Robots Grocery e-commerce is a red-hot consumer demand, but profitability is elusive. The CEO of a $500 million supply chain visibility company that counts Amazon and Walmart as customers explains why.


Rachel Premack: Retailers are heavily investing into their logistics, and in some cases they’re also in-housing their supply chain. What’s your viewpoint on that trend?

Jett McCandless: Historically, what we’ve seen, there was a book written — I believe in the 1950s or 60s — that makes a bold statement that transportation logistics adds no value to the cost of goods sold. 

I think we would all agree that that’s not true. And I’ll give you this really quick example of how I think we can prove that that’s not true.

If all of us were stranded in the middle of the desert and we were out of water and someone said for $1,000 I’ll give you a bottle of water, we would pay that thousand dollars if it meant survival. Working on the idea that transportation doesn’t add any value to the cost of goods sold is really how — for the last half-century-plus — it’s how CFOs and CEOs have been thinking about supply chain transportation and logistics.

What that led to is kind of an afterthought. Transportation logistics is about, “Just save as much money as you can during the procurement process.” They’re often run by procurement experts.

What happened is, when you look at the Walmart PBS special about their supply chain, it was all about how can they drive down the cost from a percentage standpoint of cost of goods sold.

Read more: Walmart’s company truck drivers are among the best-treated in the industry — and they’re getting a pay raise next month

One of the reasons why Walmart is able to expand so quickly with the idea of everyday low prices is because of how cheap they were able to get their supply chain to operate and other parts of their business. So I think a lot of companies say, well that’s kind of the pinnacle, that’s what we should all strive for. It just kind of reinforced this idea that had come around in the fifties or sixties.

Robots Walmart truck

Walmart’s trucking fleet numbers
Sundry Photography/Shutterstock

Then, what happened is Amazon came in and they’re actually the catalyst who said, “We disagree with this idea. We disagree that transportation and logistics doesn’t add value to the cost of goods sold.” And then turned that upside down, and they said, “People are willing to pay more for products if it’s delivered in two days.”

Now, it’s one hour or two hours in some cities. People are paying a premium for that. So that means that companies are having to invest more into titles at chief supply chain officers, SCPs of supply chain, VP of supply chain.

Read more: FedEx is officially sounding the alarm bells on Amazon after years of laughing off the retail giant’s rapidly building package-delivery empire

All of these retailers and manufacturers and distributors are being challenged at the board level to modernize and to digitize their business. They can’t modernize and they can’t digitize without updating their supply chain.

Robots Woman Amazon fulfillment center

A woman uses a computer to control robots at the 855,000-square-foot Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island on February 5, 2019.


I think that’s the trend that we’re seeing is heavy investment into that area and potentially maybe they are bringing something in-house that they think is core to them, but I think they’re also outsourcing just as much if not more of their total transportation and supply chain spending costs.

Robots Fulfilling grocery orders through brick-and-mortar isn’t efficient, according to McCandless

Premack: Walmart is focusing on grocery fulfillment as part of a big portion of its e-commerce strategy. What kind of investment is needed in order to launch a grocery delivery network or the click-to-collect grocery? What does it take?

Robots Estimated US ecommerce grocery sales

BI Intelligence

McCandless: Well, I think a lot of different retailers will attack the challenge differently. We expect the incumbents in the traditional grocery retailers to leverage the infrastructure that they have and add innovation to them. So meaning, maybe they’re using an existing store and we can already see that — they pay folks to go up and down the aisles and to pick products.

I think we know as consumers when we do that, it’s kind of an experience. It’s not the most direct or efficient way to pull products. 

Read more: Walmart’s curbside grocery pickup is pulling new customers and higher spend

When you look at how a consumer, even if it’s someone paid just to pick groceries, when you watch them and go up and down the aisles, there’s a lot of marketing, there’s a lot of advertising, there’s a lot of things that are designed for the experience — versus where if you think about, well what if those look more like a warehouse?

Robots Walmart grocery

Walmart has been investing heavily into grocery e-commerce.
AP/Julio Cortez

Then it’s run much more efficiently and is all about how fast can you get the product into the box or bag so that you can then make the speediest delivery. That will be an interesting challenge for these stores to solve.

Robots Delivering fresh produce poses problems for grocery e-commerce 

Premack: What are some other points executives miss when thinking about delivering groceries?

McCandless: It’s important when you’re talking about grocery, you have the dry goods and then you have the perishables. Those are two completely separate challenges.

The dry goods are relatively easy to get delivered. We’ve been doing that in e-commerce for quite some time. There’s not a lot of difference between a box of macaroni and a crib or furniture or something that’s been delivered for the last decade or so. It can hold throughout the entire day and not have to worry about temperature. You don’t have to worry about spoilage or anything like that.

Robots Kroger

Kroger’s digital sales totaled $8 billion in 2018.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP Images

Of course we’ll want to combine the dry goods and grocery, so when you fill up your shopping cart, consumers tend not to think, well, what’s perishable and what’s dry.

Read more: The CEO of Kroger, America’s largest supermarket chain, explains why the company’s merger with the country’s 6th-favorite grocer puts them in the perfect position to take on Amazon and Whole Foods

When you get into the perishable goods, you have a challenge. It’s a similar challenge to food delivery from restaurant.

Robots Perishables make it challenging to create density — and generate profit

McCandless: When you talk about transportation and logistics, you always you have two legs essentially you have to think about. You have from the origin to destination, the destination to the next stop or back to the origin.

What you do with dry goods and what parcel carriers and LTL carriers and small-pack carriers, air-freight carriers what they all try to do is they try to leave the terminal or the operating center, the distribution center, they try to make a bunch of deliveries as closely as they can together and then they drive back from that last delivery to the store to wherever they’re going.

Robots delivery

Charles Platiau/Reuters

In a perfect World, you actually pick something up from your last delivery to the distribution center. The reason why is you can have revenue for that last leg, so you minimize what’s known as a deadhead.

When you get into grocery, the challenge that you have is when you start to try to stack two or three deliveries.

Let’s say you have a great piece of New York pizza, and they say, ‘Well, we’re going to have this driver go take three deliveries cause there’s more density and there’s more efficiency.’

Whoever that unlucky third person is, your pizza’s pretty soggy, the box is soggy, the pizza’s cold, it’s a totally different experience.

This is really similar challenge that these grocery retailers have with groceries.

To protect experience, they end up doing almost a one-to-one ratio or one-to-two which means they leave the distribution center, they make a delivery, then they come back. It means 50% of the drive back, they weren’t hauling any product, even if it’s just six blocks, and that can be 10 or 15 minutes in these urban cities.

See also:  Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22.

Robots GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney (C) applauds after ringing the opening bell before the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York April 4, 2src14. Shares of GrubHub Inc, the biggest U.S. online food-delivery service, rose as much as 57 percent in its market debut as investors scrambled for a piece of the fast-growing consumer internet company.

Restaurant delivery app GrubHub reported a net income of $78.5 million in 2018, which was 21% below 2017’s net profit.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The way you offset that is you have the driver make maybe two or three deliveries, four or five, certainly whatever vehicle they’re in has the capacity to make a lot more.

They can fill the whole car with groceries, five or 10 or 20 or 30 stops if it’s a van or something. These are interesting challenges to solve.

Robots The lack of density in grocery delivery translates to less pay for workers

Premack: It’s funny because you’re mentioning drivers going up to 10-20 stops. I usually do Instacart for my grocery delivery. Usually, I order it and then 20 minutes later, someone’s shopping and then right after they finish shopping, they deliver it. Which to me sounds like they’re only doing one stop.

McCandless: We can just work the math down to that.

A reasonable quality of life in the US — and we’re talking very reasonable — is $40,000 a year. It’s about $20 an hour. So that person just happened to already be sitting at Whole Foods or wherever store they’re at.

Read more: Walmart is unleashing 2 key weapons against Amazon in 700 stores 

They get the order, they spend 20, 30 minutes picking, because it’s an inefficient pick method, you’re walking up and down the aisle. Then they package it up fast. Some of these guys have faster checkout processes now for these types of things, or they don’t have to checkout or then they’ve got to go from wherever they are to you, which is probably at least 10 or 20 minutes.

Robots Kroger

Kroger CFO Gary Millerchip described digital grocery as “becoming less of a headwind” — indicating that investments are still outweighing profits.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

That whole process, and then they have to go from you back to the store, that’s an hour or so. That’s $20 on $80 of groceries.

Now you’ve got 25% of the cost there. And by the way, nobody does anything to break even. There has to be a net profit on that. That person needs a manager, that person needs technology, that person needs insurance, whatever vehicle needs insurance. You start stacking this all up. 

Robots The project44 CEO isn’t surprised that traditional retailers can’t seem to profit from grocery e-commerce

Premack: Is it surprising to you that a lot of these traditional retailers, speaking generally, haven’t really been able to see a lot of profits from their grocery e-commerce offerings?

McCandless: It’s not surprising to me.

I don’t want to call them out specifically by brand, but I’ll just talk more about general trends and if they are in that bucket, then they’re in that bucket.

As a general trend, it doesn’t surprise me at all. The challenge is what people say is they make it up in density or they make it up in volume. That’s typically true in transportation because you can get multiple stops, but with perishable goods, you can’t.

Premack: What’s the solution then?

McCandless: You have to do a couple of things. Remember it takes 20 minutes or 30 minutes to walk the aisle floors and pick groceries. Instead of them going to the actual grocery store, it could be more like a traditional distribution center where all the product is pulled and available. It could be automated, it could be manual.

You can turn that 30-minute process into a five-minute process or even faster. Rather than that person that’s doing a delivery, rather than them picking the groceries, can we have the orders all ready for them?

Then, what you have to do is you have to get that product closer to where the end customers are. So the challenge that you have then is getting the product closer to the end customer. (In urban areas,) it’s a really, really expensive space to now open a distribution center.

Robots whle foods amazon shopper grocery shopping

Amazon is expanding its grocery footprint beyond Whole Foods.
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

You have to have a distribution center in an urban area, it’s still out in the industrial part of town. You have to do high-velocity, high-fulfillment rates to get the product into the store — up to two, three, four times a day.

Or, the retail store has that product so that they don’t have to have these massive distribution centers right in our neighborhood that we all live in, which is super expensive rent.

Read more: Aldi is rolling out grocery delivery across the US in a direct assault against Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger

That’s why I say step one is if you don’t know where your stuff’s at, and you can’t track that truck to get into that distribution center, then you can’t do any of these next phases. Just cost, cost, cost, waste, waste, waste, cost, cost.

Robots Despite the struggles for profitability, online grocery isn’t going away — and there are two models for how it will shake out

Premack: So where did you see these sort of grocery experiments going in the next five years? Do you think retailers will continue to have them or do you think they’ll pull back once they see that it’s a bit of a loss leader to continue to be involved in this space?

McCandless: I think they all have to struggle and have to find innovative ways to solve the challenge. I suspect it’ll either be very, very highly dominated by one or two companies. They can get massive amounts of density very close to the end-consumer.

Or, I could see it being where I think the World tends to be going, which is in marketplaces, which is essentially where there’s shared those high-velocity fulfillment grocery places that are in your backyard are actually shared facilities by multiple brands and then they’re all marketing and advertising and carrying their own stock-keeping unit (SKU) category and on their own way.

Read More

Robots How to sync Nintendo Switch controllers with your system, so that up to eight people can play at once


When it comes to Nintendo Switch games, the more the merrier. Multiplayer gaming only enhances the fun, especially when you and your friends or family are playing together in the same room. 

A Switch console can support four controllers connected at the same time. This means four pairs of Joy-Cons (or eight if you’re playing them individually), eight Pro Controllers, and up to two controller hubs (each of which supports four controllers, again adding up to eight).

Once you’ve got your controllers, here’s how to sync them.

Check out the products mentioned in this article:

Nintendo Switch (From $299.99 at Best Buy)

Ninetendo Pro Controller (From $69.99 at Best Buy)

Nyko Retro Controller Hub (From $14.99 at Best Buy)

Robots How to sync a Nintendo Switch controller with your console

The best way to sync a Nintendo Switch controller will depend on what sort of controller you have.

The easiest way to sync a pair of Joy-Con controllers to a Nintendo Switch is simply to slide them onto the physical console. The right- and left-hand Joy-Con controller will then be linked to that Nintendo Switch until affixed to a different console, or until the remote pairing steps below are followed.

You can also sync a Pro Controller by connecting it to your Switch’s dock with a USB-C cable.

To pair controllers remotely:

1. From the Switch’s homepage, scroll down to the “Controllers” tab — it looks like a single gray Joy-Con — and click it.

Robots IMG_5958

You can pair and re-order Nintendo Switch controllers from the “Controllers” icon link at the bottom of the home screen.
Steven John/Business Insider

2. Select “Change Grip/Order.”

Robots IMG_5966

This is where you’ll go to add new controllers or change their configuration.
Steven John/Business Insider

3. If you’re trying to pair a new controller or Joy-Con, you’ll want to press and hold its SYNC button (a small circular button, usually on the top) for about five seconds before moving on to the next steps.

Robots IMG_5968

Every Switch controller has a SYNC button, which you’ll press when you’re first syncing it.
Steven John/Business Insider

4. If you want to use a Joy-Con (or multiple Joy-Cons) as an individual controller, take it out of the Switch and press both its shoulder buttons at the same time — they’re labeled “SL” and “SR.” It may take a few presses for the Switch to recognize them.

5. If you want to use two Joy-Cons as a single controller, press the shoulder buttons on each Joy-Con at the same time. They’re labeled “ZL” and “ZR.” You can add up to four Joy-Con pairs.

Robots Nintendo Switch (Joy-Con)

You’ll want to press “SL” and “SR” if using a single Joy-Con, or “ZL” and “ZR” if using them together.

6. If you want to pair a Pro Controller, press its shoulder buttons, “ZL” and “ZR,” at the same time.

If a controller that worked before won’t sync, press the SYNC button anyway (again, the small circular button). Your Switch may have forgotten the controller and needs to be reminded of it again.

If you’re using a controller hub, just connect the hub to your Switch’s dock via USB and plug your controllers into the hub. They should work automatically.

Robots Nintendo Switch Nyko Gamecube Controller Hub

A controller hub should work without having to sync.

Robots Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

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Robots How to check the word count of any document on Google Docs, and keep the word count on your screen as you type


Whether you’re working on a college essay, typing a work report, or working on a novel, it’s helpful to know how exactly how many words you’re putting to virtual paper. Maybe you have to fit a word limit, or you’re challenging yourself to write a certain amount of words per day. 

Whatever the reason, Google Docs’ word count feature is a great way to do this. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Google Docs on your desktop or laptop, or writing on the go via the mobile app — the word count feature can be accessed on both computers and mobile devices.

The word count feature won’t just tell you how many words you’ve written, but how many pages your document takes up, and how many characters you’ve penned. Here’s how to use it. 

Check out the products mentioned in this article:

iPhone 11 (From $699.99 at Best Buy)

Samsung Galaxy S10 (From $899.99 at Best Buy)

Robots How to check the word count on Google Docs on desktop

1. Ensure you’re logged into your Google account, and then go to

2. Open the document you want to work on, or open a new Google Doc and begin typing. 

3. When you want to check how many words you’ve written, access the word count feature by clicking on the “Tools” option in the menu bar. 

Robots word count

You’ll find your word count reader in the Tools menu.
Jennifer Still/Business Insider

4. Click on “Word Count” to launch a pop-up with your word, character, and page count. 

5. When finished, click “OK” or “Cancel” to dismiss this box. You can also check the box that reads “Display word count while typing.” This will keep a small word count reader at the bottom of your screen at all times. You can click it to change what stat it shows, or to dismiss it.

Robots word count 2

The word count tool will look like this when you launch it.
Jennifer Still/Business Insider

Robots How to check the word count on Google Docs on mobile

1. On your phone’s home screen, tap the Google Docs app icon to open it. 

2. Tap on the document you want to open, or press the “+” button at the bottom of the screen to create a new document, and begin typing. 

3. To check the word count, tap on the three horizontal lines or three dots in the upper right-hand corner of your screen to open a menu.

4. In the list of options, tap on “Word count.” The word and character count will then appear on the right side of your screen. 

Robots IMG_8485

Tap the “Word count” tab to open it.
Jennifer Still/Business Insider

5. To exit the word count screen, tap anywhere on the doc outside of the word count box. 

Robots Related coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

Robots How to turn off the passcode on an Apple Watch in 2 different ways


  • You can turn off the passcode on your Apple Watch through the Watch app on your iPhone, or directly from the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  • The passcode protects personal information on your Watch, but you can turn it off if you prefer not to enter a code to unlock the Watch when you put it on your wrist.
  • Turning off the passcode also removes Apple Pay from the Watch. You can re-enable Apple Pay only if you later turn the passcode back on.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Most people would agree that using a passcode on your Apple Watch is a reasonable precaution, as it can prevent strangers from gaining access to sensitive and personal information stored on the Watch.  

Using the passcode isn’t mandatory, though, and it’s easy to turn off if it’s an inconvenience. 

Be aware, though, that Apple Pay will be removed from the Watch if you turn off the passcode. You can re-enable Apple Pay if you ever turn the passcode back on in the future. 

There are two ways to turn off the passcode on your Apple Watch. Here’s both.

Check out the products mentioned in this article:

Apple Watch Series 5 (From $399.99 at Best Buy)

Robots How to turn off the passcode on an Apple Watch

From your iPhone’s Watch app

1. Start the Watch app on your iPhone.

2. Make sure you are on the “My Watch” tab at the bottom of the screen.

3. Tap “Passcode.”

Robots passcode 1

The passcode settings are found in the Watch app’s “My Watch” tab.
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

4. Tap “Turn Passcode Off.”

5. In the pop-up window at the bottom of the page, tap “Turn Off Passcode Lock.”

Robots passcode 2

After you choose to turn off the passcode, you’ll need to confirm that choice and also enter your current passcode.
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

6. Enter the current passcode to verify that you’re authorized to turn it off. 

From your Watch’s Settings app

You can also disable the passcode from the watch itself. 

1. On the Apple Watch, start the Settings app. To do that, press the Digital Crown and tap the gear-shaped app.

Robots passcode 3

Start the Settings app to disable the passcode.
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

2. Tap “Passcode.”

Robots passcode 4

The Passcode control is easy to find in the watch’s Settings app.
Dave Johnson/Business Insider

3. Tap “Turn Passcode Off” and then confirm you want to do this by tapping “Turn Off.”

4. Enter your current passcode to confirm the change once more.

Robots Read more coverage from How To Do Everything: Tech:

Robots The iPhone 11 Pro’s battery life is so impressive, it beat out Samsung in Consumer Reports’ smartphone rankings for the first time in years


The new iPhone 11 Pro Max is the top-rated smartphone on the market, as ranked by Consumer Reports’ latest ratings, followed by the iPhone 11 Pro — the highest placement Apple has won in recent years.

Samsung phones have consistently beaten iPhones in the Consumer Reports ratings in the past few years, but the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max gained an edge this year thanks to their beefed-up battery lives.

Apple’s latest generation of smartphones were also more competitive in the ratings thanks to their improved cameras, physical durability, and faster processors. 

Robots iPhones now lead the pack in battery life

Under the duress of Consumer Reports’ testing, the iPhone 11 Pro Max lasted 40.5 hours on a single charge, while the iPhone 11 Pro lasted 34 hours. Those are both huge leaps from the battery lives of the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XS, which were 29.5 hours and 27.5 hours, respectively.

To gauge a realistic estimate of a phone’s battery life, the tests used a robotic finger that used the phones periodically throughout the day in a way meant to resemble the average phone user.

Apple has made the improved battery life of its newest iPhones a huge selling point, touting next-generation battery hardware and more efficient processors that use less energy.

Robots Apple Iphone 11

Crystal Cox/Business Insider

Robots Triple lenses make iPhone cameras competitive with Galaxy and Pixel 

Apple has caught some flack for the quirky appearance of three separate lenses on the back of the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, but the new and improved cameras put the smartphones on similar footing with Samsung’s and Google’s offerings.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max both feature an ultra-wide lens, which most of Samsung’s recent phones also boast, and their new Night Mode is similar to a feature already available on Google’s Pixel phones.

Read more: Apple’s new iOS 13 iPhone update has a security flaw that lets you bypass the lock screen to view contact lists

Robots The most durable iPhones yet

Testers found that the body and screens of the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are more durable than any past iPhone model, thanks to stronger glass screens and more robust water resistance.

To test their durability, Consumer Reports submerges each smartphone underwater, and places each phone in a tumbler that drops the phones from approximately 2.5 feet 100 times. While all the new iPhones passed the water resistance test, only the iPhone 11 Pro Max survived the drop test — the iPhone 11 Pro screen broke after 50 drops. 

The iPhone 11 Pro Max and 11 Pro start at $1,100 and $1,000, respectively. You can read more about how the phones held up during testing over at Consumer Reports.

Robots WeWork says thousands of its phone booths could have dangerous levels of formaldehyde after people complained about odor and eye irritation


  • WeWork warned tenants that it found “potentially elevated levels of formaldehyde” in phone booths in its locations in the US and Canada.
  • The office-sharing company is pulling thousands of phone booths out of service, it said in an email to tenants on Monday morning.
  • WeWork said it was responding to complaints of “odor and eye irritation.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

WeWork tenants received an email Monday morning informing them of “potentially elevated levels of formaldehyde” in phone booths throughout WeWork offices in the US and Canada.

The email, obtained by Business Insider, said WeWork was pulling 1,600 phone booths from locations that “may be impacted,” in addition to 700 booths that have yet to be tested for formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical used primarily as a sealing agent in particleboard and wood products. When people are exposed to high levels of the chemical, they can experience eye, nose, and throat irritation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

WeWork said in the email that it had received some complaints of “odor and eye irritation.”

In a statement to Business Insider, a WeWork representative confirmed the contents of the email and said WeWork took action to remove the phone booths as soon as tests for high levels of formaldehyde came back positive late last week.

Read more: Here’s everything we know about WeWork exec exits, huge layoffs, and more as the co-working giant looks to right itself after a failed IPO

One WeWork tenant told Business Insider she noticed a pungent smell in the phone booths at WeWork’s Rosslyn location in Arlington, Virginia.

“I always noticed, from the first time I entered a phone booth, a strong chemical odor,” the tenant said in a Twitter DM. “I assumed it was a new building / equipment type smell. Kind of like glue or a new car.”

Other WeWork tenants voiced exasperation on Twitter on Monday morning.

—Barry Graubart (@graubart) October 14, 2019

The high levels of formaldehyde were caused by the manufacturer of the phone booths, the WeWork representative said.

This is the latest incident for WeWork after a difficult few months. The company faced crushing scrutiny after the paperwork it filed in August for an initial public offering showed a questionable path to profitability. And reports detailed the bizarre workplace antics of CEO Adam Neumann, like serving employees tequila shots after discussing layoffs and smoking weed on a company jet.

WeWork and Neumann lost the support of investors in the month that followed, and the company’s valuation dropped by more than 50%. WeWork delayed its IPO on September 17, and Neumann stepped down on September 24.

The company is now reportedly looking for a line of credit and could run out of cash next month without it.

Do you work at WeWork and have a story to share? Contact this reporter at [email protected] 

Robots Microsoft’s cutting-edge, super-slim $1,000 Surface Pro X laptop doesn’t have a headphone jack


  • The brand-new Microsoft Surface Pro X is a cutting-edge, super-slim tablet/laptop hybrid with an innovative chip that affords it a long, 13-hour battery life while running Windows 10. And it doesn’t have a headphone jack.
  • It’s the first laptop in recent memory that doesn’t come with the familiar 3.5mm hole on its side where you can plug in your trusty wired headphones. 
  • Microsoft has wireless headphones you can use, including the Surface Headphones and brand-new Surface Buds, but there are better options out there.
  • The company has its own $12 USB-C to headphone jack dongle for those who simply can’t part with their wired headphones. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories. 

First it was Apple that ditched the headphone jack. Then it was almost every Android phone. Laptops appeared safe, though. Even Apple’s USB-C-only MacBook Pros have headphone jacks, despite the company’s apparent distaste for them.

But now, it’s Microsoft casting the first stone against headphone jacks on laptops. 

The new Microsoft Surface Pro X is a cutting-edge, super-slim tablet/laptop hybrid with an innovative chip that affords it a long 13-hour battery life. And it doesn’t have a headphone jack.

Robots Surface Pro X 010

Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

For some, this will be totally fine. Either you’ve already moved onto wireless Bluetooth headphones before the headphone jack massacre, or you made the move since buying a smartphone that doesn’t feature a headphone jack.

For others, Microsoft is setting a precedent that future laptops won’t include a headphone jack — and other laptop makers may follow suit.

Read more: I tried the Surface Pro X, Microsoft’s slim new $1,000 laptop with long battery life, a brand-new processor, and huge potential.

Microsoft didn’t ditch the headphone jack on Surface Pro X without giving you some wireless alternatives. There’s the Surface Headphones, and on Wednesday, Microsoft announced its new Surface Buds, too. Still, both models are pretty expensive at $350 and $250, respectively. 

But, if you absolutely want to stick to your wired headphones, Microsoft has you covered: The company also made its very own USB-C to headphone jack dongle! It’s $12.

To be sure, almost every other laptop has a headphone jack. The Surface Pro X isn’t your only laptop option. I’d personally recommend the Lenovo 7th-generation X1 Carbon to anyone who wants great performance, ultra-light portability in a sleek, classic shell. But the future of the wired headphone is looking gloomier every year as more and more devices ditch the 3.5mm hole on the sides of your devices. 

Robots Elon Musk regularly switches to a new phone and sometimes destroys the old one, according to a court document


  • Elon Musk regularly switches to a new phone and sometimes destroys his old phone for security reasons, a Monday legal filing said.
  • The filing included a signed statement from a SpaceX information-technology employee dated October 1.
  • “For security purposes, Mr. Musk regularly changes his cellular device, at which time his old device is imaged, wiped clean, and stored or destroyed,” the statement said.
  • The filing is part of a lawsuit brought by the British diver Vernon Unsworth against Musk claiming defamation after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter last year.
  • “Mr. Musk updates his phone (like lots of other people) and Mr. Musk occasionally has to change his phone for reasons that have to do with security and sensitive information,” Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, told Business Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk regularly switches to a new phone and sometimes destroys his old phone for security reasons, a Monday legal filing said.

The filing included a signed statement from a SpaceX information-technology employee dated October 1.

Read more: Elon Musk reportedly testified that he’s low on cash and assets that could quickly be turned into cash

“For security purposes, Mr. Musk regularly changes his cellular device, at which time his old device is imaged, wiped clean, and stored or destroyed,” the statement said.

The filing is part of a lawsuit brought by the British diver Vernon Unsworth against Musk claiming defamation after the Tesla and SpaceX CEO called him a “pedo guy” on Twitter last year. (Musk later apologized to Unsworth and deleted the tweet.)

Musk’s tweet followed an interview in which Unsworth, who was involved in last year’s rescue of a youth soccer team and its coach from a cave in Thailand, said the miniature submarine Musk sent to Thailand to help with the rescue would have been ineffective and was merely a publicity stunt.

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22

“Mr. Musk updates his phone (like lots of other people) and Mr. Musk occasionally has to change his phone for reasons that have to do with security and sensitive information,” Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, told Business Insider.

Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it’s like to work there? Contact this reporter at [email protected]. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct message.

Robots I spent a day at IBM’s mysterious research hub north of NYC, where I met some of the top AI leaders in the country. Here are 4 takeaways on where they think the tech is headed.


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  • IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, may be nondescript, but it houses some of the brightest minds working on artificial intelligence today. I spent a day there speaking with several top executives on IBM’s AI ambitions. 
  • The company is serious about the technology and thinking in decades, not years. A major challenge, however, will be the move from narrow to broad AI.
  • IBM has produced some of the most high-profile AI machines of the past decade, like one that can go head-to-head with the World’s best debaters.
  • It’s continuing to build upon that legacy, including a new program in development that can automatically provide play-by-play commentary for soccer matches. 
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Tucked in a luscious forest in Yorktown Heights, New York, a hamlet about an hour outside New York City by train, is IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center.  

It’s a rather nondescript croissant-shaped building that may surprise those who were expecting a modern-looking facility where legions of robots roam down bright white hallways and regularly interact with employees.

Robots IBM Research

The front entrance to IBM’s research facility.
Joe Williams

But it houses some of the brightest minds working on artificial intelligence, who are doing the early-stage work on what will become commercial applications that change how we watch sports, debate one another, or even judge whether an algorithm is biased.  

After spending a day at the center and meeting with several executives, I left with four main takeaways of where IBM is at on AI, where it’s heading, and the challenges it faces to get there.

Robots IBM is thinking about AI in decades, not years

From machines that go head-to-head with the greatest debaters or pinpoint the most exciting moments of a sporting event to a slew of offerings that ensure algorithms are fair and explainable, IBM is serious about artificial intelligence. 

Robots IBM Research

The facility is surrounded by a luscious forest.
Joe Williams

The company is mapping its AI journey in decades, not years, and pursuing revolutionary technology that could redefine how companies operate. Among the other notable milestones, it launched a joint research laboratory with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2017 and had 175 papers published at eight AI conferences in the past year alone. And with $2.58 billion in revenue in 2018, IBM again ranked as a market leader in AI product

Aside from the machines themselves, the company is also trying to position itself as a leader in ethical AI to help overcome escalating concerns with the technology. Part of that effort is trying to change the negative connotations that surround the term “artificial intelligence.” 

“AI is a loaded term,” Dario Gil, the director of IBM Research, told Business Insider. “If only we could just start adding a little bit more precision around language, that would be helpful.” 

Robots The journey from narrow to broad AI will be difficult 

Many AI-based applications in use try to solve a specific problem, like figuring out when to restock a shelf or trying to eliminate bias in hiring decisions.

Robots IBM Research

Sriram Raghavan is the vice president of IBM Research AI.
Joe Williams

While the platforms are transforming operations, Sriram Raghavan, the vice president of IBM Research AI, argues that ultimately, it’s an inefficient system. With so many models, organizations are unlikely to “spend six months and a few hundred million dollars” to implement each one of them, he said.

So instead of a bespoke application that requires a large amount of data, IBM is focused on developing what they refer to as “broad AI,” or models that can manage a wide variety of tasks simultaneously with much less information. That effort, however, will take decades, according to Raghavan. 

“We are making progress on it significantly,” he told Business Insider. But “it’s going to be a journey. We’re talking about inventing brand-new techniques.” 

Robots Trust in AI remains a key problem

Companies are rushing to adopt artificial intelligence, but trust in the platforms is still a major problem. 

Mass amounts of data are fed into systems that can guide life-changing decisions for people, like whether you get brought in for an interview for your dream job. A rush of negative headlines has also raised concerns over how fair some of the algorithms are, an indicator in many cases of the lack of diverse data being used to power the AI tools.

Robots IBM Research

The building is croissant-shaped and features views of the surrounding foliage.
Joe Williams

IBM is trying to demystify the questions around the technology in a number of ways. But one problem remains in defining what a fair model is. To solve that issue, IBM introduced “AI Fairness 360,” a library of algorithms that can be used to check whether a data set is biased. 

“You actually grow this culture of understanding AI biases. And as we all evolve, then eventually, maybe one day, it’s not going to be a problem,” Saska Mojsilovic, who heads the Foundations of Trusted AI group at IBM, told Business Insider. 

Read more:  Accenture’s head of artificial intelligence shares the 4-step plan every company should consider before investing in AI

Explaining the AI is also a challenge. Say a financial institution uses an algorithm to determine whether someone qualifies for a loan. If the application is denied, that company needs to be able to outline to the customer the reasoning behind the decision.

IBM recently introduced a tool kit known as “AI Explainability 360” that consists of algorithms, demos, and other resources, and provides insight into how models come to a final conclusion, including one that outlines which information was used to come to the decision. It also shows which features that, if they were present, would have reversed the choice. So if a loan application is denied, the algorithm could provide a route for a customer to improve their chances the next time.  

Robots If you want to see IBM’s AI capabilities, watch a major sporting event 

One technology in use is an AI-based program that automatically analyzes the sound of the crowd, the reaction of a player or players, and other factors to determine the most exciting moments of events like the Masters Tournament and the US Open

Even in sports, however, IBM thinks about how to make the model more fair.

Robots IBM research

From left, IBM’s John Smith, Ramya Raghavendra, and Saska Mojsilovic.
Joe Williams

One concern, for example, was how to adequately measure audience reaction on holes or courts where the crowd may not be as large as others. The team employed Watson OpenScale, a product that takes real-time feedback and adjusts AI models to make them more trustworthy. In golf, for example, the platform monitors the estimated crowd size and automatically reweights that category when considering the overall output. 

“It’s a nice illustration of what it really means to have to monitor your models once they are in deployment,” said John Smith, who heads the development of vision, speech, and language AI tools at IBM Research.  

IBM is experimenting with automated sports play-by-play commentary. The company is testing the product on past soccer matches because it “wanted a challenge,” according to Smith. 

Once the model is successfully trained, the hope is it will able to ingest the raw footage and transform the raw pixels into language. It’s a huge evolution from AI-based applications that can scan still images to determine the object and come up with a caption.

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Robots FBI agents raided the home of MyPayrollHR’s top executive as part of a fraud investigation into the company accused of vanishing with up to $35 million and leaving thousands without a paycheck


  • The home of the head of MyPayrollHR, Michael Mann, was raided on Monday afternoon, an FBI representative confirmed to Business Insider.
  • MyPayrollHR closed suddenly on September 5, leaving thousands of people around the country without their paychecks and spurring an FBI investigation.
  • No arrests appear to have been made, and Mann hasn’t been seen since the company closed.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

FBI agents on Monday afternoon conducted a raid on the home of the head of MyPayrollHR, Michael Mann, in Edinburg, New York.

A representative for the FBI’s Albany bureau confirmed to Business Insider that agents were at Mann’s address on Monday in connection with an ongoing investigation, but declined to provide further details. The raid was first reported by the Daily Mail.

Mann is the CEO of ValueWise, the parent company of MyPayrollHR. The cloud-based payroll-and-HR service unexpectedly shuttered on September 5, leaving thousands of people without paychecks.

When MyPayrollHR closed, over 4,000 of its clients were abruptly notified that their payroll transactions couldn’t be processed “due to unforeseen circumstances,” according to the Albany Times Union. The company also abandoned its Albany office the same day.

With the shutdown of the company, up to $35 million went missing, according to the cybersecurity watchdog Brian Krebs. The FBI’s Albany bureau said last week that it was “investigating allegations of criminal conduct” related to the company and called on affected business owners to submit tips.

No arrests appear to have been made in connection with the FBI raid on Monday afternoon, according to the Daily Mail report. Agents reportedly arrived at the property around 4: 30 p.m. and stayed for an hour. Mann and his wife, Kim, have laid low since the company’s closure, and no news organization has been able to obtain a photo of either in the past week.

As a result of MyPayrollHR’s sudden closure, thousands of people who used the service found that automatic direct deposits to their accounts had been withdrawn, leaving many with negative bank accounts, the Daily Mail reported.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has said he will ensure the company is held accountable.

“We will not allow these bad actors to take money away from the hard-working people in this state,” Cuomo said on September 6.

MyPayrollHR’s website appeared to be down as of Tuesday morning. A call to its Albany office led to a voicemail message saying that “all members of our sales team are unavailable.” A voicemail left by Business Insider requesting comment was not immediately returned.