Read for Later – “The future is a curated non-subscription e-commerce model supported by a fresh, rotating set of in-store offerings”

This week’s headline quotes Sean Butler, former senior vice president of retail at Chef’d, from his original LinkedIn post exploring the future of subscription meal kits in light of Chef’d’s decision to suspend operations (Eater “Is this the death rattle of mail-order meal kits?”).

I’m going to continue to provide a monthly “snapshot” of recurring streams of information that can help us better track topics rising to the surface. January’s posts featured several streams about artificial intelligence, robots, streaming media, self-driving technology, and cashier-less retail. February’s news seemed to continue some of those streams, but there was also a renewed focus on corporate influence in government (especially Amazon’s decision on the future of its HQ2 in New York City), growing concern over facial recognition technology, and continued attention to streaming content (especially the siloing of both video and podcast/audio content). A reminder that this trend scanning feeds into the trend collection – and hopefully that will include a new entry on self-driving technology later this week.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Five Highlights

CNBC “A record number of robots were put to work across North America in 2018, report says”
The Robotic Industries Association (RIA) latest statistics show that 35,880 robots were shipped in 2018 to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, up 7% from the previous year with a significant increase (41% over last year) in the number of robots shipped to non-automotive companies in the consumer goods and life sciences sectors.

The Chronicle of Higher Education “U. of California system cancels Elsevier subscriptions, calling move a win for open access”
The 10-campus University of California system will cancel its Elsevier subscriptions after months of contract negotiations – while the decision represents a win for open-access advocates and may lead other academic libraries to consider similar actions, it could also present challenges to faculty and students who conduct their research in articles that are often published behind the paywalls of subscription-based journals.

Eater “Is this the death rattle of mail-order meal kits?”
Mail-order meal kits initially seemed like an ideal business model for time-pressed millennials and convenience-focused consumers, but just as the meal kit space has become more crowded, there are signs of declining interest – one challenge may be that the kits serve as “training wheels” for new cooks, who gain confidence in their abilities and inevitably cancel their subscription to break out on their own. See also Digiday “Why traditional retailers struggle to figure out subscription services”

NPR “Walmart is eliminating greeters. Workers with disabilities feel targeted”
Walmart has been changing the job requirements for front-door greeters and replacing them with "customer hosts" with expanded responsibilities, including security or assisting shoppers – the change appears to disproportionately affect workers with disabilities for whom the job of greeter had been a particularly attractive fit.

MIT Technology Review “10 breakthrough technologies 2019”
Bill Gates selects ten breakthrough technologies that will change the world, focusing on robots (robot dexterity, smooth-talking AI assistants), health (predicting preemies, gut probe in a pill, custom cancer vaccines, an ECG on your wrist), and the environment (new-wave nuclear power, the cow-free burger, carbon dioxide catcher, sanitation without sewers).

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Mashable “Amazon wants to put a delivery robot in your home”
A new Amazon patent proposes a way for simplifying package retrieval with an in-house (or shared neighborhood) robot that meets the delivery truck on the street to bring back orders – as with many patent filings, the appearance of the proposal does not indicate development into a public product.

Economics and the Workplace

The Christian Science Monitor “Oregon passes first mandatory rent control law in US”
Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed the nation's first statewide mandatory rent control measure, limiting landlords to increases once per year that cannot exceed 7% plus the change in the consumer price index – housing advocates say spiraling rent costs in the economically booming state have fueled widespread homelessness and housing insecurity. See also Fast Company “Rent control isn’t the only way to fix the housing crisis–but it is the fastest”

Bloomberg “Millennials are facing $1 trillion in debt”
According to the New York Federal Reserve Consumer Credit Panel, debt among 19 to 29-year-old Americans exceeded $1 trillion at the end of 2018, the highest debt exposure for the youngest adult group since late 2007.


The Wall Street Journal “At Arizona State, big lectures are history”
A look at how Arizona State University is breaking down the traditional lecture-homework-exam approach to higher education and moving toward one designed around collaboration and the use of technology – course content is delivered with adaptive software that tracks each student’s mastery of concepts in real-time and replaces big lectures with smaller interactive classes where students connect with instructors and one another.

The Internet and Social Media

CNET “TikTok gaining on Facebook with 1 billion downloads, according to reports”
Social video app TikTok, which lets users record videos and share the clips with friends, has just surpassed 1 billion downloads on iOS and Android according to new numbers from market research firm Sensor Tower.

BBC “YouTube bans comments on all videos of children”
YouTube will switch off comments on almost all videos featuring children under 18 as part of an attempt to "better protect children and families" from predatory and obscene comments on videos of children.

The Verge “Facebook filed a patent for a ‘civil’ political debate forum”
A new patent filing from Facebook proposes a system where people could comment on proposed laws, have that feedback worked into a formal political proposal, and “meaningfully engage in civil discourse” online – as with many patent filings, the appearance of the proposal does not indicate development into a public product, but this does fit in line with Facebook’s earlier attempts at promoting civic engagement.

Internet of Things

CNET “Amazon stops selling Dash buttons, goofy forerunners of the connected home”
Amazon has decided to stop selling its Dash buttons, the small devices that customers could press to re-order items – the buttons’ usefulness and novelty has been eclipsed by advances in connected home technology that the buttons helped drive.

The Guardian “‘You can track everything’: the parents who digitise their babies’ lives”
Fertility tracking apps, baby monitoring apps, and infant wearables are just a few examples of the emerging BabyTech sector, technology designed to track and quantify lives from our very earliest moments of life.

Streaming Media

Digiday “Facebook won’t renew two-thirds of existing Facebook Watch news shows”
According to several publishers, Facebook has been telling news publishers that it will only renew about a third of the existing news shows that it has funded for Facebook Watch, which included daily and weekly news shows from publishers such as ABC News, CNN, Business Insider, and NowThis – the platform will continue to pay for news shows on Watch, but will be more selective about funding.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

The Wall Street Journal “Amazon to launch new grocery-store business”
Amazon is reportedly planning to open grocery stores in several major U.S. cities, broadening its reach in the food business two years after acquiring Whole Foods and continuing its integration into consumers’ online and in-person shopping.

Tech Crunch “Amazon Prime members can choose a weekly delivery date with launch of ‘Amazon Day’”
Amazon officially launched a new delivery option for Prime members, Amazon Day, that will allow customers to control when orders arrive, delivering shipments together in fewer boxes that helps support Amazon’s larger sustainability initiative, Shipment Zero, which plans to make 50% of all Amazon shipments net zero carbon by 2030.