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Amazon won a pair of patents for a wristband system that keeps track of warehouse workers to ensure they are putting their hands in the right places. The wristbands could emit ultrasonic sound pulses or radio transmissions to let a receiver system know where the workers’ hands are positioned, relative to a selection of inventory bins. The workers receive alerts on the wristband when an order needs processing and guides them to the correct warehouse shelves.
This wristband could improve workers productivity and efficiency by removing the use of handheld scanners employees use to check the inventory and fulfill orders. By moving this equipment to the worker’s wrist, his or her hand will be free to pick up packages and he or she will be able to look around the warehouse without having to look back at a computer screen for information. Amazon is known for automating as much of their operations process as possible which has been seen with their Kiva robots and Amazon go stores. All of this automation reduces the time it takes to process and deliver an order, but implementing the wristband could cross the fine line between trying to help workers become more efficient and invading their privacy.
The wristband raises a major concern: the new layer of added surveillance that would come with implementing this type of technology could invade the worker’s privacy. Something as simple as a wristband could track how much time a person spends sitting down, moving around, and even track how long their bathroom breaks are. This added level of surveillance can make workers feel like robots programmed to complete tasks a certain way, making them feel like they just go through the motions of their job without knowing why. Micromanaging workers through wristbands can generate tension between management and the workers creating a negative work environment. Workers feel constant pressure in the workplace already and with the new wristbands, the pressure will be intensified, potentially leading them to exhaustion and causing their performance to be less satisfactory than before the technology was implemented. In the worse case scenario, workers could feel like they are not free to speak their minds because of the fear that the wristband can do more than management says, like listen into conversations and monitor their bathroom breaks.
Amazon’s automation of their operations process could be causing workers to feel burdened by the idea of being replaced by machines at any moment and losing their source of income. Even though automating processes may increase efficiency and reduce costs, there are certain things that humans still have to do. The creation of this wristband suggests companies feel the need to automate humans too, making them feel more like robots than humans. Maybe replacing humans with artificial intelligence is the next step in automating operations processes, but hopefully that is far-off in the future.The image below illustrates how the wristband can track a workers hand position in relation to the inventory bins.
|Image source: https://www.geekwire.com/2018/amazon-wins-patents-wireless-wristbands-track-warehouse-workers/|
Article source: https://www.geekwire.com/2018/amazon-wins-patents-wireless-wristbands-track-warehouse-workers/
Tuesday, February 20, 2018