Internet of Things

Amazon files patent for wearable IoT wristband to track its warehouse workers

The wristbands are meant to save time and labor, but may evoke privacy concerns from employees.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Amazon was awarded two patents for ultrasonic wristbands that can detect motion and monitor performance.
  • Amazon's wristbands are meant to save time and labor, but raise questions about worker privacy.

This week, Amazon was awarded two patents for wristbands that can track a warehouse worker's hands and monitor their performance.

The patents involve ultrasonic bracelets that can detect the position of a worker's hands in relation to inventory bins, and a haptic feedback system that signals if they have the right bin to retrieve an item.

This isn't Amazon's first step toward more efficient employees and operations: The company has experimented with worker robots and delivery drones, and even with no employees at all at its Amazon Go cashierless concept store, as noted by our sister site CNET. However, tracking employees via wristband may be seen as overly invasive, especially as 500 Amazon workers went on strike in November after pay disagreements.

SEE: Internet of Things policy (Tech Pro Research)

Amazon's wristbands are designed to save workers time and labor. They would periodically emit ultrasonic sound pulses to a receiver and track which product bin a worker is using, as well as monitoring how efficiently they fulfill orders. The wristbands could also monitor location of bins, and give workers haptic feedback, such as a vibrating pulse, to let them know if they are reaching for the right one.

"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," one of the patents stated. "Improved approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored are of interest."

Amazon has yet to comment on the patents, and its not yet clear if they will turn the ideas into a reality, as GeekWire noted. However, it's likely that we'll see more such inventions to monitor worker productivity, as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to spread through the enterprise world.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/shironosov

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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