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Will "Anticipatory Shipping" Catch on?

Amazon recently obtained a patent for "anticipatory shipping" — a system of delivering products to customers before they place an order. Using predictive analytics, such as previous searches and customer wish lists, the company could potentially ship items to a hub in the customer’s area ahead of time. When users are ready to buy the item, it can then show up quickly, perhaps as soon as a few hours. There is a financial risk, however; if the company inaccurately predicts what a customer wants, then shipping costs are wasted.

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Will 3D Printers Find a Place in the Home?

The 3D printing industry has new offerings today, specifically cheaper, easier-to-use hardware and online marketplaces filled with predesigned files. MakerBot, for example, recently announced a new one-button MakerBot Mini. Files can be sent directly to the compact printer from a mobile phone or tablet over Wi-Fi, and the Mini will create the object in PLA plastic. A barrier to mass adoption of 3-D printers is price, however.

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Are Driverless Cars Safer?

Major car companies have showcased their latest prototypes at this month's International Consumer Electronics Show. BMW and Audi, for example, unveiled their driverless car technology and conducted demonstrations. Researchers and makers of driverless cars say the technology will be far safer than people-driven vehicles because they eliminate unpredictable human errors like distracted or drunk driving, or poor reactions to emergency situations.

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Will 'Digital Guardians' Improve Security?

In December of 2013, IBM predicted that "in five years, each of us could be protected with our own digital guardian that will become trained to focus on the people and items it is entrusted with, offering a new level of identity theft protection." A program, for example, can learn your online habits to confirm your identity and better detect a difference between normal or unusual activity.

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Can Personalized Cognitive Technology Improve Education?

In December of 2013, IBM predicted that cloud-based cognitive technology would personalize education for students within five years. IBM is already testing out the idea in a Georgia public school district serving 170,000 students. Known as Personalized Education Through Analytics on Learning Systems (PETALS), the project will use machine learning, predictive modeling, deep content analytics, and advanced case management to analyze students’ strengths and weaknesses, and come up with a personal plan for each. The Big Data project will track students' activities — including attendance, test scores, how they interact with electronic content, and what they are being taught in the classroom — and suggest improvements to tailor their educations.

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Will Amazon's Drone Delivery Service Really Fly?

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently announced that Amazon's R&D department is working on "Amazon Prime Air," a service that enables drones to deliver packages within 30 minutes. The earliest the technology could be in service, however, is 2015, because the FAA will need to update its laws.

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Would You Use an All-In-One 'Coin?'

A San Francisco startup introduced an all-in-one card, called Coin, meant to store financial information from every other card carried in a wallet. The device, available for preorder, includes a magnetic strip that can change depending on what card one wants to use. What do you think? Would you use an all-in-one 'Coin?'

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