We caught up with Eifrem to get a taste of things to come.

Market affirmation: The biggest investment in database history

Truth be told, we were not entirely surprised to learn about Neo4j’s funding round. We’ve been keeping an eye on all things graph and covered recent funding rounds by TigerGraph and Katana Graph. Upstart Katana Graph scored a $28.5 million Series A, and TigerGraph scored a $105 million Series C, having exited stealth in 2017.

Neo4j is a graph database vendor founded in 2007, claiming to have popularized the term “graph database” and to be the leader in the graph database category. Its last funding round was $80 Million in Series E in 2018. With the competition beefing up their reserves, we were wondering whether Neo4j would follow suit.

Eifrem noted that while 2020 was broadly speaking a very bad year for obvious reasons, it was, in contrast, a very good year for Neo4j’s business. It all comes down to the world becoming increasingly interconnected and increasingly digital, something which Eifrem referred to as “the wind behind our back”.

That means, Eifrem added that Neo4j had lots of money in the bank and burning very little. So the funding was not really needed. It was a bit opportunistic, based on multiples in the market and the fact that there’s a lot of fundraising going on with very rich valuations. Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you have to be opportunistic, Eifrem noted. Eifrem believes there is a fundamental shift underway in databases.

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Neo4j announces $325 million Series F investment, the largest in database history

Neo4j

As opposed to 20 years ago, when there was just a handful of relational databases to choose from, today, we might go as far as to say there is too much choice. Databases are the biggest segment of the enterprise software market, currently estimated at around $50 billion and projected to grow to $100 billion in the coming years. After a long period of stagnation in terms of database innovation, NoSQL databases opened the gates around a decade ago.

Today we also have time-series databases, NewSQL, and all sorts of exotic options. What’s going to happen over the next three to five years, Eifrem predicts, is that a few generational database companies are going to be crowned. Graph databases and Neo4j are a significant part of that future data landscape, and today’s funding round is a testament to this, Eifrem went on to add. Neo4j notes that this is the largest investment in a private database company up to date.

We could not help but notice that GV also participates in the round. Although GV makes its own decisions and has its own agenda, it’s still part of Alphabet – the mother company of Google. Unlike Amazon with AWS Neptune and Microsoft, which has Cosmos DB, Google does not have a horse in the graph database race. This, and the fact that Neo4j has a partnership with Google that Eifrem mentioned is going very well, could not possibly have hurt.

GV General Partners Erik Nordlander and Tom Hulme welcomed Neo4j to the GV portfolio. Existing investors One Peak Partners (an investor since 2018), Creandum (an investor since 2014), and Greenbridge Partners (an investor since 2016), as well as new investors DTCP (formerly Deutsche Telekom Capital Partners) and Lightrock, also participated. In addition, Nathalie Kornhoff-Brüls, a Managing Director in the growth team of Eurazeo, has been appointed to the Neo4j Board of Directors.

Developers, developers, developers: The biggest social network ever

For many years, we’ve kept an eye on Neo4j; it’s the first time the company refers to a valuation number, pegging it at $2 billion currently. When discussing this with Eifrem, he mentioned this could be seen as a proxy for the prospects of the graph market segment at large.

According to Gartner, by 2025, graph technologies will be used in 80% of data and analytics innovations, up from 10% in 2021, facilitating rapid decision making across the enterprise. Other emerging leaders in the database market, Eifrem went on to add, have a strong developer play but not much of a data scientist play.

Where Neo4j differs, according to Eifrem, is they are building their data scientist play, and they are doing it on graph-based data science. Indeed, this is an area Neo4j has been investing in. In addition, Neo4j has been expanding its offering to address data scientists, leveraging the fact that graphs have unique advantages to offer to data scientists, too. For example, graph-based machine learning models can leverage more information than others and see rapid growth.

Graph-based data science and machine learning is a topic in and of its own. However, it’s also one of the key areas of investment for Neo4j going forward. Continued investment in the cloud offering, market reach, and developer experience is the other key areas for Neo4j. In addition, the company is partnering with systems integrators and expanding in the APAC area.

Eifrem often attributes Neo4j’s success to the emphasis on developer experience. Case in point, NODES — Neo4j Online Developer Expo & Summit — which Neo4j has been organizing since 2019, aimed specifically at developers. Neo4j pays attention to its messaging for developers, and Eifrem’s keynote at NODES today is no exception.

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Neo4j 4.0 introduced Fabric, its solution for horizontal scalability via sharding and federation. A demo to showcases real-time query performance against a graph with over 200 billion nodes and more than a trillion relationships, running on over 1000 thousand machines. Image: Neo4j

Neo4j

Historically, one of the main criticisms on Neo4j has been on its distribution model, which critics argue leads to suboptimal scalability for large graphs. In 2020, Neo4j 4.0 introduced Fabric, its solution for horizontal scalability via sharding and federation. In addition, Eifrem’s NODES 2021 keynote includes a demo to show real-time query performance against a graph with over 200 billion nodes and more than a trillion relationships running on over 1000 machines.

To put it into perspective, Neo4j notes, a graph of a trillion relationships could house a social graph detailing how every person on the planet is connected. Eifrem mentioned that the demo is based on the LDBC Social Network Benchmark. LDBC is a cross-industry initiative working on defining and executing benchmarks for graph database technologies.

Eifrem also mentioned that the setup and configuration of the demo would be made available on GitHub for anyone wishing to replicate this. Not that it will be very easy to do this at the scale Neo4j executed. Just generating the dataset takes considerable expertise and resources. As for running it, securing 1000 servers from AWS was not easy, and it cost over $96k per day. It took lots of effort by the engineering team, who put it together in under one month.

The idea, however, is to make things easier for developers, at least when they’re not running something as demanding. In that direction, Neo4j is also announcing a free tier for Aura, its managed database cloud service. Developers can sign up for free, get up and running at the free tier forever, and start building applications or play around Neo4j at zero cost, Eifrem said.

Making it easy to onboard and then scale up as needed sounds like the way to go. Both investors and developers seem to appreciate this.

Source: https://www.zdnet.com/article/the-biggest-investment-in-database-history-the-biggest-social-network-ever-and-other-graph-stories-from-neo4j/

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