By Samantha Cirillo
New privacy and workplace concerns arise as Amazon gains two patents on wristband technology designed to monitor and steer warehouse worker’s everyday movements. The patent application was filed in 2016 and Amazon received both patents in early 2018. The wristband technology allows the company to trace where the workers are in relation to inventory bins and uses vibrations to steer the employees towards the correct bin. Amazon states that the purpose of the new technology would be to save time while workers are filling orders.
However, the new technology patents are raising several concerns for workers in the industry. First, employees are concerned for their privacy. The wristbands would track activity outside of the employee’s actual work, lunches, breaks, or any worker inactivity. Another voiced concern is how the wristbands could affect workplace conditions, including setting unrealistic daily goals. One employee stated that the bands are only a placeholder until the company can replace workers with robots. Another stated that the bands are intended to allow the company to control humans like they robots.
There is no news on the creation or implementation of the patented technology, however, some say it is only a matter of time.
Ceylan Yeginsu, If Workers Slack Off, the Wristband Will Know. (And Amazon has a Patent for It.), New York Times (Feb. 1, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/01/technology/amazon-wristband-tracking-privacy.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Ftechnology&action=click&contentCollection=technology®ion=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=2&pgtype=sectionfront
Alan Boyle, Amazon Wins a pair of Patents for Wireless Wristbands that Track Warehouse Workers, GeekWire (Jan. 30, 2018), https://www.geekwire.com/2018/amazon-wins-patents-wireless-wristbands-track-warehouse-workers/
Jessica Scladebeck, Amazon Patents Wristbands Designed to Steer Employee’s Movements, Daily News (Feb. 1, 2018), http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/amazon-patents-wristbands-designed-steer-employees-movements-article-1.3792895