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SI systems consist typically of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment. The inspiration often comes from nature, especially biological systems. The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of "intelligent" global behavior, unknown to the individual agents. Examples in natural systems of SI include ant colonies, bird flocking, animal herding, bacterial growth, fish schooling and microbial intelligence.
The application of swarm principles to robots is called swarm robotics, while 'swarm intelligence' refers to the more general set of algorithms. 'Swarm prediction' has been used in the context of forecasting problems.
A little more than a year ago, Amazon announced a new grocery store concept that promised customers a human-less shopping experience. Customers would simply walk in, grab the items they need, and leave without waiting in a line or going through a checkout—letting sensors, computer vision, and machine learning quietly do all the work to capture, calculate, and charge you for your purchases.
But Amazon’s rival JD.com, the second biggest online retailer in China after Alibaba, has already beaten it to the punch. JD announced that, in partnership with Hong Kong real estate developer China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd, it plans to open hundreds of unmanned convenience stores with technology reportedly more advanced than Amazon’s. Its trial shops have already been tested by the 10,000 employees at its Beijing headquarters.
JD’s shops will use RFIDs and cameras with facial recognition and image recognition technology on the store ceilings to track each customer’s movement and product selection. As the store learns from a customer’s preferences over time, it will also begin to show personalized advertisements. The same tracking technology will also help store owners restock inventory more efficiently.
In addition to its fully integrated store concept, JD tested a second shop model that uses low-cost piecemeal technology solutions, such as smart shelving tools, that will allow existing stores to upgrade and increase the efficiency of their operations.
The company said that all of its technology will eventually be licensed to third-party retailers.
“These two smart-store solutions will completely change what it means to go to take a trip to the store,” said JD vice president Song Ma. “From helping small stores’ owners streamline their supply chains and increase stocking efficiency, to speeding up check out, this is a massive jump beyond anything in use today.”
Whereas Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods has given the American tech giant a brick-and-mortar presence to potentially roll out its Amazon Go vision, JD will leverage COLI’s real estate resources across China to rapidly expand. The China Daily reports JD and COLI’s partnership will extend into the development of other smart city solutions, including a last-mile delivery service using driverless vehicles that follow pre-programmed routes and have secure lockers onboard.
RFID and QR codes will have a role to play in the implementation of blockchains. An example:
How blockchain is strengthening tuna traceability to combat illegal fishing
Candice Visser and Quentin Hanich The Conversation
In a significant development for global fisheries, blockchain technology is now being used to improve tuna traceability to help stop illegal and unsustainable fishing practices in the Pacific Islands tuna industry.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Australia, Fiji and New Zealand, in partnership with US-based tech innovator ConsenSys, tech implementer TraSeable and tuna fishing and processing company Sea Quest Fiji Ltd, has just launched a pilot project in the Pacific Islands tuna industry that will use blockchain technology to track the journey of tuna from “bait to plate”.
Blockchain technology is rapidly evolving beyond Bitcoin. Emerging applications are geared to improve business in many ways – including supply-chain transparency for all kinds of products.
A blockchain is a digital ledger that is distributed, decentralised, verifiable and irreversible. It can be used to record transactions of almost anything of value.
Essentially, it is a shared (not copied) database that everyone in the network can see and update. This system provides multiple benefits for supply chains, including high levels of transparency. This is because everyone in the network can see and verify the ledger, and no individual can alter or delete the history of transactions.
For consumers, this means you will be able to scan a code on an item you want to buy and find out exactly where it has been before landing in your hands. It will be easy to answer those tricky questions about whether or not an item – such as a fish – is sustainable, ethical or legal.
As seen here, once the tuna is caught, a reusable tag is attached, from which information is then automatically uploaded to blockchain. WWF ___________________________________
Using blockchain to trace tuna
The WWF pilot project will use a combination of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, quick response (QR) code tags and scanning devices to collect information about the journey of a tuna at various points along the supply chain. While this use of technology is not new for supply-chain tracking, the exciting part is that the collected information will then be recorded using blockchain technology.
Tracking will start as soon as the tuna is caught. Once a fish is landed, it will be attached with a reusable RFID tag on the vessel. Devices fitted on the vessel, at the dock and in the processing factory will then detect the tags and automatically upload information to the blockchain.
Once the fish has been processed, the reusable RFID tag will be switched for a cheaper QR code tag, which will be attached to the product packaging. The unique QR code will be linked to the blockchain record associated with the particular fish and its original RFID tag. The QR code tag will be used to trace the rest of the journey of the fish to the consumer.
At the moment, linking tags is not difficult because the project is focusing on whole round exports – that is, the whole fresh fish minus head, gills and guts. It gets a little more complicated when the fish is cut up into loins, steaks, cubes and cans, but the project team is now able to link the QR code tags on the packages of the processed fish with the record of the original fish on the blockchain.
While it may be possible to use RFID tags throughout the whole process, the expense of these tags could prohibit smaller operators in the fishing industry from participating in the scheme if it expands. There is also potential to use near field communicator (NFC) devices to track the fish all the way to the consumer in the future.
Marine Stewardship Council-certified yellowfin tuna processed at SeaQuest processing plant at Walu Bay, Suva, Fiji, December 2017. WWF ____________________________________
Bringing much-needed transparency to the industryWhile this use of the blockchain is the first of its kind for the Pacific Islands region, it is not a world first. A company called Provenence and the International Pole and Line Association (IPLA) has already completed a successful pilot project tracing products from Indonesian tuna fisheries to consumers in the UK.
Provenance is also working on using blockchain to track a range of other physical things – including cotton, fashion, coffee and organically farmed food products. However, the potential of blockchain goes further. For example, Kodak recently launched its own cryptocurrency to help photographers track and protect their digital intellectual property.
Blockchain technology is just starting to change the way business is done. If it delivers on its promise of supply-chain transparency, it will be a great tool to help ensure that industries – including the tuna industry – are doing the right thing.
This will give consumers more information on which to base their purchasing decisions. For the global tuna industry, which has historically struggled with illegal and environmentally dubious fishing practices, this could be a turning point as visionary fishing companies demonstrate true stewardship and begin to open up the industry to full transparency.
IBM has introduced a blockchain-ready "cryptographic anchor" that does not appear to incorporate RFID technology.
RFID technology has been around for decades and is established within the supply chain industry, with the market value of RFID technology alone predicted to rise to US$18.68 billion by 2026. IBM's technological development predicts a move away from RFID products, to a newer method of ensuring supply chain security, in which their products can "monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data" – all aided by the blockchain.
IBM kicked off its Think 2018 conference today with a bombshell announcement: It has made the world’s smallest computer, and it’s designed from the ground up to work with the blockchain. The computer itself is smaller than a single grain of salt, coming in at 1 millimeter by 1 millimeter and reportedly has about the same computing power as a 1990s era CPU.
“The world’s smallest computer is an IBM-designed edge device architecture and computing platform that is smaller than a grain of salt will cost less than ten cents to manufacture, and can monitor, analyze, communicate, and even act on data,” IBM claims. “It packs several hundred thousand transistors into a footprint barely visible to the human eye and can help verify that a product has been handled properly throughout its long journey.”
Impressive as it is, for its size, it’s not the kind of chip you’re going to see in a mobile device any time soon, it’s made for something a little different. These microscopic CPUs are designed to be disposable. They’ll spend their lifetimes stuck to products in transit to ensure they arrive where they need to without being tampered with.
“Within the next five years, cryptographic anchors — such as ink dots or tiny computers smaller than a grain of salt — will be embedded in everyday objects and devices,” says IBM’s Arvind Krishna. “They’ll be used in tandem with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to ensure an object’s authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.”
Essentially, these CPUs will be embedded in tags or product packaging, and they’ll log every movement the product makes, from shipment to delivery. They could also be used to ensure the authenticity of luxury goods.
“These technologies pave the way for new solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects, and provenance of luxury goods,” Krishna continues.
So, it’s fair to say the breakthrough here isn’t just the size of these computers, it’s their potential use. Think of them like the bar codes on items in the grocery store. But instead of communicating price info, these CPUs could tell you everything about the product — where it was made, by whom, and where it’s been.
RFID, NFC and QR code Technologies | Stock Discussion ForumsShare
Former Tokyo-based engineer emerges as big winner from China’s love affair with the QR code
Beijing Inspiry Technology Co. is among companies cashing in on the shift to smartphone-based mobile payments in China
South China Morning Post Li Tao PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 7:02am UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 August, 2018, 9:18am
Beijing Inspiry Technology's smart box provides customised services for merchandisers to support specific mobile payment service providers. Photo: Handout ------------------------------
Wang Yue is one of the big winners of China’s love affair with the QR code. His Beijing-based company makes 70 per cent of the point-of-sale scanners used in the country to process transactions using the jigsaw puzzle-like digital labels.
Now the 42-year-old plans to bring his white ‘smart box’ to overseas markets, including Japan and Singapore, in a bet that mobile payments and the two-dimensional bar code will take off, just as it did in China.
His company, Beijing Inspiry Technology Co. is working closely with several organisations in Japan, as well as with Alipay and other international mobile payment brands, to boost the use of QR code payment in Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia and the wider Asia region.
Inspiry has shipped more than 1 million smart boxes since 2015, still a tiny fraction of the number of payment points in China.
For Wang, the expansion to Japan and other parts of Asia represents coming full circle of sorts in a career that included a stint as an engineer for a Tokyo-based company in 2001.
It was in Japan that he noticed hospitals using QR codes, which were invented by Toyota Motor’s automotive parts unit Denso Corp. to solve the limited amount of information that conventional zebra-striped bar codes can hold.
In 2002, he returned to China to set up Inspiry to develop 2D bar codes. He started making the box scanner as early as 2008, initially to validate QR code-based coupons and membership cards. In 2015, as Alipay and WeChat Pay became increasingly popular, the company used the smart box to facilitate mobile payments. Alipay is the payment arm of Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post .
Wang’s big break came in recent years as Chinese consumers skipped paper cheques and credit cards to embrace smartphone-based mobile payments using QR codes. Today, the 6,000 KFC outlets in China use his glass-topped point-of-sale scanner that can process both Alipay and WeChat Pay, the country’s dominant mobile payment apps.
The 6,000 KFC outlets in mainland China use Beijing Inspiry Technology's glass-topped point-of-sale scanner that can process both Alipay and WeChat Pay. Photo: Handout --------------------------------- The price, at 299 yuan, meant it is an relatively affordable option for small-time merchants like vegetable sellers and food-cart vendors, which benefit from the security and convenience of not having to handle as much as cash.
“QR code payments will become popular in developing countries, particularly where many consumers will skip credit cards but use smartphone to make payments directly,” Wang said in a recent interview in Beijing. “The smart box has fundamentally solved the pain points of current mobile payment, making it more convenient and efficient to process as mobile payment has become an indispensable part of life among Chinese.”
Wang said he believes QR code-based payments will become the mainstream form of mobile payment at least for the next 10 years due to its convenience and low cost.
That belief will be put to the test. In overseas markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong, besides cash, consumers still predominantly use credit or debit cards, or even mass transit cards, to pay for purchases. Advances in contactless and chip-based technology have also cut down processing time compared with the traditional swipe-and-sign procedure for card-based purchases.
Just how popular are mobile payments in China? The central bank put out a notice last month reminding businesses to accept cash as payment. Paying by smartphone, using either Alipay or WeChat Pay, has become so common in China that even beggars are holding out QR codes because many passers-by do not carry cash.
Mobile payment transactions surpassed 40 trillion yuan (US$5.8 trillion) in China in the first quarter of this year, according to data from Beijing-based Analysys, a market research company.
Inspiry received a further boost when regulators discouraged the use of static codes – such as those that are printed out by merchants on a piece of paper – after reports of widespread fraud involving fake QR codes to divert mobile payments. A 500-yuan limit was imposed on such transactions. The company’s scanner box instead reads the QR code generated on the payer’s smartphone and can also process electronic membership cards and coupons.
The rising popularity of mobile payments has created a wave of payment terminal makers including Fujian Landi Equipment, Newland Payment Technology and Bejing Lakala Payment. Shanghai Sunmi Technology, a POS terminal developer backed by Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi, introduced scanners that can also process orders from food delivery apps. Starbucks uses Honeywell’s bar code readers in China.
“We’re still only in the spring of mobile payments,” Wang said. “Just 10 years ago, it took 17 seconds to call up a QR code. Almost nobody then could imagine the widespread use of QR code payment today.”
‘Low-Code’ Becomes High Priority as Automation Demands Soar
CIOs are expanding the use of tools that let noncoders create applications Chief information officers, on the hook to automate manual and repetitive business processes, are increasingly turning to tools designed to create applications quickly, without the sweat of writing and debugging lines of code.
Collectively known as “low-code,” these tools have been available in some form for decades. But they have grown more popular with information-technology staff and other departments as workplace automation grows and young, mobile-savvy people join the workforce.
With low-code, employees can quickly make apps by picking, dragging and dropping from a collection of ready-made software building blocks.
Johnson Controls International PLC, an Ireland-based industrial and technology conglomerate that makes heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, tapped nontech employees like engineers to create low-code dashboards that track installations, record project metrics and manage service calls, said Chief Information Officer Nancy Berce.
The company, which has about 105,000 employees across more than 100 countries, set up guardrails so the low-code apps don’t disrupt the resiliency of its central systems, she said.
“A lot of people are creating a lot of good things; how do we start to share that and make that more available to broader users? We haven’t quite figured that one out yet. That’s the next level of maturity,” Ms. Berce said.
Freeing up staff to focus on core technology issues was one of the reasons St. Luke’s University Health Network in Pennsylvania started using low-code, said CIO Chad Brisendine.
“There’s always a bigger appetite for IT than what we’re able to provide. I see this as helping meet that demand,” Mr. Brisendine said.
IT employees turned to low-code to build more than 20 applications using Microsoft Corp. tools. None of them took more than 20 hours to create.
It took eight hours to make an app that pulls information from the hospital’s systems, including a Workday Inc. platform, to track and send reminders to staff on continuing medical training, a requirement for doctors to retain their license. The author, an analyst in the IT department, didn’t know how to code, Mr. Brisendine said.
Mr. Brisendine next year plans to expand low-code training to more business units within St. Luke’s, which has about 15,000 employees.
Forms of low-code have been around for decades, but combining it with the use of application programming interfaces, chunks of code designed to connect systems and platforms and share data, has made it easier for those not conversant in C++ or Java to create applications with a punch, said Jason Wong, senior director at research and advisory company Gartner Inc.
Gartner is projecting that low-code will account for more than 65% of application development activity by 2024.
David Hoag, CIO at Chicago-based Options Clearing Corp., a central clearinghouse serving as a backstop for trades in the options market, said making low-code applications is as easy as dragging and dropping widgets.
The company used low-code to develop a visitor-registration system as part of an “app a day” program, where technology teams work with other departments to create applications to solve pressing business problems. The system, created in less than a day, registers visitors, logs arrival and departure times, captures visitor and badge information, and helps the facilities team generate reports on visitor activity.
Similar commercial software was quoted at costing between $30,000 and $50,000 a year, Mr. Hoag said.
OCC started building low-code apps in 2015 and today uses about 30 of them. Mr. Hoag sees low-code’s use spreading beyond IT.
Venture outside and you’ll soon see them. Printed on posters and signs, pasted on pub walls and hotel lobbies, sellotaped to picnic tables in beer gardens: QR codes.
As the hospitality industry begins tentatively to open up, bolstered in the UK by the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ discount scheme, restaurants and hotels are turning to technology to deliver a dine-in experience that is as touch-free as possible. Suddenly, a card menu that gets passed through the germy hands of one customer to the next doesn’t seem so appealing. QR codes – the black, barcode-like squares that can point to text or a website – have been around for a while, but was previously dismissed as largely a marketing gimmick, at least in a consumer context. Now the QR code has found its time to shine.
“Up until now a QR code, certainly to me, has just been a collection of black and white patterns on a billboard or on a bus stop or wherever,” says Edmund Inkin, who co-owns three hotels across Cornwall and Wales under the brand Eat Drink Sleep. “I’d never really thought of using them.” Now, visitors to Eat Drink Sleep hotels can access the food menu, drinks list and details on room bookings via QR code (QR stands for Quick Response).
Nils Engelking, cofounder of Egoditor, a mobile marketing company that runs an online QR code generator and works with companies to implement them, says the coronavirus pandemic was something of a rollercoaster for the business. First, customer numbers dropped off, as shops and events were forced to shut down. The main function of a QR code, after all, is to link the digital world with the physical: people can scan the code in real life to get more information on their phone. “So if there’s no sort of life out there and people gathering, QR codes are not that much necessary any more,” Engelking says.
As lockdowns around the world started to ease, however, the QR code found itself in its element: it was the perfect touch-free medium. It allowed people to interact with the world around them, while only touching their own smartphone. “Coronavirus just gave it a big push in terms of adoption in terms of technology and also in terms of the end customers,” Engelking says. He says that Egoditor has seen a huge increase in adoption, with a 25x increase in signups from restaurants in June compared to February, and 7x increase in signups from hotels .There has also been an increase in the number of customers actually scanning the QR codes, which Engelking puts down to them being implemented for more useful functions. Many restaurants and hotels are using QR codes to display menus, or to direct people to booking pages where they can order food or reserve rooms directly online. They are also starting to be used to help with contact-tracing – keeping a record of who has been where in order to be able to track those who may have come into contact with the virus. The NHS Test and Trace service’s new app, which is currently entering trials, will allow users to scan a QR code at venues in order to keep a log of where they’ve been. Currently, venues on the Isle of Wight are able to create a QR code to work with the Test and Trace system.
Some offices are also turning to the tech to help with bringing people back to work. Software company SAP, which has reopened two of its buildings with a very limited capacity, has incorporated QR codes into its broader strategy of signage, sanitiser and distancing, in order to inform employees of updates. Scanning the QR code takes employees to information on the latest procedures and processes in place at the office.
Facilities manager Sarah Woodman says the QR code approach means the company doesn’t have to print out so many materials and results in a touch-free experience. “People don’t have to touch things – they’ve got their own phone, they can scan it, they can touch their own phone.” One other advantage is that you can easily update the information that the QR code leads to without changing the code itself. When SAP started using a different car park, for instance, Woodman was able to inform employees simply by tweaking the text that the QR code pointed to.
As well as perhaps finally finding their killer app, QR codes have benefited from technology moving on somewhat since they first began appearing in marketing materials. Whereas previously you may have had to install a special QR code-reading app in order to scan the codes, many newer phone models will now do this automatically through the main camera function. Engelking says that businesses are also using them better: if you hide a QR code in your marketing designs with no clear call to action, people won’t know what to do with it; if you put it front-and-centre on your restaurant table explaining that it’s how to access the menu, people will.
One of Inkin’s main concerns in using the tech was whether it would fit with the atmosphere of the hotels; he wanted to make sure not to lose the human element of service. For this reason, he says, Eat Drink Sleep is generally “relatively resistant” to technology, using it only where it really enhances what they do. They considered online ordering apps, but decided it took too much of the dining experience away, opting instead to use a QR code menu but still have people taking diners’ orders at the table (from a safe distance).
The hotel company also had their QR codes laser-cut onto wooden cards by a local company, to match more with its aesthetic. Inkin keeps some single-use paper menus to hand for people who really don’t want to use the technology, but he says that most visitors are more than happy to. He imagines that the company will continue using the tech even after coronavirus is a concern. “I think because it’s very likely we’re going to be needing to use this for 6, 9, 12, 18 months, and that these types of guidelines will be in place for us to be operating in a Covid-safe way, it’s going to become fairly hardwired both into how we do things and how our guests do things, what they expect.”
Some businesses have gone beyond QR codes to use other touch-free tech. Hotel chain citizenM has launched a “contactless” experience through its new app, which lets visitors check in, create their own keycard, order food and drink, and even control the lights and air conditioning in their room. The app, says Casper Overbeek, director of customer experience, was already in the works before the pandemic hit, but the company fast-tracked some features relevant to a contactless stay when this suddenly became more urgent. “It really is a way to say ‘listen, you don’t need to touch anything you don’t want to,’” he says.
Overbeek believes that even if contactless features are no longer necessary or desirable post-Covid, the frictionless experience offered by tech will be. “Any feature that we’re now building to make contactless possible actually also has a convenience element to it, and I’m sure that the convenience element will stay.”
Instagram -------------------------- Instagram is bringing QR codes to the app. Users can now generate QR codes that’ll be scannable from any supporting, third-party camera apps. It first launched the product in Japan last year. The idea is that businesses can print their QR code and have customers scan it to open their Instagram account easily. From there, people can see store hours, buy items, or just follow the account.
To generate your QR code, go to the settings menu on your profile and tap QR code. You might still see Nametag there, but eventually, it’ll become QR code. You can then save or share the image. Instagram previously deployed a similar system called Nametags, which were internal QR-like codes that could only be scanned from the Instagram camera. It’s now deprecating the feature entirely.
Multiple other apps employ their own QR-like system, including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Spotify. (Only Twitter supports actual QR codes.) But with the pandemic, it’s unsurprising to see Instagram embrace the more open QR system. Restaurants have begun leaving QR codes out instead of their physical menus, and other businesses request that people scan a QR code to load their website. While Nametags might have worked for this purpose, QR codes make it easier for people to scan and make them less reliant on taking out the Instagram camera to access information.