Wristbands that function as tracking devices to supervise workers’ hand movements with high precision. These are the two patents just granted to Amazon, one of the wristbands relying on ultrasonic frequencies, the other one using radio frequencies.
Discovered by GeekWire, this type of inventory management system is an extremely advanced tool. It will allow Amazon to see just exactly where their warehouse workers are and what they’re doing with their hands.
It consists of ultrasonic wristbands that emit sound pulses to a transducer, aka an energy converting device, then the signal will go to a management module. Another way would be to use radio frequency to achieve the same goal.
In theory, if the device detects a worker’s hands moving to the wrong item or bin, it will send a vibration to correct their movement.
The patents were submitted for approval in 2016. In their description, Amazon called the ultrasonic wristbands a labor-saving measure, not an employee tracking tool.
“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 bid, such as pushing a button associated with the inventory bin or scanning a barcode associated with the inventory bin. … Accordingly, improved approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored are of interest.”
So far, the company hasn’t commented on the topic and there’s no way to know if it’s going to become a reality. However, Amazon does employ more than 90,000 warehouse workers and thousands of robot to ensure customer satisfaction. Just in 2017, the company wanted to recruit around 50,000 warehouse workers.
Tracking all those hand movements with ultrasonic wristbands won’t be cheap, but it will surely provide a boon for Amazon’s bottom line. This is not just a figure of speech because the company also filed a patent for underwater warehouses.