Suppliers Resist RFID Push

Wal-Mart wants them to take shipments with radio tags, but few are willing to pay

4 min read

28 April 2005—Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, sells everything from diapers to tires at prices that draw in customers and run off rivals. It has been able to wring out healthy profits by economizing on labor and inventory—which is somewhat contradictory because it takes a lot of manpower to track thousands of goods from suppliers to customers.

To further reduce those costs, the company last year set a January 2005 deadline for its 100 largest suppliers to begin phasing in an inventory-management system based on radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags [see box, " "]. The tags were to be placed on the pallets and cases shipped to three of the discount chain's distribution centers in Texas. Yet although Wal-Mart is the 800-pound gorilla of retailing, with 3500 stores, 1.2 million employees, and sales making up about 2.5 percent of the United States' gross national product, it has had difficulty getting most of its suppliers to adequately fund the transformation.

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The Future of Deep Learning Is Photonic

Computing with light could slash the energy needs of neural networks

10 min read

This computer rendering depicts the pattern on a photonic chip that the author and his colleagues have devised for performing neural-network calculations using light.

Alexander Sludds

Think of the many tasks to which computers are being applied that in the not-so-distant past required human intuition. Computers routinely identify objects in images, transcribe speech, translate between languages, diagnose medical conditions, play complex games, and drive cars.

The technique that has empowered these stunning developments is called deep learning, a term that refers to mathematical models known as artificial neural networks. Deep learning is a subfield of machine learning, a branch of computer science based on fitting complex models to data.

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