Category Archives: Technology

France aims to have ‘driverless’ high-speed TGV trains by 2023

SNCF will begin testing ‘drone train’ in 2019, though conductors will still be onboard to handle emergencies

from “TheVerge

France’s national railway operator aims to have autonomous high-speed TGV trains running by 2023, according to a report from FranceInfo. The train operator, known by the French acronym SNCF, will begin testing a prototype of its so-called “drone train” in 2019, FranceInfo reports.

 The new TGV train would be equipped with sensors that would allow it to detect obstacles and automatically brake, if necessary. The TGV, which reaches speeds of nearly 200mph, could be remotely piloted, though conductors will remain onboard in the short term to handle emergencies or unexpected events. SNCF President Guillaume Pepy tells Le Figaro that if the project is successful, SNCF would be the first operator in the world to run automated high-speed trains.

In an interview with FranceInfo, Matthieu Chabanel, the adjoint director of SNCF, compared the autonomous train to autopilot systems used in commercial flight. “In airplanes, you always have a driver, fortunately, but you have an automatic steering system,” Chabanel said.

The aim, according to the SNCF, is to increase the speed and frequency of TGV journeys, particularly around Paris, where TGV lines intersect with various local and regional rail lines. The operator believes that the automated system would increase the number of trips between Paris and Lyon by 25 percent.

The SNCF recently announced plans to rebrand its iconic TGV line as “inOui,” in a move that drew widespread criticism and mockery online.

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Logistics News After New President Takes Over

Panama Canal overtakes Suez on Asia-US East Coast route. This makes sense….. those new locks makes it easier on shippers.

Top US trucking lobby outlines wishes for Trump administration

City officials have dropped the idea of selling the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, but are continuing to explore the possibility of a public-private partnership for the short line that handles switching for the port’s six Class I railroads.

RailAmerica for Sale, Report Says

Transport providers hold firm against attacks on NAFTA, trade pacts.

Democrats and Republicans alike are encouraged that a Trump Administration could inject freight infrastructure with a much-needed funding boost.

Steady growth in e-commerce activity is driving a surge in the parcel delivery business, and strengthening the role of EDI in processing and auditing freight payments.

The Trump administration’s plan for a broad-based regulatory rollback could shorten the duration of any future truck capacity shortfall.

Shippers, trucking companies, container lines and others are starting to get a better idea of what Trump can and can’t deliver. Ignore the armchair analysis of Trump’s campaign rhetoric.

Are Amtrak’s New High-Speed Trains Too Good for Amtrak?

Last month, Amtrak announced the purchase of 28 new high-speed trains from the French manufacturer Alstom. The model is called the Avelia Liberty, and it will run the Acela routes (from Washington, D.C., to New York to Boston) starting in 2021, with room for 35 percent more passengers than today’s trains.

It’s the train of a future Amtrak, and not just because the glassy Penn Station it arrives to is a distant dream. The train is also built to run at speeds that Amtrak’s current Northeast Corridor infrastructure can’t yet accommodate at any point. It’s an ambitious purchase, and one that will only pay off if Amtrak can commit to serious track improvements during the trains’ 30-year lifespan.

The Avelia Liberty has a top speed greater than 185 miles per hour, though Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has a max speed of 160 mph, and trains only reach that speed for very short periods. The train can be upgraded to reach 220 mph, which is faster than the French TGV trains—and totally incompatible with the Northeast Corridor’s current track. It’s like buying a pair of fancy French pants you’d like to fit into at some point in the next two decades.

It’s the train of a future Amtrak, and not just because the glassy Penn Station it arrives to is a distant dream. The train is also built to run at speeds that Amtrak’s current Northeast Corridor infrastructure can’t yet accommodate at any point. It’s an ambitious purchase, and one that will only pay off if Amtrak can commit to serious track improvements during the trains’ 30-year lifespan.

The Avelia Liberty has a top speed greater than 185 miles per hour, though Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has a max speed of 160 mph, and trains only reach that speed for very short periods. The train can be upgraded to reach 220 mph, which is faster than the French TGV trains—and totally incompatible with the Northeast Corridor’s current track. It’s like buying a pair of fancy French pants you’d like to fit into at some point in the next two decades.

The Avelia has other cool features, though, that will benefit Amtrak right away: It can tilt up to seven degrees on curves, compared with four degrees for the current Acelas. According to Alstom, this permits the train to take curves 30 percent faster, and Amtrak says that will shorten trip times as soon as the trains hit revenue service in five years. It will have reclining leather seats, outlets, USB ports, and reading lamps. Even without track improvements, the new trains will enable Amtrak to run high-speed trains between New York and Washington every half-hour, and every hour between New York and Boston.

Still: At $2 billion for 28 trains, the Avelia is among the most expensive train set purchases in history. The transportation blogger Alon Levy observes that the trains will cost almost twice as much, per car, as some comparable models in Europe and Asia. The new Eurostar trains, for example, made by Siemens in 2011, cost about $5 million a car. Amtrak’s Avelia will be closer to $9 million per car.

Why so much? Part of the answer is that the trains will combine high speed and high tilt in a way that few other trains do. As Levy writes, those two features might not work together very often: If Amtrak straightens the track to allow for high speeds—and long sections of straight track are the only way to take advantage of a train that pushes 200 mph—it will have fewer situations to deploy seven-degree tilt. As Levy succinctly puts it, with low infrastructure investment, high-speed is useless. With high investment, tilt is obsolete. Over the course of 30 years, though, both may come in handy.

Another reason Amtrak might pay more for trains, of course, is the American regulatory environment. Buy America provisions require that transportation projects use domestically made products. But that means giving up economy of scale: America doesn’t make a lot of high-speed trains. Relatedly, because Amtrak shares track with commuter rail and freight trains, the Federal Railroad Administration imposes special safety restrictions on its trains. FRA safety standards led to the Acela being twice as heavy as the French TGV trains. A former Amtrak chairman called it a “high-velocity bank vault.”

The FRA is revising those requirements now—after all, European high-speed trains also run with commuter rail around terminals—and the Avelia Liberty will weigh about 30 percent less than the Acela. Still, the train won’t be as sleekly designed as its sisters in Europe, China, and Japan. That, along with compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, may be one reason that a 200-meter Avelia Liberty will carry fewer passengers than other Alstom models, like the Pendolino or the AGV.

Another factor: The trains come with a maintenance agreement that trades a higher purchase price for lower maintenance costs down the road. (The Acela has been plagued by maintenance issues.) As the rail blogger Paul Druce points out, the Avelia Liberty trains are only about 10 percent more expensive than the Pendolino trains thatItaly bought from Alstom last fall. America’s trains will also go faster than the Pendolinos, though they hold fewer people. Our trains have a 15-year service agreement; theirs have a 20-year agreement.

Amtrak, spokesman Craig Schulz said, when I asked about the trains’ cost, that it had hired two engineering firms to review the deal with Alstom. “Amtrak is paying well within the range of recent high-speed equipment sales,” he said.

One clear winner here is Alstom, for whom,Le Monde reports, the train could serve as a launching pad for selling its services to other American states, including California, whose own high-speed rail project is underway. Some railfans havespeculated that the Avelia Liberty might be designed to meet the specifications for both the NEC and California high-speed rail, whose tracks will be straighter than their Northeast equivalents.

Beware The Shopper

Omni-channel has become a dated term. In this age of digital information available anytime and anywhere there are precious few shopping decisions being made without fact based information. A MasterCard report from 2015 shows that 8 out of 10 purchases made by retail shoppers are informed by some kind of digital information. With 80 percent of purchase decisions influenced by shopper research, their decisions about just where to buy is likely to come down to convenience and timing rather than loyalty. Omni-channel shopping is now just plain shopping.

Retailers need to be sure they are focusing on the most important factors driving their customers – information. In fact the source of information needs to begin at the source, and that source should be the manufacturer or supplier. It may be a strange environment for manufacturers but the production and dissemination of product information can’t come from a better place. But capabilities vary widely in terms of the ability of product suppliers to create, produce, and market their products.

Enhanced Retail Solutions Announces Wholesale Inventory Integration in its POS Software Platform

What was a feature in its Demand Planning Software has been added to its Retail Sales Analysis software based upon client requests.

 

Enhanced Retail Solutions (ERS), a leading provider of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) retail analytic and demand planning solutions to suppliers, their retail trading partners and licensors announces the additional of Wholesale Inventory to its Retail Synthesis point of sale analysis software.

Originally developed for its Demand Planning Software, a supplier’s Wholesale Inventory information can be automatically added to the ERS Software Platform. This information combined with projected sales at retail helps manufacturers determine what inventory buys to make and went to make them.

Once ERS clients learned of this capability, they wanted the inventory added to the Retail Sales Analysis software. While ERP systems offer such information, they typically are not very flexible in how it is reported. ERS’ Intelligent Retail Platform allows for total customized reporting. For instance, now clients may list their Wholesale Inventory position in a column in their retail sales reports, making it easy for salespeople to see if they were in stock before they contact their retail partner to offer to ship fill in inventory. As all values pass to reporting – from POS to forecasts – retailers and suppliers have past, present and future views in one report.

“We did not anticipate the need for wholesale inventory in sales reporting” says David Matsil, President of Business Development at Enhanced Retail Solutions. “Yet once the need was described, we understood the benefit immediately and were happy to open up that functionality”.

Contact Enhanced Retail Solutions
+1 (212) 938-1991 Ext: 103

 

Why Out-of-Stock Inventory May Kill Electronic Businesses this Holiday Season

With the holiday season quickly approaching, electronics retailers couldn’t be in a better position to make record breaking sales, exceeding the $1 trillion earned in 2014.  Electronics make ideal gifts, and electronic stores are one of the largest revenue generating distributors, accounting for 13.6% of all holiday sales. However, OEMs won’t cash in unless they have the right omnichannel infrastructure in place.

Electronics constitute one of the leading purchases made for dads, and accounted for 20% of Father’s Day sales this past June. With the rise of tablets, mobile phones and wearables, retailers can expect this category to grow. While 2015 looks at sustained growth with these product lines, Steve Koenig, senior director at the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), advises not to overlook other electronics that are also predicted to be big for business. Koenig explained, “Consumer decisions to replace their TVs at home with Ultra HD 4K units should provide a much-needed boost to the TV industry, while new smartwatches and other high-tech wearables will also expand that growing category this year.”

In the news, Apple has already created fierce demand with the launch of its latest rendition of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus.  To address this frenzy, Apple executives released a statement that online orders have been “exceptionally strong and exceeded our own forecasts for the preorder period.  We are working to catch up as quickly as we can, and we will have iPhone 6s Plus as well as iPhone 6s units available at Apple retail stores when they open next Friday.”

It’s not only smart phone and tablet producers that will go through this inventory and production pressure. The CEA advises that while total shopping category continues to grow, the channels that consumers shop across have changed drastically, leading to the introduction of omnichannel shopping.

 

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Connected Data Transporter trumps public cloud for users

Seeking a file-sharing and collaboration tool that offers efficient, remote access to storage, switch to the Connected Data Transporter.

One company adopted Dropbox to support more than 40 staff and volunteers that needed access to documents, photos and videos of church services.

“The hope was we could replace our internal storage with Dropbox,”  “We created a folder and people started to upload data, and it would sync to everyone’s hard drive. There was no way to turn it off and it filled up the hard drives on people’s small laptops.”

users had the option to access files via Dropbox’s Web interface.

“The navigation was clunky, so people stopped using it,” he said. “That was the issue.”