On Tuesday, Amazon Inc. launched an AI-based tracking system to correctly enforce social distancing at its workplace including offices and warehouses. This effort aims to reduce the risks of contracting coronavirus among its workers. The announcement follows the intensifying scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers and unions over its lack of efforts to protect its staff from contracting the virus.
According to Amazon, the company’s monitors set located at every warehouse will highlight workers that are keeping a safe distance in green circles. In case the workers get closer than the recommended social distancing distance they will be highlighted in red circles.
The system is called Distance Assistant and uses camera footage in the buildings to help identify high-traffic areas. The company is also in the process of testing a wearable device that will light up and give out an audio alert when workers are too close. The device is to be piloted from Wednesday at a warehouse outside of Seattle.
The company has also started hiring people for roles such as social distancing ambassadors and guardians. Their day-to-day responsibilities range from verifying that headcount does not exceed seating limits in break rooms to frequent audits at warehouses.
Amazon has open-sourced the technology for its Distance Assistant system. However, it is not the first company to turn to AI-based systems to track social distancing compliance. Other than allowing them to show not only workers and customers, AI camera-based software will also insurers and regulators if they are enforcing safe practices and monitoring them.
Despite all the precautions taken by the company, many privacy activists have raised concerns. Mainly the concerns are about increasingly detailed tracking of people. They have also urged businesses to limit the use of AI till pandemic.