Amazon’s new patents could improve warehouse accuracy

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Amazon’s new patents could improve warehouse accuracy

By Deena M. Amato-McCoy - 02/01/2018
Amazon’s newest patents bank on the power of touch to drive more efficiency in warehouse operations.

The online giant has been granted two patents, both supporting a wristband that can pinpoint the location of warehouse employees and track their hand movements in real time. The solutions are based on haptic technology, which relates to manipulating objects using the sense of touch.

The patent is described as an RF-based solution comprised of sensors that are distributed throughout the warehouse, a user-wearable unit that includes an RF transceiver, and a management module. Sensors transmit RF signals in response to RF interrogation signals. The management module processes signals to track the location of the user wearing the unit, then identifies a bin based on the user’s proximity to it.

Then the device monitors the performance of the user. The haptic technology identifies whether a user is working from the correct bin associated with the inventory task system. If workers’ hands are moving to the wrong location, the bracelet will buzz, and direct the user to the correct area, according to the patent filing.

The technology is designed to solve “the significant challenges in responding to requests for inventory items … especially as inventory systems grow,” the filing said.

Amazon also compares the value of this technology to a computerized system. “To keep track of where the inventory item is stored, it is important to efficiently and accurately identify the inventory bin where it is placed. While a computer vision system is used to track the placement of inventory, this system can be computationally inefficient and expensive. These [technologies] improve approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored,” the filing added.

Amazon, which received the patent on January 30, did not reveal specific plans to use the technology.

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