Amazon deals with a lot of orders, and has to hire a bunch of employees as a result. If you have that many people working for you, how can you maker sure they're always where they need to be? Those Prime deliveries certainly can't process themselves, you know. Not yet anyway. That's probably why the company has just patented an ultrasonic wristband to tell workers where they need to go.
From the looks of things the wristbands are worn on one or both wrists, and use haptic feedback to help direct workers to the items they need to pick and process next. Apparently this will also help track workers' movements, and help management better monitor worker performance, with the suggestion that this could be done with transmitters stored in the warehouse shelves.
The patent also mentioned Bluetooth and infrared that could be used to show "one or more directions in which the worker should move (their) respective hand", as well as the potential for LED lights and even a screen. That last bit makes it sound like Amazon is developing some sort of smartwatch for its workers.
Illustrations in the patent include the typical shoebox-style shelving systems currently in place in Amazon's warehouses (or Fulfilment Centres as the company calls them), but believes that similar systems could be implemented on cargo ships or in areas where humans have to work alongside robots. That last part makes me wonder whether this sort of system can be built directly into robot warehouse workers to help them get around, and negate the need for rails and tracks that humans can't use.
Currently warehouse workers use touchscreen modules to tell them where they need to go, but the retail giant believes that this system will help reduce human error. That said, workplace stress expert Dr Teresa D’Oliveira, from King’s College London, told the Standard warned that the bands could increase "physical or psychological pressures" on workers.
It's no secret that Amazon's warehouse staff aren't working in the best conditions, and adding tracking measures into the mix isn't likely to go down very well. Helping them navigate is pound to be helpful, especially given how tight many of Amazon's delivery deadlines are. [Standard]