1. UI/UX Case Study: Ticket Vending Machines and Mobile Application for New Yorks Metropolitan Tran

2. OverviewThis case study is about UI/UX designs for the largest public transportation agency in the United States, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of New York, who currently is in the process of upgrading its fare payment system. They have named their new project OMNY (One Metro New York).

The goal of the project is mainly to enhance the fare payment experience for their customers to make it faster and seamless for them by installing contactless NFC readers at turnstiles so that customers can easily pay their fares by simply tapping their: Credit and debit cards Mobile payment applications (Apple, Chase, Samsung, Google pay, etc). OMNY contactless cards (currently in developent). OMNY Mobile application (currently in developent).

I wanted to simplify the customer experience of buying and refilling their OMNY cards via current vending machines, via the OMNY vending machines and mobile application. I also wanted to design the general UI/UX design of the OMNY mobile application and vending machines specially the part of buying fares.Team: Randol Poueriet (This is a personal project, not an assignment from an agency or a contract from the MTA or other transportation entity).

3. The Client: New Yorks MTAAbout the client (source wikipedia):The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) began operations in May1965, Nelson Rockefeller was governor at the time. The MTA is the entity in charge of New Yorks public transportation.

It is the largest public transit authority in the United States. It provides ferry, subway service as well as local and express bus services. It has a daily ridership of 8.

6 million people and annual ridership 2. 6 billion. Fare Collection:From MTAs inception until 2003 the agency collected subway and bus fares via a series of small metal tokens.

The MTA cycled through several series of tokens though the late of the 20 century. In 1993, MTA started testing the Metrocard, a magnetic stripe card that would replace metal tokens used to pay fares. By 1997, the entire bus and subway system accepted Metrocard and tokens where no longer accepted for fare payment in 2003.

That was a 10 year transition.In May 31, 2019 The MTA launched a new fare payment technology to the replace the Metrocard, it is called OMNY (One Metro New York) it is a contactless fare payment system. This technology will allow commuters to pay their fares by tapping their credit, debit cards on a electronic reader at the turn styles.

This electronic reader will also accept payments from smart phone devices with payment mobile applications such as Google, Samsung, Apple Pay and others.OMNY will also offer a mobile application and a contactless OMNY card. This OMNY card customers be able to refill it with single and time-based fares.

The OMNY mobile application will allow customers to Purchase single and time-based fares, it will also allow customers to view the Service Status of train/Bus routes, it will have many other secondary features.(This case study is about the UI/UX designs for the MTAs OMNY mobile application and vending machines)The OMNY system is designed by San Diego based Cubic Transportation Systems, using technology licensed from Transport for Londons Oyster card.The Subway, buses are known for charging a flat fee regardless of time or distance traveled.

However a different fare payment system is used on the LIRR(Long Island Rail Road) and MetroNorth. Both railroads sell tickets based on geographical Zones and time of day, charging Peak or off-Peak fares. (This makes difficult to create an all-in-one mobile application that is minimalist and intuitive to users).

4. Client Task: Design the UI/UX for their OMNY project.The client has reached out requesting a new digital experience for its upcoming state of the art project OMNY(mentioned above).

That day I was at the park by myself, I sat on a rock in a small hill at the park to enjoy a beautiful sunset over Manhattan when the client rang my phone, the conversation went like this:Client: Hi Randol, we are looking for someone to design the digital customer experience for our OMNY project, long time no see what are you up to?Me: Hi, yes, long time no see, its always an honor, you know Im not cheap. LolClient: Jajaja we are very aware of that, the city just approved us 50 billion in funds to innovate the subway, half of it could be yours if you deliver ;)Me: Jaja Ok :)After a good 20 minutes negotiating project price and perks we finally agreed on an undisclosed amount of millions and 1 day as Mayor of New York plus more if I delivered the solution they needed.

So I started with a User Research.5. User Research and AnalysisAs mentioned above the MTA has an 8.

6 million Daily Ridership and 2.6 billion yearly ridership. This is a massive user base, users come from all backgrounds, age, gender, religion, ethnicity, all levels of education.

They come from third, second and first world countries. I already know for this project I will be extra prioritizing inclusiveness and consistency.Im a user of New Yorks public transport service myself.

I have to give a compliment to the hardware in these ticket vending machines, they are very solid, reliable and fast for being a 1990s technology and long before the arrival of smartphones these machines already had touch sensible displays, these machines were impressive state of the art technology back then, they were a decade ahead of time, they must be German made.The UI/UX design however could be better and easier. These are some of the screens in the vending machines:Via vending machines and tellers at stations customers can Buy and Refill their Metrocards with single fares and time-based fares.

Single Fares - these dont expire and you can buy many and use them as you need them.Time-based Fares these expire within 1 week or 1 month respectably, you can use them every 15 minutes at any time during the day until they expire. You can only have one time based fare in a Metrocard.

School Metrocards: Kids dont buy Metrocards to go to public school because the school system provides them with free School Metrocards. The school system has them covered with 3-4 rides a day from Monday to Friday. This is just enough to go to school and come back home.

They do buy regular Metrocards to go out on weekends with friends and family.In order to have an idea of what we will need for the upcoming OMNY vending machines and mobile applications I observed the current situation with the current vending machines. Many customers are very agile at these vending machines, many struggle at the machine and many avoid using the machine and prefer purchasing their fares via the teller at the station.

By the age, clothing and ethnicity of the customers in front of me I can predict my wait time at the line, lol. The struggle of one customer affects all other customers in the wait line. Sometimes one person would spent more then 2 minutes trying to get a Metrocard delaying others in the wait line.

Sometimes asking people question does not gets you the answers you need because many times customers dont know what they want or need, its your job to identify their struggle and pain. By simply observing their behavior and body language you can get the answer to your questions before you even ask the questions.How I have noticed users struggling at the vending machine?

(1) The journey of submitting an order involves many screen transitioning, this is not a minimalist experience even though each screen displays not more than 4 options to the user. The more screens there are involved in the journey the less likely the user will remember it when he comes back the next day, week or month.(2) The User Experience is inconsistent, most customers are agile only at buying the same item they always buy, however when they need to buy a different item they get a bit lost and take their time to read instructions.

(3) To Undo a selection there is screen transition involved and apparently many customers dont land where they expected and prefer to start over from the beginning. (4) Adding value to a Metrocard or purchasing a Metrocard with value added is a headache if dont know your math, the wrong math will leave you with extra dollar or cents as balance in your Metrocard, the right math will buy you exactly the amount of rides you need leaving no extra balance in the Metrocard.(5) If a user leaves the machine mid-order then the next user needs to re-start the process to get what he/she needs.

These problems cause congestion at the line. These are the most painful problems at the vending machines to buy Metrocards. If these problems are brought to the new MTAs OMNY mobile application and vending machines the customer experience wont be good or great.

UI/UX designs should always be evaluated to ensure they will meet the needs of their will be users and to ensure they offer a pleasant experience. A heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method that helps to identify usability problems in the user interface UI design. It specifically involves evaluators examining the interface and judging its compliance with recognized usability principles: The Heuristics.

A Great UI/UX designA great customer experience for a product with such a massive user base should always be:(1) Minimalist: Less is actually more then more, simple is luxury. Try to provide the user what he needs in few screens as possible and avoid screen transitions and animations because it may distract or confuse customers. Less is easier for customers to remember.

(2) Intuitive: The user should always know what is next. With a simple glance the user should know what he needs to do in order to get what he needs. If your UI/UX design needs instructions then it may not be intuitive enough.

A great UI/UX design should explain it self. Users should not have to learn how to use it.(3) Inclusive: Avoid any current or future trend if your user base is an entire city.

Keep your work basic and classic. The meaning of the word Inclusive is Made for Everyone. Inclusive means for users of any age, gender, religion ethnicity.

For example: A business suit is a very inclusive clothing because there are many jobs you can do with it many, places you can go with it, many meetings you can go to.(4) Transparent: Transparency is very important in UI/UX design especially if there are numbers involved and even more important if there is users money involved. Due amounts, make them always centered if possible and use the largest font size you can for it, this is not only transparency but also respect.

The Cost of an item should also be clearly visible, perhaps this should be the first thing the user notice when he glance at the screen.(5) Consistent: in a UI/UX design consistency should be a non-negotiable must be becausevthe human brain understands patterns, colors, and sounds faster then text therefore keeping things consistent is a big plus as it means less cognitive load for the brain. In a UI/UX design colors should be consistent, the journey should be consistent, elements should be consistent, patterns should be consistent, consistency throughout all digital channels, everything you can make consistent make it consistent.

6. Project Goals:The assigned task is to create the UI/UX design for all platforms of the MTAs OMNY project, platforms are Mobile devices and vending machines.With users struggling at the MTAs Vending machines there is an obvious job to do here, to Simplify its user experience.

Lets enhance the user experience at these vending machines by making it more consistent in every aspect, more inclusive, lets make it more minimalist by reducing the number of screens the user must transition in order to get what he needs and lets also make it more intuitive. The result should also be a UI/UX design that can also be employed in all platforms of the MTAs OMNY project, vending machines and mobile applications for example.For this project, due to the massive and diverse amount users, I will be avoiding any design trend because trends have expiring dates and this type of clients can not often modify their UI/UX designs as doing so will create chaos and confusion to many of their customers, people are not very welcoming to change unless it solves them an obvious problem(s).

This type of clients must stick to very basic and classic UI/UX designs that enables their customers to seamlessly get what they need. Also I will try not to surprise users with animations and progressive disclosures unless it is something very very necessary.These are the Goals:(1) Reduce number of screens(2) Minimize the user journey to a single screen, if possible.

(3) Reduce cognitive load. (4) Enhance consistency. (5) Dont surprise the user with animations and progressive disclosure, if possible.

(6) Ensure Linear Flow User Experience.(7) The user should be able to seamlessly distinguish sections.(8) Make sure users knows what is a button and what is not a button.

(9) Customer should always be able to see where the journey of submitting an order begins and ends.(10) The User should always seamlessly be able to buy exactly what he needs, so there are no cents left as balance in the card.(11) The design should be screen friendly to any screen shape or size so that customers find the same digital experience on any platform.

(12) Via the mobile application the user should be able to:(a) Also purchase their fares without having to progress through multiple screens.(b) Seamlessly switch between screens to view Map, Buy Fares, and View Service Status.(c) View current balance ( purchased Fares ).

(d) View available funds. 7. The Solution:Now that we have identified the users pains and have set the goals to solve them lets take a look at the UI/UX design that solves these pains and explain it.

Lets see the proposed UI/UX designs for the MTAs OMNY project.I have made dark a light themes. The dark theme I made it to honor the classic theme in today's vending machines and the light theme I made it for the OMNY project.

This light theme was inspired by the MTAs hybrid white/blue buses. I would say these buses are their best looking vehicle. From this concept I made several models, here they are:Lets explain this concept1) First thing to notice is that it is a single faceted design, with a quick glance the user can always see where the journey of submitting an order begins and ends.

This eliminates the anxiety caused by not knowing whats next. The journey of submitting an order happens in this one screen. Hey Randol did you forgot about Hicks law?

I have a good excuse to disobey this psychological principle and my excuse is that: The time it takes for a user to make 3 selections in one screen is faster and friendlier then the time of making one selection in 3 separate screens. I made it obvious for the user to distinguish to what section each button belongs to by implementing the Gestalt Principles of proximity and similarity to keep the screen user friendly.2) I categorized Sections into layers because Layers are a universally known pattern and I wanted to ensure a linear flow user experience ( Principle: Germanic Cognitive Law ).

3) I chose to provide a pre-selected native language to save one step from the user journey. About 95% of users are native of the city and therefore understand the native language. The minority who does not understand the native language will however need to select a desired language in the first layer at the top.

I believe favoring majority will have a positive impact in everybody in the long run. 4) No instructions are needed, the design is self explanatory the user simply needs to select the desired option at each row. 97% of customers are not first timers and therefore always guiding them step by step with instructions is not a very pleasant every day experience for them.

Removing instructions saves valuable space in the screen it also saves time of users reading them. The human brain understands patterns faster then letters and layers is a universally known pattern and humans are born understanding this pattern. Users come to these machines with one purpose in mind: to purchase their fares and their brain unconsciously will be scanning the screen for any button with a price tag, anything with price tags they will look at it to see if it meets their needs, if they dont understand the Language then they will try to find where they can change the language.

5) The user can seamlessly undo a selected option. Because there is no screen transitioning the user simply can select the desired option in the screen (Usability Heuristic #3).6) Since this project is for a transportation entity I thought it would be fun and interesting if the visual design reassembled that of a vehicle.

7) Pay attention to this animated GIF notice that the user can always buy exactly what he needs, no more extra cents left in balance on Metrocards. If they need a multiple quantity of the same item they can seamlessly specify it using the increment and decrement buttons that are displayed when the user selects one of the single fare types. Allowing users to seamlessly specify the desired quantity of a selected item is a simpler user experience than requesting them to add random amount of cash to their Metrocards.

This is also a more transparent customer service. 8) An advantage of this concept is that If a user leaves the machine mid-order the next user can simply override the selected options with his desired options. Therefore is not necessary at all to restart the journey from the beginning screen.

9) The user experience is very consistent visually and logically. It is the same user experience for buying or Refilling any desired item or quantity of desired item.Lets look at the UI/UX design for the mobile application10) The design is screen friendly for any screen size or shape.

This makes possible to employ this UI/UX design on any platform. I believe in consistency because consistency plays a primary role in a great customer service, consistency creates trust because it gives customers what they are already expecting and requires them to learn less. Omni-experience, same UI/UX design in all platforms, is one form of consistency.

Each of the vending machine models above has a corresponding mobile version. Notice that each item display to the user his remaining rides or time for that previously purchased item. Lets see them:The content within some sections (Layer) is customizable, I wanted to offer the user the freedom of customizing the content in some of the layers to meet his preferences.

For example the user can set items to be linear buttons or square buttons, the user can also place the Tapbar at the top or at the bottom, and the user can also change the appearance of the call to action buttons. Lets see the mobile UI/UX designs again, this time with the tap bar placed at the bottom.As mentioned above the MTA has many different transport routes: Bus/Subway, MetroNorth and Long Island Railroad (LIRR).

I believe it would convenient to design an All-In-One mobile application that enables commuters to seamlessly purchase desired fares for any desired route, this approach will require commuters to download, install and set up just one MTA mobile application instead of many. In order to ensure mass adoption of the OMNY project the UI/UX design must be consistent, inclusive and intuitive throughout platforms. As mentioned above the goals for the mobile application of the MTAs OMNY project is to enable users to:(a) Seamlessly buy the purchase their fares, view routes on a map and view time arrivals and services status.

(b) View available purchased single fares and time-based fares. For example: 5 days remaining of a purchased time-based fare, or 4 rides of a single fare.(c) Send or Request fares or values as a gift from/to friends, family or other.

(d) Any other secondary feature such as Save Trips, Recommended Places, etc should be hidden in a Menu button. This UI/UX design is modular meaning that the user has the freedom to change the content of each Layer to meet his preferences. I didnt wanted to limit the user to a particular visual design design, I wanted the user to be able to change the UI a little bit without altering the UX because the UX is what is important.

8. Conclusion:This case study was about a UI/UX design for the public largest transportation agency in the United States, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York, who is currently in the process of upgrading its fare payment system. They have named their new project OMNY (One Metro New York).

The goal of the project is mainly to enhance the fare payment experience for their customers to make it faster and seamless for them by installing contactless NFC readers at turnstiles so that customers can easily pay their fares by simply tapping their: Their credit and debit cards Mobile payment applications OMNY contactless cards (currently in development). OMNY Mobile application (currently in development). I have shown a few of the UI/UX designs I have created for Vending machines and mobile applications and mentioned the problems they solve.

These UI/UX designs are part of my project Ultimate Machine UI. The goal of this project is to simplify the user experience in everyday machines and mobile applications. All designs are interactive prototypes, feel free to visit to interact with them.

9. Thank you:This is probably one of the longest case studies out there and I know Im not the greatest writer so I want to thank you for making it this far. I hope it was worth it.

Follow this project on social media.Thank You,Randol RELATED QUESTION I didn't get Google Glass Explorer Edition. Is trying to learn Glass dev without the hardware a futile effort?

No, you can still learn the fundamentals of Glass development without the hardware. There are three main approaches for accomplishing this: 1) Visit the Mirror API documentation, get into the playground, and start hashing up some code. Download the PHP, Java, and Python library, whichever you're most comfortable with.

Familiarize yourself with the jargon and converntions (timeline, bundles, menus, etc). Read the support documentation (second link below) to see how the Glass hardware actually functions. Build some apps to this specification.

Soon enough, you will find a friend with hardware to t

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With that said, if you have enough time, resources and know-how you could look into developing a custom solution using our POS APIs. Note that using our APIs does require web and software development knowledge. All the best! Seamus Community Manager, Square Sign in and click Mark as Best Answer if my reply answers your question.How can one obtain supplies for a bubble gum vending machineThe best place to get supplies for a bubble gum vending machine are at wholesalers. There are wholesalers that specialize in candy and other sugar products and there are also general wholesalers like Costco or Sam's Club.What kind of snack items from a vending machine can be safely eaten by a person with diabetes?Anything you want sweetheart!!! there are no rules any more. Check your glucose level and decide if you really can afford the carb counts of some of the things in vending machines!!!I carry all my own snackies in my huge suitcase like purse!! I have to have my meds anyway, so why not carry some snackies in either purse or briefcase??When was the first vending machine inventedThe Holy Water Vending Machine is the very first coin-operated vending machine, located in the temple of Alexandria in. Egypt. around 10 to 70 A.D. When the coin was deposited, it fell upon a pan attached to a lever. The lever opened up a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt with the weight of the coin until it fell off, at which point a counter-weight would snap the lever back up and turn off the valve.What are vending machine services? –Bottoms Up Vending is a full service vending provider throughout Illinois and Northwest Indiana. Full service vending companies deliver, install, service, maintain and stock the machines, all at no cost to your business. Of course, the full service vending company collects the money and that is how they make money! Full vending services are a popular route for businesses in search of vending service providers; since it requires no work on their end. At Bottoms Up Vending we make sure to do everything in our control to ensure a smooth transition for you. Our route drivers are clean and quiet when they fill and maintain our vending machines so that your team can continue to work without being disturbed. As a full service vending provider, we offer a slew of vending services including office coffee, snack machines, soda machines, ice cream, candy and many other options. We have solutions for you no matter how big or small your business is! Bottoms Up Vending provides vending for 24/7 facilities, such as hospitals and nursing facilities, as well as, corporate offices and businesses of all sizes. Grab a coffee and relax while we handle the break room. With close to 20 years of providing excellent break room vending options, we can turn small and large spaces into pleasant self-service and automated vending areas.
What Warning Labels Could You See on Products to Be Used in Space?
Nowadays there are warning labels on most everything: this is flammable, that will cause injury because it's sharp, this substance is poisonous, and that canister is under pressure, but what types of warning labels would you need for items designed to be used in a weightless environment? There is a very large set of possibilities. For real-world examples do some research on what NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, CNSA do. The list below is just off the top of my head. Cannot be used in microgravity. Must be used in gravity field greater than X% of earth.Must be used in gravity field less than X% of earth.Cannot withstand acceleration greater than Y. Must be aligned along a certain axis for acceleration.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure greater than X.Must be used at an atmospheric pressure less than X. Cannot be used in Heliox atmosphere. Must only be unwrapped/used in an environment with a scrubber that can handle a particular chemical.Must be decontaminated via (some method) when moving from atmospheric composition X to composition Y.Must be exposed to hard vacuum for X hours before being brought into atmosphere. Requires shielding in a certain EM range. Requires grounding. Requires shielding from certain cosmic rays.Cannot be used during a solar flare of greater than X intensity.Cannot be used if organism X is present.Can only be used if organism X is present. Cannot be taken to an uncontaminated planetary environment.Can be injected into a person only if they have a certain symbiote/implant/genetic marker.Can only be used in temperature range X to Y. Can only be stored in temperature range X to Y.Do not change temperature at a rate greater than Z/sec OTHER ANSWER: The thing about silly warnings on earth is that most of them were added because someone, somewhere actually did it and did try to sue the manufacturer. Whether the warning can be followed in practice is irrelevant, as the only purpose is to try to give the manufacturer more leverage in case of a legal claim.So considering the actual incidents and accidents that have occurred in spaceflight, we can color things up a bit and warn:.
Justice Dept Settles with Tobacco Cos on Database
RICHMOND, Va. The nation's two biggest tobacco companies, Philip Morris USA Inc. and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., have agreed to pay $6.25 million to support the country's largest online collection of internal tobacco industry documents, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The settlement resolves a dispute over an online document database that a U.S. District Court judge in Washington, D.C., mandated in a 2006 ruling in which she found the companies masked the dangers of smoking. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler said the companies were trying to deceive people about the health effects of smoking and nicotine addiction and about marketing to youth and changes to cigarette designs to increase addiction. Over the next four years, the companies will fund and enhance access to the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library, an online database of more than 13 million internal tobacco company documents run by the University of California, San Francisco. The 11-year-old database mostly contains documents revealed during lawsuits against the companies. Hard copies are stored in an archive known as the Minnesota Depository. Representatives for Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group Inc., parent of Philip Morris USA, and for Reynolds American Inc., the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based owner of R.J. Reynolds, declined to comment on the settlement Wednesday. The settlement still must be approved by the court. "This agreement helps make sure that these documents will be accessible to researchers, journalists, students, lawyers, the government and the public at large -- anyone who is interested in learning more about the defendants' efforts to mislead consumers about the effects of smoking," Tony West, assistant attorney general for the civil division of the Department of Justice, said in a statement. In addition to the document database, Kessler has said she wants the industry to pay for various types of ads, both broadcast and print, but she has not said what the statements should say, where they must be placed or for how long. The government's proposed corrective ads would cover the addictiveness of nicotine, the lack of health benefits from "low tar," "ultra-light" and "mild" cigarettes and the dangers of secondhand smoke. The companies have argued that the statements are inflammatory, inaccurate and "designed solely to shame and humiliate" the companies. The court is considering delaying that decision while other courts decide newer cases challenging new tobacco marketing restrictions and graphic cigarette warning labels the government has proposed. ------ Michael Felberbaum can be reached at .
Handle with Care: Prepackaged Meal Kits and New Food Delivery Methods Are Serving Up a New Helping o
In June 2016, National Frozen Foods Corp. recalled frozen peas and mixed vegetables it packages under 13 brands. The recalled products, thought to be contaminated with the microscopic pathogen Listeria monocytogenes, were included in several of HelloFresh's meal kits delivered to customers in 21 states. New food delivery methods such as home-delivered meal kits and prepackaged fares are changing the food industry. However, the evolving ways in which consumers now receive and prepare foods are creating new liability concerns that some insurers, brokers and others fear could become a recipe for disaster. On-the-go consumers are flocking to healthy alternative meal solutions. Within the past year, 25% of Americans purchased a meal kit and 70% continued to buy them after making their first purchase, according to Nielsen. But inside the neatly packaged boxes of preportioned ingredients and step-by-step recipes lurks the potential for foodborne illnesses and missed food allergens, and that has the insurance industry developing new offerings and risk management programs to stave off those potential exposures. In a recent study of 169 home meal kits, researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey and Tennessee State University found the majority of meats, poultry and seafood in those kits arrived at consumers' doorsteps at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, making them unsafe to consume. Part of the problem is the time between refrigeration and delivery of those items. Only 5% of the orders required a signature upon delivery and many of the boxes were left outside for eight hours or more. Also, kits that arrived at temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees had "off the chart" microbial loads--the total number of bacteria and fungi in a given quantity of water or soil or on the surface of food, Rutgers professor Bill Hallman said at the 2017 annual Food Safety Summit in Rosemont, Illinois. Menu of Risks More than 100 subscription and a la carte meal-kit delivery service companies, such as Blue Apron, Home Chef, Chef'D and Plated, have sprung up in the past few years, and more competitors are continuing to crowd the multibillion-dollar market. National retailers, such as Whole Foods Market, Costco and Walmart; food purveyors, including Campbell Soup, Hershey and Tyson Foods, and Martha Stewart and other celebrities have also entered the meal-in-a-box fray. But today's "changing plate" is blurring the lines on how food is produced and delivered, and that's raising liability concerns and prompting the need for clarification of responsibilities and regulations when it comes to new food delivery models including meal kits, said Tami Griffin, national practice leader at Aon Risk Solutions. Under the lid of those kits lie many questions, including where food products and ingredients come from, whether product handlers are following proper safety protocols and if adequate packaging and temperature control measures are being taken. The Rutgers-Tennessee State study offered a glimpse into some of those answers. Researchers found dry ice often used inside meal kits fails to come with warning labels or handling information, and only 37% of deliveries had visible information indicating the parcels contained perishable foods. Compounding the problem is that containers used to ship perishable food often are much larger than necessary and often don't have packing materials to fill the empty space, thereby compromising temperature control measures. Also, non- or mislabeled food items inside meal kits bring about potential food allergy concerns, and cross-contamination issues can arise during their transportation, said Steve Kluting, the Midwest regional director of Arthur J. Gallagher & Company's food and agribusiness practice group. Concerns like those pose yet another question: Who is responsible if something goes awry? So far there are more questions than answers. Because of the lack of regulation and the novelty of these delivery models, it is not always clear who to blame when a crisis occurs. Adequate safety measures and protocols can lessen that risk. For example, clearly labeled disclosures about potential food allergens on companies' websites or inside meal boxes is generally adequate enough to protect against liability, said Bill Marler, a managing partner at Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark. He has been a plaintiff's attorney for a number of foodborne illness and food safety cases over the years, including the highly-publicized Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak in 1993. Four children died and 178 other people became ill after eating contaminated beef patties served at 73 of the restaurant's chains. "People with severe food allergies are good at reading labels and knowing what's in products," Marler said. "But if you're sourcing from different suppliers you need to familiarize yourself with each of those companies' food allergy profiles." Labels should also include information about the products' manufacturers or suppliers, he said."Doing so allows the box to work, in a sense, like a grocery store and liability becomes more limited. If some items are included in unnamed packages, the box entity may be on the hook for strict liability as a manufacturer." Liability can fall anywhere along the supply chain--from growers and processors to suppliers and distributors. Amazon, UPS, FedEx and other meal-kit carriers have largely been able to avoid liability because of the contractual relationships they have with their meal-kit providers, said James Neale, a partner at the law firm McGuireWoods LLP in Charlottesville, Virginia. Researchers found shipping companies that delivered meal-in-the-box kits in the Rutgers-Tennessee State study washed their hands of any responsibility if products showed up spoiled. Others in the supply chain, however, are at risk, and that's why traceability is key, said Jana Wilson, managing director of risk services and global lodging and leisure practice leader at Industria Risk & Insurance Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of Good Works Financial Group. Also, the shorter the chain, the fewer the risks, she said."Companies need to create and maintain relationships with all of their suppliers--from the guy who caught the fish, to the person who froze the fish, to the individual who transported the fish and finally to all of those who are responsible for preparing and serving the fish." Supply chains have increasingly become more global. That's why companies need a good quality assurance process to test imported products to ensure foods and ingredients are what they claim to be, said Steven Simmons, associate vice president of risk management in Nationwide's agribusiness insurance. He also suggests suppliers secure indemnity agreements which defend and indemnify them in the event of a loss due to use of a supplier of a product/ingredient to include adequate limits of insurance. "When possible have yourself listed as an additional insured on the product/ingredient maker's liability coverage," he said."Good contracts outlining duties and responsibilities will mitigate confusion in the event of a loss." Finding Solutions Food product liability insurance is one of the insurance options companies may want to consider. FPLI protects retail businesses against claims made from the sale of foods sold to the public, and it covers the retail seller's liability for losses or injuries suffered as a result of purchasing a product by a buyer, user or bystander. "Part of the problem is that FPLI is not a mandated coverage. At this point it is primarily the larger food service companies that are requiring FPLI from their suppliers,"Wilson said. That may soon change. Vicarious liability that follows the entire food chain is too large of a risk not to have in place the kind of coverage FPLI provides, she said. General liability policies help companies protect against third-party claims and provide defense and indemnity costs if a contamination or foodborne illness outbreak arises, said Florida-based injury attorney Jason Turchin. Each year, nearly 48 million Americans become sick and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria, according to federal data. General liability, however, is laden with holes when it comes to reputational risks, and smaller farms and local growers may not carry the coverage, Turchin said."All it takes is one major outbreak to bankrupt them and shut down their entire operation." Product contamination and product recall insurance coverages can help fill the gap. The policies provide coverage for reputational harm and lost profits after an event, along with brand-building efforts and financial recovery for items that need to be removed from shelves or inventory stocks, said Amy Lochhead, a vice president and division underwriting manager at Liberty Mutual's national insurance unit. Today's recall insurance market remains relatively soft, and a number of new entrants are flooding the sector, said Caitlin McGrath, vice president of national product recall and accidental contamination risk consulting at Lockton."Despite recent losses, prices have remained low and companies are becoming more competitive with their coverages." Turchin suggests meal-kit providers and their suppliers also consider other coverage options such as medical payment insurance--a no-fault, good faith gesture that helps companies cover medical expenses, up to a certain amount, caused by a food product. Also, stand-alone workplace violence policies, cyber liability to protect the online exchange of customer data in meal-kit transactions and addons such as a vaccination endorsement can cover risks associated with new food delivery models, McGrath said. Risk Action Plans While adequate insurance coverages can certainly help, companies also need to adopt risk mitigation efforts and create crisis management plans, Marler said. For instance, place warning labels outside kits indicating which products need to be refrigerated and at what temperatures they should be stored and cooked, he said. "Taking steps that will help lower a company's risk profile and allow them to share--not shift--risk and responsibility from farm to fork." Also, know where products come from. Decide what kinds of food to include in a kit and which ones to avoid. "For example, raw oysters may not be the best choice," Marler said. Individuals with certain medical conditions, including cancer, diabetes and liver disease, are at risk for becoming seriously ill or dying from eating raw oysters that are contaminated with Vibrio vulnificus--a gram-negative bacterium that occurs naturally in warm, unpolluted seawater. Companies also need to examine their policy language and membership contracts. Blue Apron--the first U.S. meal-kit delivery service to go public, in 2017--requires members to agree to the provisions of a 20-page membership agreement outlining its terms of use and mandating members to go through an arbitration process on an individual basis limiting the remedies available to the consumer in the event of certain disputes, Wilson said. The New York startup, created by a professional chef, a venture capitalist and a computer engineer in 2014, currently serves about eight million meals a month. Blue Apron's terms of use agreement clearly holds its members responsible for inspecting all products for any damage or other issues upon delivery. Wilson said the company even goes as far as to recommend members use a thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of meat, poultry and seafood is 40 degrees or below. "But each food element has a slightly different temperature requirement. While food safety experts must navigate, even anticipate, trends in food safety practices, consumer behavior is the sole responsibility of the consumer,"Wilson said. Companies also need to implement and maintain quality control measures, develop testing and traceability plans to monitor supply chain audits and keep abreast of current regulations, Liberty Mutual's Lochhead said. So far the meal-kit delivery industry remains relatively unregulated, experts say. The Food Safety Modernization Act--the most sweeping reform to U.S. food safety laws in more than 70 years--was enacted in 2011. However, other than reminding consumers about safe handling instructions, neither the FDA nor the United States Department of Agriculture have yet to issue any substantial guidance around new food delivery methods such as meal kits. Groups like the California Association of Environmental Health Administrators are hoping to change that. This year, the CAEHA proposed a new bill that would expand state-mandated food safety training to meal-kit delivery employees and would require them to obtain a food handlers card, which is a certificate obtained after an employee attends a food safety training course and passes an examination from an accredited organization. But companies like Blue Apron are pushing back over concerns with the bill. In 2016, the final rule to FSMA's Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food regulation went into effect. The rule is designed to protect foods from farm to table by keeping them safe from contamination during transportation. However, couriers--including meal-kit delivery services--are exempt from the final sanitary transport rule, which "ironically, was passed just as the meal-kit delivery model was on the horizon," Turchin said. Regulators are starting to examine home meal-kit delivery more closely, and as a result, Wilson expects the FDA will soon incorporate technical guidelines into the FSMA that will "stretch the understanding of food safety in our new food technology world." She also anticipates insurers will create micro-niche insurance products that would provide coverage for each of the "big eight" allergens, such as shellfish or peanuts, in an effort to help mitigate potential risks in the market. "As we dive deeper into this fat-free, gluten-free and other food sensitivities-free world we now live in, the government will continue to step in and more stringently regulate information about food allergies or sensitivities already being tested on countless menus and food packaging labels." Technology's Role Technology has a large hand in changing today's food industry. By 2025, 70% of consumers are expected to purchase at least some of their food online, according to reports. And new food preparation and delivery models are being overhauled by advances in robotics, analytics and big data. California startup Zume Pizza relies on robots to prepare and bake its pies. The company also uses artificial intelligence and big data to predict order volume and make its food fresher. Another startup, Chowbotics, recently created a robot it calls Sally to prepare custom, chef-inspired salads using precut products stored in refrigerated canisters. While technology is creating greater convenience, it's also upping the liability ante. And that's why companies need to think through their risk profile and ask themselves: Is convenience worth the risk, Marler said. "It's similar to what we saw 15 years ago with the rise in ready-to-eat salad mixes," he said. "Unfortunately, some of those companies didn't think about all of the potential risks that could arise if the mixes became contaminated while being shipped across the U.S. in refrigerated trucks, giving time for bacteria to grow." Insurers have struggled to wrap their heads around evolving risks like those. And new delivery models including home meal kits are once again forcing carriers to come up with novel ways to underwrite and insure those exposures, Lockton's McGrath said. "The thing about meal kits is that they aren't grocery stores. They're not frozen foods. So insurers have to figure out how to underwrite what is essentially a group of individual, prepackaged, portioned foods coming from multiple sources," she said. Only now are those answers becoming clearer and carriers are starting to feel more comfortable with those risks, McGrath said. Dinner-in-the-box delivery is more than a passing fad. The market is set to become a $5 billion industry over the next decade, according to food industry analyst Technomic Inc. So far claims and losses have remained low, Marler said. "That's probably because these are individual deliveries, and large-scale food safety litigation generally involves outbreaks that affect many people. I don't think meal kits are immune from food safety problems, but this delivery model will probably cause more one-off problems." The challenge will be detecting and pinpointing problems, which may fly under the radar, he said. by Lori Chordas Lori Chordas is a senior associate editor. She can be reached at lori. Key Points A Full Plate: The meal-kit delivery market, which packages convenient, healthy preportioned food in a box, is expected to become a $5 billion industry in the next several years. Hard Nut to Crack: Those kits present new liability exposures throughout the supply chain, as well as the potential for foodborne illnesses and possible missed food allergens. The Whole Enchilada: General liability, food product liability, product contamination and product recall, and cyber liability are a few of the coverages that can help recover losses stemming from those risks.
New York Police Officer Contracts Legionnaires' Disease
Officials are investigating a New York police station and water supply after an officer contracted Legionnaires' disease, a potentially life-threatening form pneumonia.Preliminary test results indicate that traces of the bacteria causing Legionnaires' disease were found at the police station in East Harlem. Officials have started inspecting the facility's systems and testing the precinct's water supply. The officer, who was not named, is recovering at a hospital outside of the city, according to the New York City Department of Health.Officials first became aware of the situation on Saturday.Legionnaires' disease is treatable with antibiotics, but it can be deadly if left untreated. Legionella pneumophila, the type of bacteria that causes the disease, thrive and multiply in water systems, cooling towers, indoor plumbing, hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers. Most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings because complex water systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily, according to the Mayo Clinic."Health officials are on site today to sample water in indoor plumbing, and to provide additional assistance and guidance," the health department said in a statement Sunday. "Legionnaires' disease is not contagious, officers can still work in the building but should avoid taking showers at the site until the investigation is complete. There is no public health risk to the larger community."The hot water supply at the station has been temporarily shut down.Officials have ruled out a cooling tower that supports the facility's heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems as a possible origin of the bacteria because it has been shut down since October as part of a renovation project, according to the police department. A new tower was installed last month, but it has not been activated.Legionnaires' disease was first discovered in 1976, when people attending a Pennsylvania American Legion convention at a hotel in Philadelphia developed pneumonia. More than 200 convention attendees and visitors were infected, and some died.People get sick with Legionnaires' disease by breathing small droplets of water containing the bacteria. Symptoms include headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Those at risk of getting sick are adults 50 years or older, smokers, and people with a chronic lung disease, weak immune systems, cancer and other preexisting illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.On Friday, two guests at a Las Vegas resort contracted Legionnaires' disease, according to media reports. One stayed at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in March, while the other stayed there in April, CNN reported. Health officials said Legionella was found in the hot-water system of one of the hotel's towers.Between 200 and 400 cases of Legionnaires' disease are reported in New York City every year, according to the health department.In 2015, an outbreak in the South Bronx prompted health officials to implement tougher cooling tower regulations, hire more inspectors and train city employees on how to inspect cooling towers, officials said.Federal officials said last year that cases of Legionnaires' disease have nearly quadrupled in the United States over a 15-year period. About 6,000 cases were reported in 2015 alone."Large recent outbreaks in New York City and Flint, Mich., have brought attention to the disease and highlight the need to understand why the outbreaks occur and how best to prevent them," CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a briefing last year.Infants born during water births are at risk of contracting the disease.Two infants in Arizona were infected with Legionnaires' disease in 2016, according to the CDC. Both were delivered by a midwife in a home birthing tub. They survived after receiving antibiotics.- - -The Washington Post's Lena H. Sun contributed to this story.
Defense Rests; Zimmerman Won't Testify in Murder Trial ...
The jury in the George Zimmerman murder trial was expected to begin deliberations as soon as Friday afternoon after the defense team rested Wednesday without the neighborhood watch volunteer taking the stand.Judge Debra Nelson said she hoped to hand the case to the jury Friday afternoon, with closing arguments set to begin at 1pm Thursday.The defense team used its final day of testimony to paint the neighborhood watch volunteer as a wimp who was getting pummeled when he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense, at one point commandeering a mannequin introduced by prosecutors in order to re-enact its version of the fight.Zimmerman did not take the stand, though his team left the option open until the last minute, with Zimmerman finally telling Judge Debra Nelson he would not testify. After OMara announced that he would call no more witnesses, prosecutors called the first of several witnesses back for rebuttal, beginning with Adam Pollock, owner of a kickboxing gym where Zimmerman trained prior to the incident. Like other defense witnesses, Pollock described Zimmerman as a soft weakling, likely unable to defend himself against Martin before firing the gun.Earlier Wednesday, Zimmerman's lawyer literally flipped a prosecution witness -- a gray, foam dummy -- to re-enact the defense's version of the confrontation that ended in Martin's death, straddling the mannequin and bashing its head against the floor as stunned jurors looked on Wednesday. The mannequin was initially introduced by prosecutor John Guy during cross-examination of defense witness Dennis Root, a former law enforcement officer who testified as an expert on defensive use of force. Guy used it to show how, if Martin were straddling Zimmerman, he would have had difficulty reaching for a gun holstered at his waist.After Guy wrapped up his round of questioning, lead defense attorney O'Mara stepped up."May I use your doll?" asked O'Mara.O'Mara straddled the dummy on the floor in front of the witness stand, grabbed it by the shoulders and drove its head into the floor repeatedly."Would the injuries on Mr. Zimmerman, the back of his head, be consistent with someone doing this on cement?" asked O'Mara as he slammed the flopping mannequin's head into the floor."I don't think so," replied Root."How about this?" asked O'Mara, continuing to bash the life-sized dummy against the floor, but placing its arm against his shoulder, as if it were resisting. "How about someone resisting the attack? Could that have come from if someone was resisting me pushing down like this?"Root responded, "I believe so."Earlier in his testimony, Root described how Zimmerman would be no match for the 17-year-old Martin in a fight."Mr. Martin was a physically active and capable person," said Root, who probed both Martin's and Zimmerman's physical conditioning and fighting prowess on behalf of the defense team. "Mr. Zimmerman is an individual who is by no stretch of the imagination an athlete, and . he would find himself lacking when compared to Mr. Martin."Roots testimony jibed with prior defense witnesses who have testified that the neighborhood watch volunteer was overweight, in poor shape and not good with his fists. Root said screams heard on a 911 call, which the defense claims are Zimmerman, show "a high level of stress, a high level of fear."[pullquote]A young mother who lived in the gated community where Zimmerman shot Martin told jurors Wednesday the neighborhood watch volunteer helped comfort her after a home invasion by two young men left her frightened.Olivia Bertalan said Zimmerman supplied her with a new lock for her sliding door and offered to open his own home to her after the incident, which happened about six months before Zimmermans fateful confrontation with Martin,. Although she said the two invaders were African-Americans in their late teens, there was no suggestion that Martin was involved. The testimony was instead apparently presented to show how seriously Zimmerman took his role as a community protector.Zimmerman's father, Robert Zimmerman, also took the stand Wednesday, saying it was "absolutely" his son George on the 911 call that captured the fatal confrontation.GAVEL-TO-GAVEL COVERAGE: ZIMMERMAN TRIALEarlier Wednesday, Judge Nelson denied two requests by the defense, ruling that a computer animation that depicts the February 2012 confrontation as well as text messages that purportedly deal with fighting sent from Martin's phone will not be admissible as evidence.The judge seemed concerned about the animation's accuracy during arguments. While the animation can't be introduced as evidence that can be reviewed by jurors during their deliberations, defense attorneys may be able to use it during closing arguments, she ruled.&quotTo have an animation go back into jury room that they can play over and over again gives a certain weight to something that this court isn't exactly certain comports with the evidence presented at trial,&quot Nelson said Wednesday night.The judge also agreed with prosecutors' concerns about introducing the 17-year-old's text messages. But defense attorney Don West had argued the texts were relevant since they showed Martin's interest in fighting and physical capabilities.The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Trump's New EPA Chief Warns Water Is a Bigger Threat Than Climate Change
In one of his first interviews, new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler told CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett that Americans should focus less on global warming."We have 1,000 children die everyday worldwide because they don't have safe drinking water. That's a crisis that I think we can solve. We know what goes into solving a crisis like that. It takes resources, it takes infrastructure and and the United States is working on that. But I really would like to see maybe the United Nations, the World Bank focus more on those problems today to try to save those children. Those thousand children each day, they have names, we know who they are," Wheeler told Garrett.Although Wheeler acknowledged to Garrett that the emissions of fossil fuels and other man-made variables "certainly contributes" to climate change, and promised that President Donald Trump would reveal two major regulations later this year in order to curb CO2 emissions, he emphasized that he considered providing clean water to be a higher priority."Most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out," Wheeler argued, adding that people are currently dying from drinking dirty water.America, Wheeler insisted, is "doing much better than most westernized countries on reducing their CO2 emissions, but what we need to do is make sure that the whole world is focused on the people who are dying today, the thousand children that die everyday from lack of drinking water. That is something where we have the technology, we know what it will take to save those children. And internationally, we need to step up and do something there."Wheeler then addressed the Flint water crisis, which began in 2014 when the water for the Michigan city of Flint was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to Flint River, thereby exposing the city to elevated lead levels due to inadequate water treatment."First of all, I want to make sure the American public understands 92 percent of the water everyday meets all the EPA requirements for safe drinking water," Wheeler told Garrett.He added, "We have the safest drinking water in the world. We are working to update a number of regulations, one of which is our lead and copper rule, which takes a look at the pipes. The lead pipes that we have around the country. As part of that, we're looking at what we can do to require regular testing for schools and daycares, so that would be part of that regulation when it comes out later this year."As for the water in Flint, Wheeler told Garrett that "part of the problem with Flint was there was a breakdown in once they got the data, once the city of Flint, the state of Michigan, the Obama EPA they sat on it. We're not doing that. As soon as we get information that there's a problem, we're stepping in, we're helping the local community get that water system cleaned up."Although Wheeler is correct about the problem with contaminated water in both the United States and the rest of the world, his downplaying of the threat posed by man-made climate change is inconsistent with the scientific consensus."There will be and already is major consequences and they grow over time. It does not look good," Kevin Trenberth, a Distinguished Senior Scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, told Salon in August. "The effects are always local but there are more and more of them and the consequences are major. These includes floods and drought, heat waves and wild fires."Michael Mann, he Distinguished Professor of Atmosphere Science at Penn State, explained in October what the world would have to look forward to if global warming goes unchecked."The summer and fall of 2018 provides a glimpse of what will be in store," Mann toldSalon. "We will need to adapt to a world where damaging extreme weather events are far more common. If we dont act, these events will become both more extreme and more common."He added, "A large part of the planet will become unlivable (either too hot or too dry). And more and more of the available land surface will be used for agriculture and farming to feed a growing global population. That means more concentrated human settlementand probably a lot more conflict."
New Apps Help Shoppers Identify Items Using Image Recognition
TORONTO (Reuters) - A new app lets shoppers flipping through retail flyers purchase items that catch their eye using image recognition technology. The iOS app Pounce allows shoppers to scan images they spot in print media with their devices camera, then purchase the item online directly from the retailer running the advertisement. We are able to match an image with an actual product available online, said Avital Yachin, chief executive of BuyCode, Inc, the Tel Aviv, Israel-based company that developed the app, one of a growing number of apps using image recognition to bridge the physical and online worlds of e-commerce. Our vision is to allow purchasing of any product in any print ad, he said, adding that the company plans to expand to catalogs, magazines and billboards. The Pounce app recognizes products that its retailing partners, which include Staples Inc, Target Corp, Toys R Us Inc and Ace Hardware Corp, sell online. After scanning an image, the app displays the items price and shipping cost, then allows shoppers to make the purchase directly from the retailer. Other companies such as eBay and Amazon have apps that use image recognition to identify objects such as books, cars and even clothing to help shoppers find similar items in their online marketplaces. The potential of image recognition lies in its ability to determine the make and model of any item in the world, especially those that consumers are otherwise unable to identify, said Steve Yankovich, the VP of Innovation and New Ventures at eBay Inc. EBay has experimented with adding image recognition to their eBay Fashion and eBay Motors iPhone apps. With eBay Fashion, for example, users can upload an image and the app will suggest items that have similar colors, styles, and fabric. Its RedLaser app for iPhone and Android allows users to take photos of items and shows similar items available for sale at retailers online and locally, which eBay says fosters its main mission of partnering with retailers, not competing with them. Yankovich predicts that image recognition technology will help make shopping more seamless as it evolves over the next 10 years. Amazons app Flow, for iPhone and Android, allows users to use the camera to identify a product sold on Amazon and get such details as its description, reviews and video or audio clips. The company says the app can recognize packaged goods with distinguishable features such as books, DVDs or even items such as candy bars or a box of cereal. Users can then read reviews and purchase them from the online retailer. But Yachin said it will be some time yet before consumers can identify everyday items such as clothing on another person. The broader vision of recognizing real-world objects will take a little longer, he said, adding that the technology relies on a large database of product images. Pounce is free and available in the United States, with plans to expand to Canada and Europe. Amazon Flow is only available in the United States and is free and EBay Fashion is also free and available worldwide.
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