Amazon was awarded a pair of patents for a wristband-based monitoring system that can track warehouse workers’ hand movements.
Amazon has a new way to keep tabs on warehouse workers.
As GeekWire reports, the online retailer was awarded a pair of patents for a wristband-based monitoring system that can track warehouse workers’ hand movements. The wristband would use ultrasonic sound pulses or radio transmissions to track whether workers are placing items into and taking them out of the correct inventory bins.
Amazon filed for the patents in 2016, though the system first made headlines—and raised privacy concerns—when the applications were published last fall. The system might seem overly intrusive, but Amazon positions this as something that could cut out certain repetitive tasks and help workers be more productive.
The patent notes that “existing approaches for keeping track of where inventory items are stored…may require the inventory system worker to perform time consuming acts beyond placing the inventory item into an inventory bin and retrieving the inventory item from the inventory bin, such as pushing a button associated with the inventory bin or scanning a barcode associated with the inventory bin.”
The wristband-based system would presumably eliminate that extra step, allowing workers to simply place inventory in bins and remove it, as necessary, without having to push a button or scan a barcode every time.
Computer vision-based systems could be used in a similar way to track inventory items, but that option would likely be “computationally intensive and expensive,” the patent notes. “Accordingly, improved approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored are of interest.”
There’s no word as to whether Amazon plans to start using this technology in its warehouses any time soon. We’ve reached out to the company for comment but have yet to hear back.