Amazon has patented a wristband that tracks its employees’ movements

Amazon always seems to be at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, but its latest innovation might be a step too far, particularly as far as privacy advocates are concerned.

Amazon has patented a wristband that tracks its employees' movements

The online retail giant has just be awarded two patents for wristbands that would let the company track the wrist movements of its warehouse employees. On the surface, this sounds super creepy, but the patent suggests that it’s all in the name of labour-efficiency rather than Orwellian surveillance.

“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, it explains. “Accordingly, improved approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored are of interest.”

In the simplest terms, the patented system would help staff locate items in its warehouse faster and with greater confidence. Indeed, by tracking the precise movements of the employee’s wrist using “ultrasonic pulses”, it would be able to alert them using “haptic feedback” that they’ve located the correct inventory bin. Should an employee fail to locate the correct inventory bin, the wristband would alert them and even be able to point them in the right direction.

“A guidance signal can be transmitted to the ultrasonic unit indicating one or more directions in which the worker should move the worker’s respective hand to interact with the designated inventory bin.”

The efficiency with which Amazon’s staff pick items when orders are placed is critical to its success, so it’s hardly surprising the company is looking at ways to improve it. That is, before robots take all of our jobs. Naturally, there are concerns such a patented system oversteps the line in terms of privacy and could be used to scrutinise employee performance in a way not seen before.

It’s not the first time Amazon has stirred up some controversy with a patent. Last year, it filed for a patent that would prevent in-store customers from checking competitors’ prices. Of course, there’s no guarantee that any of the tech described in these patents will ever come to fruition, but it’s difficult to ignore them all the same.

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