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Category: RFID, Automated Data Collection, and the Internet of Things

RFID, AIDC, and IoT News: Amazon Files for Patent for Wearable Computers Working with Vision Systems


System would Verify Selected Items in Retail and Warehouses through Imaging, but Advantage in FCs versus Current Technology not Clear

Feb. 11, 2020
SCDigest Editorial Staff

The Amazon patent machine continues on, with a new and complex filing for a system that uses wearable computers with vision and other systems involved in item selection.

Amazon refers to the environment for the system as "material handling facilities," but in some of detailed description, it is also clear Amazon is including retail stores and more in the range of potential applications.

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It's not clear to SCDigest how this much improves on current processes, except in perhaps eliminating the need to scan a bar code on a product or storage location.

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Indeed, the patent filing says that "a materials handling facility may include, but is not limited to, one or more of: warehouses, distribution centers, cross docking facilities, order fulfillment facilities, packing facilities, shipping facilities, retail stores, libraries, rental facilities, museums" and other environments.

In fact, many of the example use cases in the filing, such as displaying a price or other product information for a picked/selected item seem very much geared to retail store applications, such as (though not mentioned) Amazon's own Go stores.

The filing is of course written in the usual highly technical and difficult to process language of almost patent filings, and goes on for many pages after a very brief summary abstract that says basically nothing.

In great summary, the filing describes a system in which a person (warehouse worker, retail workers, customer) is given a wearable device [typically today a wrist mounted wireless terminal], and then uses various methods (such as a log-in process) to associate the user and the device.

The patent then interestingly describes methods that might be used to identify where a user is in the facility at any given time. That could include vision systems, which might use what the user is wearing (the patent example is a bright yellow shirt) among other inputs to track a user's location.

As another example, the patent describes the wearable producing an audio tone not noticeable by humans that could somehow be triangulated by sensors to determine the user's location.

(See More Below)



The heart of the filing though is use of a vision or imaging system that would identify an item selected by the user, whether that is a selector in a fulfillment center or a retail shopper (the patent filing actually suggests there could be other product identifiers, such as RFID, but the focus is on imaging).

The patent does not specify what triggers the user to select an item. If it is a retail consumer, one assumes that be what they decide to purchase. In an FC, it seems safe to assume the pick would come from an instruction sent to the wearable device.

Amazon Filing for System Using Vision System with Wearable Devices


The filing then focuses on the interaction of the identification system with the wearable, which might include not only pushing product information as mentioned above but also other information, such as "wrong product picked" in a warehouse context.

It's not clear to SCDigest how this much improves on current processes, except in perhaps eliminating the need to scan a bar code on a product or storage location. Of course, so-called augmented reality technology that captures bar codes by looking at them also offers such a non-scanning alternative. Pick-to-light systems require a button on a display to confirm a pick, but this is generally much faster than the equivalent bar code scanning.

The Amazon system would also require deployment of many imagers to capture all the product/locations.

And as today's scanning system can and do return in context information about each activity as it is performed, it is not clear what the invention is here, though it may be somewhere in the legalese.

The full patent filing can be found here: Amazon Patent Filing for Item Discovery Working with a Wearable Device


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