Online retail giant Amazon has been awarded patents for an ultrasonic wristband that can track employees’ movements and help them locate products in the warehouse.
According to GeekWire, the device would be able to monitor whether warehouse workers are putting their hands in the right place in relation to inventory bins, verifying that the correct items are being processed. It could also direct workers to items using small vibrations.
Patents for the Wristband Haptic Feedback System were filed in 2016, detailing Amazon’s ideas for the inventory management system.
The patent documents explain: “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. … Accordingly, improved approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored are of interest.”
Although the system may raise concerns about workplace surveillance, Amazon maintained that its purpose was to make life easier for warehouse operatives.
“The speculation about this patent is misguided,” the retailer said in a statement. “Every day at companies around the world, employees use handheld scanners to check inventory and fulfil orders. This idea, if implemented in the future, would improve the process for our fulfilment associates. By moving equipment to associates’ wrists, we could free up their hands from scanners and their eyes from computer screens.”