Connect with us

News

How data is reshaping real estate

Published

on

How data is reshaping real estate

By Patrick Sisson, The New York Times Company

Jordan Fisher was troubled. Every variety of the Red Bull energy drink comes in a similar metallic can, and his company’s camera system, which tracks products that customers pick up in stores, was having trouble distinguishing them.

This obstacle was one of many that his company, Standard AI, faced while retrofitting a Circle K convenience store in Tempe, Arizona, with computer vision software, which tracks every item that customers pick up so they can simply scan their app-enabled phone to pay as they leave, eliminating the checkout line. A network of more than 100 cameras can identify any of the thousands of similarly sized candy bars or beverages grabbed by customers, including cans of Red Bull, now identifiable thanks to a combination of geometric projections and higher-resolution cameras.

This tracking of consumer activity within the store — where shoppers look and linger, with cameras capturing their interactions and their near-misses — is part of a growing effort to use data collection to make commercial real estate more efficient.

“Checkout is kind of the killer app, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Fisher, CEO of Standard AI, which hones camera accuracy in high-volume, high-density environments. “You have a system that understands where people are in real time, down to the centimeter. It’s all about utilization of real estate.”

From the invasion of big-box stores to the ascendancy of e-commerce and, most recently, pandemic lockdowns, physical retail may seem stuck in perpetual crisis. But in-person shopping is still very popular and the subject of significant investment. (Retail tech investment hit a record $31.5 billion in the second quarter this year.) Amazon has spent generously on physical retail, including $13.4 billion on the acquisition of Whole Foods, and the development of its Just Walk Out system, which kick-started a race for cashierless checkout among grocery stores and retailers.

The added layers of technology in stores and entertainment venues — crowd-tracking cameras, information gleaned from smartphones, tallies of neighborhood foot traffic and sophisticated demographic data — aim to replicate the data measurement and analysis of the online experience.

But privacy advocates are sounding the alarm about the technology as Big Tech is under increased scrutiny. Congressional testimony from the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, in October has intensified calls for new regulations to rein in Silicon Valley giants.

Outcast via The New York Times

A handout photo shows the crowd analysis software used by Standard AI to track customers in a Circle K store in Tempe, Arizona. Tech start-ups are offering new tools to help retailers and entertainment venues be more efficient by counting crowds, tracking foot traffic and following local shopping habits.

Complicating efforts to address privacy concerns is a lack of regulatory clarity. Without an overarching federal privacy law or even a shared definition of personal data, retailers must sort through layers of state and municipal rules, such as California’s Consumer Privacy Act, said Gary Kibel, a partner at law firm Davis+Gilbert who specializes in retail privacy.

Technology companies counter the pushback by noting that their systems are designed to limit what they collect and anonymize the rest. For instance, Standard AI’s system does not capture faces, so they cannot be analyzed with facial recognition technology.

The growing volume of data on consumer and crowd behavior is having significant implications on real estate design. It is making even physical space more interactive for marketers.

google news

News

White House is set to put itself at center of US crypto policy

Published

on

White House is set to put itself at center of US crypto policy

The Biden administration is preparing to release an initial government-wide strategy for digital assets as soon as next month and task federal agencies with assessing the risks and opportunities that they pose, according to people familiar with the matter.

Senior administration officials have held multiple meetings on the plan, which is being drafted as an executive order, said the people. The directive, which would be presented to President Joe Biden in the coming weeks, puts the White House at the center of Washington’s efforts to deal with cryptocurrencies.

Federal agencies have taken a scatter-shot approach to digital assets over the past several years and Biden’s team is facing pressure to lead on the issue. Industry executives often bemoan what they say is a lack of clarity on U.S. rules and others worry that an embrace by China and other nations of government-backed coins could threaten the dollar’s dominance.

The White House declined to comment.

The Biden administration’s increased focus comes at a time of broad consumer interest in the volatile cryptocurrency market. Bitcoin, the biggest and most liquid cryptocurrency, fell below $37,000 on Friday, compared with an all-time high of nearly $69,000 in November.

The late-stage draft of the executive order details economic, regulatory and national security challenges posed by cryptocurrencies, said the people who asked not to be named discussing internal deliberations. It would call for reports from various agencies due in the second half of 2022.

One such study would come from the Financial Stability Oversight Council, a group that includes the heads of Washington’s top financial watchdogs, looking at the possible systemic impacts of digital assets. Another government report would look at illicit uses of the virtual coins.

Meanwhile, the directive would also require other agencies to weigh in — carving out roles for everyone from the State Department to the Commerce Department. Some of those tasks will be meant to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive as the world increasingly adopts digital assets.

The administration’s plan, including the directives in the order, could be further modified before it’s finalized, the people cautioned.

The administration is also expected to weigh in on the possibility of the U.S. issuing a government-backed coin, known as a central bank digital currency or CBDC, the people familiar with the talks said. But, according to one of the people, the administration is likely to hold off on taking a firm position, as the Federal Reserve is still considering the issue.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Wilmington deadly train strike: MBTA says ‘human error’ is behind ‘heartbreaking accident’

Published

on

Wilmington deadly train strike: MBTA says ‘human error’ is behind ‘heartbreaking accident’

Police investigating the fatal collision of a Commuter Rail train into a vehicle last Friday say that “human error” is behind the horrific wreck that occurred in Wilmington.

The victim of the devastating crash was Roberta Sausville, 68, of Wilmington, according to the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office.

Investigators say that Sausville was driving alone on Middlesex Avenue in Wilmington at around 5:51 p.m. when an inbound Haverhill Line train struck the driver’s side of her vehicle near the North Wilmington MBTA station. Sausville was pronounced dead at the scene.

The investigation remains active, but “human error is the primary focus of investigators from MBTA Transit Police, State Police and the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.

Less than an hour before the accident, a signal maintainer for Keolis — the Commuter Rail operator — was performing regularly scheduled testing and preventative maintenance of the railroad crossing’s safety system.

“Following the testing, our preliminary finding is that the safety system was not returned to its normal operating mode,” Poftak said. “This failure resulted in the crossing gates not coming down in a timely manner as the train approached Middlesex Avenue.

“Investigators have not found any defects nor any other problems with the various elements that comprise the infrastructure of the railroad crossing system,” he added.

google news
Continue Reading

News

Minnesota COVID-19 patients face a lottery for monoclonal treatment that works against omicron

Published

on

Minnesota COVID-19 patients face a lottery for monoclonal treatment that works against omicron

Minnesotans who get a serious case of COVID-19 may face long odds of getting one of the life-saving treatments that can fight off the omicron variant because they are in such short supply.

State health officials had steadily increased the availability of monoclonal antibodies — a type of antibody infusion — to help high-risk patients avoid severe COVID-19 infections. Unfortunately, now only one monoclonal antibody formula, Sotrovimab, works against omicron.

“That is in very low supply nationally and in Minnesota,” Jan Malcolm, health commissioner, recently told members of the Minnesota House health committee.

The state has moved to a random selection process to decide who gets what monoclonal antibodies the state has on hand. This week it got just under 600 doses of Sotrovimab, a slight increase from the week before.

The state received larger allocations of the two new antiviral pills — Molnupiravir and Paxlovid — getting about 12,000 total doses of those newly approved pills since they became available in December.

The random selection process the state uses is a weighted system that identifies patients who would most benefit from monoclonal treatments. When treatments are scarce, patients who receive the medicines are picked through a lottery.

In some instances, the process could give consideration to front-line health workers who were sickened while caring for COVID patients. Many Minnesota health systems, but not all, follow the state’s guidance for distributing scarce treatments.

The guidelines do not take into account whether someone has been vaccinated.

The state stopped using race as a factor in that weighted system for allocating monoclonal treatments Jan. 12 after America First Legal threatened a lawsuit against the Minnesota Department of Health alleging racial and ethnic discrimination.

“These racist policies decide questions of life and death based on skin color and must be rescinded immediately,” Stephen Miller, the group’s president and a former adviser to President Trump, said in a statement. “No right is safe if the government can award or deny medical care based on race. End this horrid injustice.”

America First Legal filed a lawsuit Jan. 16 against the New York State Department of Health for a similar policy.

Throughout the pandemic, Minnesota Department of Health data has shown Black, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and multiracial residents have had higher rates of COVID-19 hospitalization and death than white residents.

When asked about the rationale for removing race as a factor, despite it being part of federal guidance, a state Department of Health spokesman said in an emailed statement:

“The State of Minnesota is committed to serving all Minnesotans equitably in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring that communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 have the support and resources they need is critical and we are constantly reviewing our policies in order to meet that goal.”

Minnesota continues to experience record high caseloads of COVID-19 driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. The state is reporting, on average, more than 11,000 new infections each day and test-positivity is at 27 percent.

google news
Continue Reading

Trending