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Amazon patents a wristband that can track workers' movement

The vibrating wristband will monitor a worker's hand movements and reduce time wasted searching for the correct inventory bin.

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Staff at Amazon's warehouse in Piacenza in Northern Italy preparing for Black Friday.

Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

Amazon apparently wants to crack the whip.

The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Amazon two patents on Tuesday for a wristband that would track where its workers put their hands in relation to inventory bins and for a "haptic feedback system" to signal if they have the right bin to retrieve an item. The patent documents were first spotted by GeekWire.

The "ultrasonic bracelet," designed to be a time- and labor-saving device, would work by periodically emitting ultrasonic sound pulses to a receiver, tracking which bin a worker is reaching for and monitoring how efficiently they fulfill orders. The wristband would also send and receive radio transmissions, pinning a worker's location and giving a burst of "haptic feedback," a vibration similar to those found in phones or game controllers, which would tell the employee if they're reaching for the right bin.

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Amazon/USPTO

The approach would eliminate the need for extra time-consuming acts, "such as pushing a button associated with the inventory bin or scanning a barcode associated with the inventory bin," one patent's description reads.

The idea of being tracked by their bosses might not sit well with Amazon workers, 500 of whom went on strike last November on Black Friday at Italy's main distribution hub after disappointing talks over pay. Six warehouses in Germany saw strikes on the same day.

Amazon has already embraced faster employees in the form of worker robots and delivery drones, as well as no employees at all with its Amazon Go, a convenience store that does away with cashiers.

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