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Amazon Wins Patents for New Wristband Designed to Track Factory Workers’ Movements

Amazon receives patents on a wristband that would track its employees every move, all in the name of efficiency.
Amazon, Amazon wristband, Amazon work environment, Amazon control workers

Staff label and package items in the on-site dispatch hall inside one of Britain's largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife, as the online shopping giant gears up for the Christmas rush and the forthcoming Black Friday sales. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)

He described falling over from dizziness due to the breakneck speed of the packing requirements, and not being able to use the restroom because of difficult quotas.

Adding wristbands to the picture adds an additional level of stress, said stress expert Dr. Teresa D’Oliveira of King’s College London. She warned that this technology could increase “physical or psychological pressures” on workers.

It could also add an additional layer of surveillance, pinging workers who take a bathroom break, fidget unnecessarily, or even scratch an itch.

Amazon disputes these claims. In a statement, the company said “The speculation about this patent is misguided. Every day at companies around the world, employees use handheld scanners to check inventory and fulfill orders. This idea, if implemented in the future, would improve the process for our fulfillment associates.

By moving equipment to associates’ wrists, we could free up their hands from scanners and their eyes from computer screens.” Amazon continued: “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations, and they are not designed to track employees or limit their abilities to take breaks.”

It is still unclear whether these wristbands will ever actually get made—most products that receive patents do not end up being produced. But current and former Amazon employees said they would not be surprised by the technology, and that the company already uses similar tracking technology in its warehouses.

“They want to turn people into machines,” said Caldwell. “The robotic technology isn’t up to scratch yet, so until it is, they will use human robots.”

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