According to an article posted on 9/28/2015 in Information Week, http://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/amazon-robotics-iot-in-the-warehouse/d/d-id/1322366, the real magic behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is already happening at Amazon’s massive fulfillment centers around the US. They currently have thousands of robots operating in these locations gathering merchandise for individual orders. Previously to fulfill an order, Amazon warehouse workers had to roam the floor scanning racks of merchandise in order to find a specific product. But now, Kiva Systems has developed a method to use robots to move the racks or “pods” on which the products are stored instead of having them search out the individual product itself. There are two versions of this robot, the “G” for pods weighing up to 750 lbs and the “S” for pods weighing up to 3,000 lbs. They can operate for 60 minutes, followed by a brief 5 minute charge time. They are controlled by a centralized computer system and have 2 powered wheels that allow them to rotate in place, floor cameras and QR codes on the floor so that they can determine their location/direction, and IR sensors for obstacle detection. Once the customer clicks the “buy” button online, priority is determined and the robots locate and move the pod to the assigned packing station so that a worker can prepare the order for shipment. The robots have managed to keep Amazon’s warehouses fully employed. The system is designed so that when a worker is not packing an order, they have time to restock shelves or do an inventory check of a pod brought in by a robot, instead of scouring Amazon’s massive warehouse for an individual item.
If you were an employee at one of these warehouses would you be worried about your job? How far will Amazon take the use of robots in their fulfillment centers? What is next application for robots at Amazon?