This week’s news is short but, like all those left-over Christmas Ferrero Rochers, incredibly sweet.
Redundancies feature heavily, as do airships and talking cars.
AI takes 34 jobs at Japanese insurance firm
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance is installing IBM’s Watson Explorer AI at the cost of 34 human jobs.
The system will calculate payouts, of which there were 132,000 in the 2016 financial year, though they will then be manually approved.
Fukoku hopes for an increase productivity by 30% and a return on its investment in less than two years. Installation this month will cost £1.4m and save £1m a year, according to the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
Medium announces layoffs, admits ad model wasn’t working
More sad news. Medium is laying off 50 workers, a third of its workforce, and closing its New York and Washington DC offices as it scales back its current ad model.
The platform has been a champion of quality content, but in a blog post, Ev Williams conceded ‘..we realized we didn’t yet have the right solution to the big question of driving payment for quality content. We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for.’
He continued, ‘So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people.’
Ford to embed Alexa in its cars
Ford has announced at CES that it will embed Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant in its cars, available from this summer.
Drivers will be able to ask for nearby shops and services, the weather forecast or to play music.
CES has also seen the usual slew of internet fridges (including an Alexa-enabled model by LG) and even Alexa-enabled ovens by Whirlpool (letting you alter the temperature with a command).
App Store revenue up 40% in 2016
App Store revenue was a massive $20bn in 2016, in part due to Pokémon Go and Super Mario Run.
This is great news for Apple as it seeks to make more from services, as iPhone sales slow.
Apple pulls NYT apps from China
Apple has removed New York Times apps from its China App Store after the Chinese government complained of a “violation of local regulations”.
No detail has been reported as to what this violation amounted to, though regulations published in June 2016 say that apps cannot ‘engage in activities prohibited by laws and regulations such as endangering national security, disrupting social order and violating the legitimate rights and interests of others.’
Amazon files patent for airships to store parcels for drone delivery
Reuters reports Amazon apparently filed for a patent to use airships to store products for drones to pick up and deliver.
The application is two years old but was spotted this week. The ‘airborne fulfillment centers’ would hover at 45,000 feet and be restocked and resupplied by smaller vessels.
Twitter to broadcast a good walk spoiled
Twitter continues to ink agreements to stream sports, signing up with the PGA Tour to show 31 tournaments.
70 hours of live coverage will be broadcast in the 2016-17 season.
Coca-Cola closes its startup incubator
The Founders program was created in 2012 but will now be brought to a close, according to Innovation Leaders, with Coca-Cola focusing all its effort on innovation within its core business.
WHSmith to buy new carpet?
Old lion of British retail WHSmith will invest £48m in its stores in 2017.
The company, founded in 1792, has seen £150m investment in store refurbishment over the past three years, tackling the perceived shabbiness of its stores.
— Matt Cheetham (@themightycheets) January 1, 2017
Next commits to digital amid Christmas struggles
The Drum reports UK retailer Next will invest £10m in digital marketing and its online systems, after a fourth quarter in which sales fell 0.4%, the second disappointing Christmas in a row.
Brexit, inflation and the devaluation of the pound has led Next to predict a 0.5% revenue drop in 2017.