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 AMAZON PATENTS WRISTBAND THAT TRACKS WAREHOUSE WORKERS' MOVEMENTS  
[https://portside.org/2018-02-03/amazon-patents-wristband-tracks-warehouse-workers-movements]


 

 Olivia Solon 
 January 31, 2018
The Guardian
[https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/jan/31/amazon-warehouse-wristband-tracking]


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 _ Bracelet, which can vibrate to point an employee’s hand in the
right direction, would further increase surveillance of work
environment _ 

 Scott Olson/Getty Images , Workers pack and ship customer orders at
an Amazon fulfillment center in Romeoville, Illinois. 

 

Amazon [https://www.theguardian.com/technology/amazon] has patented
designs for a wristband that can precisely track where warehouse
employees are placing their hands and use vibrations to nudge them in
a different direction.

The concept, which aims to streamline the fulfilment of orders, adds
another layer of surveillance to an already challenging working
environment
[https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/aug/18/amazon-regime-making-british-staff-physically-and-mentally-ill-says-union].

When someone orders a product from Amazon, the details are transmitted
to the handheld computers that all warehouse staff carry. Upon
receiving the order details, the worker must rush to retrieve the
product from one of many inventory bins on shelves, pack it into a
delivery box and move on to the next assignment.

The proposed wristbands would use ultrasonic tracking to identify the
precise location of a worker’s hands as they retrieve items. One of
the patents outlines a haptic feedback
[http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect2=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/search-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&d=PALL&RefSrch=yes&Query=PN/9881277]
system that would vibrate against the wearer’s skin to point their
hand in the right direction.

The result? Human workers can fulfil more orders – until robots
develop the dexterity to replace them altogether
[https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601690/a-dexterous-warehouse-robot-does-things-amazons-automated-helpers-cant/].

_The proposed wristbands would use ultrasonic tracking to identify the
precise location of a worker’s hands as they retrieve items.
Photograph: Amazon / USPTO _

The wristbands are, according to the patent documents, first spotted
by GeekWire
[https://www.geekwire.com/2018/amazon-wins-patents-wireless-wristbands-track-warehouse-workers/],
designed as a labour-saving measure to keep track of products
throughout the warehouse.

A less generous interpretation would be that the wristbands provide
Amazon management with new workplace surveillance capabilities that
can identify the workers wasting time scratching, fidgeting or
dilly-dallying.

Amazon already has a reputation for turning low-paid staff into
“human robots”
[https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/timed-toilet-breaks-impossible-targets-11587888]
– working alongside thousands of proper robots – carrying out
repetitive packaging tasks as fast as possible in an attempt to hit
goals set by handheld computers.

This month, the 24-year-old warehouse worker Aaron Callaway described
[https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/jan/20/amazon-worker-warehouse]
having just 15 seconds to scan items and place them into the right
cart during his night shifts at an Amazon warehouse in the UK. “My
main interaction is with the robots,” he said.

In 2016, a BBC investigation
[http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2016/amazon-inside-out]
found that agency workers making Amazon deliveries reported defecating
in bags, speeding and falling asleep at the wheel as they desperately
tried to hit ambitious delivery targets issued by an Amazon logistics
app.

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