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Autonomous cars, drones delivering packages and robots filling prescriptions are becoming familiar sights, so today we look at where automation might impact businesses the most.

Even before the global pandemic, waiting in line to get prescriptions filled in a pharmacy was a pain. Enter NowRx, a company that started in the Bay Area and expanded to Orange County with sights on extending its reach to other regions of the state and Arizona.

The company claims it has 99% of the pharmaceuticals typically found at brick-and-mortar pharmacies (and online) and can deliver medication to you on the day or sometimes hours after your doctor submits a prescription.

Volume and speed

How can that happen and be profitable? Automation and logistics are key.

“NowRx uses a micro-fulfillment strategy that matches its service up against the 10 or more pharmacies in a 5-mile radius of its warehouse,” says co-founder and CEO Cary Breese.

Breese says the company operates with significantly less overhead with no need for retail spaces, and the use of robotics means prescriptions are filled “extremely fast.”

Also, a typical pharmacy in a grocery store, with people counting pills, might average a couple of hundred prescriptions a day according to McKesson, a pharmacy advisement company. “The NowRx pharmacists can process more than 2,000 a day,” Breese says.

Getting to you quickly

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The company also uses technology to speed up deliveries. Drivers follow specially designed routes that use technology to optimize speed and the number of stops per route.

“It might cost a typical big-box pharmacy about $8 per prescription to make, while our cost is down to about $2,” Breese said. A study of human errors in dispensing pharmacy prescriptions found a mistake rate of about 0.015. NowRx’s dispensing error rate is about 0.00012.

Automation and logistics are essential in the speed of same-day service. Plus, you won’t have to get out of your pajamas to get your medicine.

Where machines could replace humans

The estimated global number of potential employees who could be replaced by 2030 in millions and the percentage of total employees for each sector:

Automated farming

Automated farm tools can work for hours without rest and are being applied to all areas of agribusiness.

Advancements in automated agribusiness are expected to have the largest global impact on the workforce. There are hundreds of startup companies focusing on livestock, orchards and fields. Here is a look at some technology available to farmers:

  •  Farm management software to help manage resources, crop production and animals.
  •  Precision agriculture and predictive data analytics decisions to save energy, increase efficiency, optimize herbicide and pesticide application.
  • Animal data aimed at better understanding livestock, from breeding patterns to genomics.
  • Smart irrigation helps monitor and automate water usage for farms using various data exhausts.
  • Sensors that collect data and help farmers monitor crop health, weather and soil quality.
  • Plant data/analysis: Granular data about plant composition and/or analyzing that data to improve seed research, development and breeding.

 

Rise of robotics

In 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed the first humanoid robot. In 1954, George Devol and Joe Engleberger designed the first programmable robotic arm. This led to the development of the first industrial robot, pictured below, “Unimate” in 1961.

Sources: Iron Ox, McKinsey & Co., CB Insights, HandsFree Hectare, Fieldwork Robotics Ltd., Yamaha, DOT Technologies, Postscapes, Bureau of Labor Statistics, NowRx

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Tech giants Google, Microsoft, and Amazon have secured more than 5,000 previously unreported military and law enforcement contracts, data shows

Tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, have secured more than 5,000 previously unreported contracts with military and federal law enforcement, data published on Wednesday shows.

According to accountability nonprofit, Tech Inquiry, some of those contracts have been with the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.

The research was led by Jack Poulson, a former Google research scientist who quit the company in 2018. 

Tech giants, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, have secured more than 5,000 previously unreported contracts with military and federal law enforcement. Microsoft (file image) has 5,000 subcontracts alone 

According to accountability nonprofit, Tech Inquiry , some of those contracts have been with the Department of Defense, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the FBI

According to NBC News, Poulson left the company after months of internal campaigning to get clarity about Google's plans to deploy a censored version of its search engine in China called Project Dragonfly. 

He has also stood on the opposing side when it comes down to collaborations between tech companies and the military.   

Poulson's research consists of the analysis of more than 30 million government contracts within the past five years. 

Of those, Microsoft was found to have more than 5,000 subcontracts with the Department of Defense and various federal law enforcement agencies since 2016. 

'Often the high-level contract description between tech companies and the military looks very vanilla and mundane,' Poulson told NBC News. 

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'But only when you look at the details of the contract, which you can only get through Freedom of Information [Act] requests, do you see the workings of how the customization from a tech company would actually be involved.' 

According to Tech Inquiry's analysis, Amazon has agreed to more than 350 subcontracts with the military and federal law enforcement agencies, like ICE and the FBI, since 2016.

Meanwhile, Google has more than 250 previously unreported contracts. 

Ted Ladd, a Google Cloud spokesperson, told NBC that the company remains 'committed to partnering with the government on projects that are consistent with our terms of service, acceptable use policies, and AI Principles'.

Employees of tech giants like Google have protested against contracts that bolster military activity. 

Employees of tech giants like Google have protested against contracts like Project Maven that bolster military activity. Project Maven seeks to incorporate AI technology on the battlefield. Google backed out of its contract in 2018 after worldwide upheaval from its employees

For example, Project Maven, which seeks to incorporate AI technology on the battlefield, first attracted the attention of Google, but the firm backed out of its contract in 2018 after worldwide upheaval from its employees.  

The US military has been looking to incorporate elements of artificial intelligence and machine learning into its drone program.

Project Maven, as the effort is known, aims to provide some relief to military analysts who are part of the war against the Islamic State.

These analysts currently spend long hours staring at big screens reviewing video feeds from drones as part of the hunt for insurgents in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Pentagon is trying to develop algorithms that would sort through the material and alert analysts to important finds, according to Air Force Lieutenant General John N.T. 'Jack' Shanahan, director for defense intelligence for warfighting support.

The hope is that it will not only result in fewer casualties, but also provide some relief to military analysts whose job it is to spend long hours staring at big screens reviewing video feeds from drones.

Read more:
  • techinquiry.org/...
  • Thousands of contracts highlight quiet ties between Big Tech and U.S. military

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