SCAN TILL YOU DROP
Just about every checkout clerk these days will run purchases past a bar code scanner instead of punching in prices on a cash register. But soon customers will be given their own scanners to keep track of and pay for purchases as they shop.
In an experimental application in Germany, shoppers are provided with a small touch-screen computer with a built-in bar code scanner. Much of the gadgetry relies on signals from radio frequency identification tags attached to merchandise. Signals from the tags allow the store to track products and their sales, ultimately allowing automated reordering.
There still are bugs to work out: only about 25 percent of products have the needed identification tags, shoppers have had to be given plastic shopping carts because metal carts interfered with the radio signals, and there’s still no telling what shoppers with cell phones might do to prices.
TIMES ARE TOUGH, STAY IN SCHOOL
The graduating class of 2003 was the last to enter college while the stock market was rising, and graduates now entering the workplace are finding the worst hiring slump in 20 years.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers says U.S. corporations are hiring about the same number of graduates this year as they did last year, which was a 36 percent cut from 2001.
The lack of jobs is the main reason applications to medical schools increased this year for the first time in seven years, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. Applications to law schools jumped 10 percent after having risen almost 18 percent last year. The number of people taking the Graduate Record Exam, the standardized test required for most doctoral and master’s programs, rose to its highest level ever after declining through much of the late 1990s.
THE PAST BECOMES THE FUTURE
Verizon Communications has unveiled a relic from the past with a twist: the phone booth. The company has set up 150 phone booths in New York City, but these are equipped with radio-signal technology (Wi-Fi), which enables mobile computer users within 300 feet of a booth to connect to the Internet.
The project is being recognized as the first attempt to mass market Wi-Fi technology. Verizon says it plans to have about 1,000 booths covering all Manhattan by the end of the year.
PLEASE RETURN YOUR KNEES TO THEIR ORIGINAL UPTIGHT POSITION
American Airlines made a big play to lure more passengers by advertising the removal of seats to make more legroom. Now those seats are going back in on about 23 percent of its fleet as the airline tries to increase revenues.
The good news is that with more passengers onboard certain flights American can offer lower fares and still come out ahead. “Customers have made it clear in certain markets that price is more important than legroom,” said an airline spokesperson.