In the age of COVID-19, people must take extra precautions to safeguard their health. While some businesses are able to transition to working remotely, others that are deemed essential must still rely on a human labor force. E-commerce is a top-performing industry amid the newly reshaped business landscape, with Amazon being a lead company. Warehouse workers are essential employees and are the driving force behind Amazon’s popularity and success.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) set guidelines to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus. As part of these guidelines, the CDC recommends keeping a safe distance of at least six feet between people outside of the home. Colloquially, this is known as social distancing.
Amazon, the e-commerce giant, is currently testing a wearable device in its fulfillment centers that alerts its workers when they violate social distancing rules. Comprised of a clear plastic sleeve and a clip that features an LED light and audio system, the device beeps loudly and flashes lights when workers are too close to one another. One facility in Kent, Washington in the United States will be deploying the devices starting in mid-June. Currently, the device is being used with daytime warehouse workers.
The device is available at stations located throughout the facility for employees to pick up the wearable, and it comes with instructions on how to use it. At the end of their shift, workers return the device and have the option to share feedback by scanning a QR code on flyers posted within the facility. Right now, the use of the wearable is optional, so workers don’t have to use it if they don’t want to.
An official memo from the company states that Amazon’s hope is that the technology will help employees and teams work safer during the pandemic. An Amazon spokesperson said that the company will use the feedback it receives from its teams testing the device “to continue to iterate” and make further improvements on the wearable.
The wearable device is not the only measure that Amazon is currently experimenting with to enforce social distancing rules at its warehouses. Another technology currently being piloted is the “Distance Assistant,” which is being used in a handful of facilities across the United States. The Distance Assistant consists of a camera connected to a monitor and a local computing device that alerts users as they walk whether they are maintaining proper social distancing.