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Automation Part 2 – Restaurants

by: Josh Hunt


Following on from an article I wrote back in May entitled Automation Part 1 – Retail I felt that the next logical step in the automation series would be food preparation and service. People always use restaurants as an example of an industry where technology simply can’t take over. I would of course argue differently. Although I don’t expect technology to take hold of the food industry within the next five years I do believe that within ten years time technology will be commonplace in restaurants and cafes globally. Much of the technology required to automate a food establishment has been developed and is available right now and with the potential to replace humans in the workplace the popularity of this technology will grow and grow. I’m sure many of you have started to see various new technologies appearing in eateries already.
By looking at the ordering process in a restaurant, the stage in the operation that can cause the most amount of confusion and problems, we can see that the technology to automate this process has been available for a number of years. Touchscreen technology opens up the possibility of the customer being able to choose whatever they want off of the menu without any interaction with humans at all. This helps eradicate many of the problems that arise through miscommunication and errors made by waiters and waitresses. Of course there will still be an element of operator error, but as technology continues to become more intuitive and user friendly the number of mistakes will reduce enormously. This technology is already being implemented across the globe and as it grows in sophistication the need for a human to take an order will be all but removed. The automated menu will be a much cheaper option for any restaurant and because of this I’m sure we’ll see this trend grow.

(Full Story...)




Death by Technology

Wal-Mart shopping for subsidies

by: CNN Money

Watchdog group's report says $1B in government subsidies have aided the retailer's expansion.


 NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Over $1 billion in government subsidies have gone into transforming discounter Wal-Mart Stores from a regional discount store operator into the world's largest retailer, according to a report Monday from Good Jobs First, a Washington-based subsidy watchdog group.

"Wal-Mart presents itself as an entrepreneurial success story, yet over a few decades it has made extensive use of tax breaks, free land, cash grants and other forms of public assistance," Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First said in a statement.

The study, which is funded in part by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, found that 91 Wal-Mart stores have received individual subsidies ranging from $1 million to about $12 million, in the form of free or reduced-priced land, job training funds, sales tax rebates, tax credits and infrastructure assistance, including investment in roads.

In total, these subsidies amounted to $245 million, the report said.

(Full Story...)




Social Security and Medicare to run short sooner than expected

by: Jeanne Sahadi


Social Security and Medicare -- the country's two biggest entitlement programs -- will run dry earlier than expected, according a report Friday from the programs' trustees.

After the programs' trust funds are exhausted, Social Security and Medicare will be taking in only enough money to pay a portion of promised benefits to retirees.

Combined, the cost of the programs represented 8.4% of the size of the nation's economy last year -- a figure that would jump to 11.8% by 2035.

The reason: The number of beneficiaries will explode as more Baby Boomers retire and lower birth rates will slow growth in the number of workers paying into the system. (How entitlements will eat up tax dollars)

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner urged policymakers to take steps to shore up the two programs.

"We should not wait for the trust funds to be exhausted to make the reforms necessary to protect our current and future retirees," he said. "Larger, more difficult adjustments will be necessary if we delay reform."


Social Security: Exhausted in 2036

Social Security will have sufficient resources to pay 100% of promised benefits through 2036. That's one year earlier than last year's forecast because the economic recovery has been slower than expected and seniors are living longer.


(Full Story...)




Death by Technology | Decline and Collapse (US)

TrapWire: The Less-Than-Advertised System To Spy On Americans

by: Sarah Hedgecock


When WikiLeaks began releasing internal e-mails from the powerful “global intelligence” firm Stratfor, it created a web-wide burst of conspiracies, warnings, and activism about TrapWire, a privately run surveillance system that at first glance seems pretty science fiction-y. So don your tinfoil hat and learn all about TrapWire, Stratfor, and what you should really be worrying about.


What is TrapWire?


While it’s been widely described as a Minority Report-like, global facial-recognition surveillance system to predict your every move, it’s actually much less exciting than that. TrapWire is kind of predictive, but it doesn’t apparently rely on facial recognition—probably because the company isn’t very good at that particular technology yet. It’s not necessarily worldwide, though its list of reported users is pretty extensive: Las Vegas casinos, #10 Downing Street, the New York City subway system (though the Department has flatly denied using the system), the LAPD, Washington, D.C., and all of Texas. Basically, TrapWire uses whatever closed-circuit cameras the user can access (like those domed security cameras on the ceilings of grocery stores, in the subway, and, well, everywhere else) to monitor activity. Nothing new so far; security cameras tend to do that kind of thing. But here’s where it gets interesting: “suspicious activities” – taking pictures, making measurements, and other things that could point to a nefarious terrorist plot – can be flagged. These are combined with civilian reports aggregated by the software (think “If you see something, say something”), and assessed by TrapWire analysts. The resulting “suspicious activity reports” are sent to the user and any relevant law enforcement, including the Department of Homeland Security. The idea is to catch potential terrorists before they actually do anything and to connect geographically dispersed plotters and plots. Or that, at least, was Stratfor’s sales pitch about the system, and what the Web was responding to.


(Full Story...)




Death by Technology

Civilian Deaths from US Drone Attacks Much Higher than Reported

by: The Real News


Record number of coal-fired generators to be shut down in 2012

by: Michael Bastasch



Facing declining demand for electricity and stiff federal environmental regulations, coal plant operators are planning to retire 175 coal-fired generators, or 8.5 percent of the total coal-fired capacity in the United States, according to an analysis by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

A record-high 57 generators will shut down in 2012, representing 9 gigawatts of electrical capacity, according to EIA. In 2015, nearly 10 gigawatts of capacity from 61 coal-fired generators will be retired.

While many of those coal plants are old and relatively inefficient, the scope of this new planned shutdown is unprecedented.

“The coal-fired capacity expected to be retired over the next five years is more than four times greater than retirements performed during the preceding five-year period,” EIA noted in the analysis.

(Full Story...)



Decline and Collapse (US)

Drought leaves Mississippi River 12 feet below normal level -- and barge traffic at a crawl

by: Michelle Miller


(CBS News) GRANITE CITY, Ill. - A powerful storm system known as a derecho swept across the Midwest Tuesday, knocking out power to more than 300,000 homes and businesses in Illinois. But it did little to reverse the damage done by the record drought across much of the country -- now taking a toll on one of America's most important commercial waterways.

Barge operator Mark Fletcher has been shipping corn and grain on the Mississippi river for over 30 years. Twice a day, he checks river levels in St. Louis. Today, it's nearly 12 feet below average, making the river narrow and shallow.

"It takes more turns, more shipments to get the same amount of tonnage down to New Orleans," Fletcher said.

The drought has exposed sandbars. To navigate around them, tugboats must push fewer barges that carry less cargo. Fletcher is losing $3,600 per barge.

Consumers may start to be affected. "The company that buys the corn or wheat or the soybeans to process and other food items is obviously going to raise their prices over time," Fletcher said.

One barge can haul as much as 58 tractor trailers at a fraction of the price. But with water levels so low, navigation -- a tough skill to begin with -- becomes even more dangerous for riverboat pilots."

"The biggest fear right now is as water level drops, they're going to continue to run aground," creating an aquatic traffic jam, Fletcher said

(Full Story...)




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