Afternoon Coffee: Manufacturing production and consumer spending rose in July; momentum for blockchain implementation stalled during COVID-19 pandemic; AI technology and the future of air travel

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The Federal Reserve reported Friday that U.S. manufacturing production rose 3.4% last month, according to Reuters. A surge in motor vehicle production helped boost the economy for the third consecutive month, but the numbers remained lower than before the COVID-19 pandemic.

While more businesses reopened last month, demand still remained somewhat low with markets fearful of the virus. Manufacturing accounts for 11% of the U.S. economy, but the industry was struggling even before the coronavirus pandemic because of a trade war with China, according to the article.

The manufacturing news coincided with the announcement that retail sales rose 1.2% in July, according to CNBC. However, these numbers were lower than expected. Economists warn that consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product, might fall in the upcoming months as the future of unemployment benefits hangs in the air.

Blockchain momentum on bumpy ride during COVID-19  

The role and momentum for blockchain shifted amid the COVID-19 disruption, according to Supply Chain Dive. While companies are still adopting the technology, funding slowed during the crisis because leaders took a critical eye to operations and logistics.

The article found that blockchain technologies already in existence fared well, while newer projects halted during the pandemic. However, for specific industries like supply chain, momentum increased. Leaders looked for a value proposition when deciding to implement new blockchain technology. Supply chains faced pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts said blockchain could fix those challenges.

"There's still interest and investments in, and adoption of, blockchain, because it perfectly addresses some of the issues that the coronavirus has identified," James Wester, Research director of Worldwide Blockchain Strategies at IDC Insights, told Supply Chain Dive.

Artificial intelligence to solve travel headaches?

Artificial intelligence might be the key to solving the headaches travelers face when going to the airport, according to the Wall Street Journal. Airlines and technology companies have been researching new AI tools to improve the quality of air travel.

AI technology can make the travel experience more accessible and easier in the future, the article said. The biggest hurdles to implementation include the speed of maturity, privacy concerns and passenger preference.

Experts said certain technologies, like facial-recognition scans and autonomous vehicles, are already in use. Some technologies, like pilotless commercial aircrafts, could be many years away, but the research is there, according to the article. While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the progress of implementing some of these AI technologies, experts say they are not far off.

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