Amazon patents floating warehouses to cater for drone delivery

27 Jul 2018

A drone with an airship in the background. Image: Maxim Blinkov/Shutterstock

A real bounty of consumer goods could one day fly over our heads in the form of a floating Amazon warehouse.

Perhaps the biggest internet of things (IoT) news this week was the signing of an agreement between Dublin City Council and Japanese giant SoftBbank to roll out a series of smart sensor solutions across the city.

As SoftBank’s first European IoT outreach project, it will be piloting its global IoT platform in Dublin city, aiming to build IoT solutions designed to scale that can be easily transferred to other cities.

We also heard from Tríona Butler, the Tipperary-born but Silicon Valley-based Google Home UX lead, who talked about the company’s odyssey into smart speakers and AI.

Amazon patents flying warehouses for drone delivery

Airships may have gone out of fashion with the rapid growth of fixed-wing aircraft, but it seems the blimp could soon return for an entirely different purpose.

According to The Mercury News, Amazon has patented product-distribution warehouses that could be flown in the sky while being attached to a series of blimps.

Amazon is already testing delivery drones, and its aim is to eventually have a number of these blimps flying across the sky. The drones could fly from and back to the blimps to collect another package and fly off again.

“An aerial fulfilment centre may be positioned at an altitude above a metropolitan area and be designed to maintain an inventory of items that may be purchased by a user and delivered to the user by a [drone] that is deployed from the aerial fulfilment centre,” the patent said.

Whether it actually happens remains to be seen, but one thing for certain is that the e-commerce giant wants to stay ahead of the game.

Sleep wearables set to increase with demand

While many joggers are already wearing some form of wearable to track their workout, it now seems as if there is a similar desire for monitoring our sleep.

New research claims that in the US, more than 50m households are interested in picking up a sleep-tracking product.

“Sleep-tracking features of smartwatches and fitness trackers are raising consumer awareness about lack of sleep. 42pc of consumers in US broadband households are concerned their health will worsen due to poor sleep quality,” said Jennifer Kent, director of research quality and product development at Parks Associates.

“Still, once a consumer understands their sleep patterns, then the issue becomes, what to do about it? Most consumers have not brought up these concerns with their doctors, but many state they would be willing to see a doctor if sleep tech detected a problem with their sleep patterns.”

Quantum computing will be worth more than $15bn by 2028

Despite still being in its infancy, quantum computing promises to completely revolutionise the way we solve problems.

In the time it would take your average laptop thousands of years to solve a complex astronomical puzzle, a supercomputer could find an answer in a matter of weeks, or even days.

Now, ABI Research estimates that by 2028, revenues generated by quantum computing services will exceed $15bn.

The demand for its power will come from process-hungry R&D projects as well as several applications in IoT, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity encryption.

“Classical computing is not dead, even in the post-Moore’s law era,” said Lian Jye Su, principal analyst at ABI Research.

“These machines will remain the ultimate processing power for executing traditional tasks such as text, video, speech processing and signal processing, but will be potentially challenged by quantum machines when it comes executing algorithms that require massive parallel processing.”

Walmart wants to ferry customers in autonomous cars

It has been the dream of major retailers for a few years now, but Walmart is finally starting to test the idea of ferrying customers to its stores in autonomous cars provided by Waymo.

Writing in a blogpost, Waymo said a small group of Walmart customers in the town of Chandler, Arizona, were given the chance to try out the technology.

As part of the trial, the customers would order their goods through the retailer’s website, hop in the autonomous car and then drive to the store. When they arrived, a Walmart employee would take their goods out to them, with the car then driving them back.

“The purpose of all of this? To learn,” said Tom Ward, vice-president of e-commerce operations at Walmart.

“While giving customers a unique experience with amazing technology, we’re learning how we can make Walmart online grocery pick-up even more convenient.”

A drone with an airship in the background. Image: Maxim Blinkov/Shutterstock

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic