Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) already uses robots in its warehouses alongside human workers. Now, the online retailer has received two new patents to bring automated technology to another part of its delivery process as well as a warehouse function currently performed by people.
The company has received patents from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for a system that uses a shipping label that has a built-in parachute to allow for delivery via drone. In addition, Amazon has received a patent that pertains to a robotic janitor that could be used to clean its warehouse.
These two patents show that while Amazon employs nearly 350,000 people and said in January that it plans to create over 100,000 U.S. jobs over the next 18 months, it wants to also automate where it can. Both patents are examples of how the company is working to use technology to do things human workers can't while also taking some work away from people.
Amazon uses robots along with humans in its warehouses.
RELATED: Check out the most useful items on Amazon that are dirt cheap:
11 useful items that are dirt cheap on Amazon
11 useful items that are dirt cheap on Amazon
Gillette Fusion Disposable Razors
If you're trying to determine what to buy on Amazon to save money, add a package of two Gillette Fusion Men's Razors with Fusion Razor Blades to your cart. Target charges nearly $3 more for the exact same product. There's no need to pay more than necessary for a shave, so shop for your razors on Amazon.
Price on Amazon: $8.19
Price at Target: $10.99
Remington Hair Straightener
Look your best without paying top dollar. The Remington T|Studio Silk Slim Straightener is over $5 more at Target than on Amazon. When you can get the exact same product for a lower price, it only makes sense to choose the lower price tag.
Price on Amazon: $29.86
Price at Target: $34.99
Lysol Disinfecting Wipes
Germ removal is always important, but so is the price of your Lysol Disinfecting Wipes. Save nearly $1.50 on your purchase of a 110-count container of the lemon and lime blossom scent just by shopping at Amazon instead of Walmart. The savings can add up fast — especially if you go through wipes quickly.
Price on Amazon: $7.79
Price at Walmart: $9.26
A three-ounce bottle of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen with SPF 100 costs nearly $5.50 less on Amazon than at Walgreens, making it one of the best things to buy on Amazon. Wearing sunscreen is a must, but savvy shoppers never pay more than necessary. If you're out in the sun a lot, the savings can add up fast.
Price on Amazon: $8.54
Price at Walgreens: $13.99
Savvy shoppers know to never buy toothpaste without a coupon. They also know the best place to buy their toothpaste is Amazon. Opting to purchase an eight-ounce tube of regular Crest Cavity Protection Toothpaste at Walmart instead is a costly mistake. Lower your shopping bill by scoring two tubes on Amazon for the price of one at Walmart.
Price on Amazon: $2.99
Price at Walmart: $7.34
Weight Watchers Bath Scale
Investing in a bathroom scale is a great way to monitor your weight, but there's no need to pay top dollar. Knowing what to buy on Amazon can really help you save, as the Weight Watchers Chrome and Glass Digital Bath Scale costs nearly $12 less on the site than it does at Walmart.
Price on Amazon: $22.97
Price at Walmart: $34.57
Nalgene Water Bottle
If you're in the market for an eco-friendly Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle, head to Amazon. Unless you're set on a specific color, this is one of the smartest things to buy on Amazon. Walmart offers the same product at a higher price, so don't pay more than necessary.
Price on Amazon: As low as $9.99, depending on color
Price at Walmart: $11.72
Conair Infiniti Hairdryer
If you don't know what to buy on Amazon, you might seriously overpay. The price of the orange Conair Infiniti Pro by 1875 Watt AC Motor Dryer is one of the best examples, as it costs over $13 more at Macy's than Amazon — and that's when it's on sale. The hairdryer is the same no matter where you buy it from. Save yourself some serious cash by purchasing it from Amazon.
Price on Amazon: $21.24
Price at Macy's: $34.99
Quality scissors are important for a clean cut, but you also want to get the best price. In this case, knowing what to buy on Amazon can help you save big, as the exact same eight-inch Scotch Precision Scissor costs nearly double the price at Staples than you'll pay on Amazon.
Price on Amazon: $5.29
Price at Staples: $9.99
Burt’s Bees Dog Shampoo
Spoil your pooch with a luxurious bath without spending more. Burt's Bees Oatmeal Dog Shampoo costs $1.50 less on Amazon than at Target, but paying extra doesn't make bath time any more luxurious.
Price on Amazon: $6.49
Price at Target: $7.99
St. Ives Body Wash
A 13.5-ounce bottle of pink lemon and mandarin orange-scented St. Ives Even & Bright Body Wash costs $1 less on Amazon than at Target. At first glance, this savings might not seem substantial, but it really adds up over the course of several bottles. It's one of the smartest things to buy on Amazon because paying extra for the same product just doesn't make sense.
Price on Amazon: $2.84
Price at Target: $3.97
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What are the patents for?
The more interesting of the two patents involves a shipping label that has a built-in parachute. This would allow it to be dropped from an unmanned flying vehicle, or drone, a technology Amazon hopes to someday use to make deliveries.
While it would look like a normal shipping label, the newly patented label would house a system of cords, a parachute, a breakaway cover and maybe a harness to hold everything in place. Sensors so it can find its landing spot and a shock absorber to cushion the landing would also be part of the apparatus.
The parachute label, while it seems far-fetched, is no more ridiculous than the idea of using drones for delivery, That concept once seemed like something that would never happen, but Amazon has clearly brought it closer to reality.
This new patent is simply another piece of the puzzle. It's probably not the only way the online retailer will deliver packages from drones to customers, but it's one possible solution.
The second patent covers the robot janitor that would be used to clean its warehouses. These robots would essentially be fancy versions of the floor-cleaning "robots," many people have in their homes, according to the USPTO document:
Robots or other machines may be used for retrieving errant objects from the floor of an automated warehouse. A system can include one or more reporting methods to alert a central control to the existence and location of an object on the warehouse floor.
Centralized control would allow for safety zones to be established, protecting any human workers as well as other robots. The janitor bots "can include a cleanup pod comprising a convertible shelving unit with a robotic arm,' according to the granted patent.
It's not the end of people
While Amazon is innovating when it comes to its use of robots, it's just trying to limit its use of people, not make major cuts to its workforce. Delivery via human is expensive and drones are designed to cut those costs down. In theory, they will also make sense in rural areas where it wont be as cost-effective for Amazon to send a truck.
The robotic janitor cleaning up after robot order pickers is a similarly smart innovation. It may cost a few people their jobs, but it's really just an enhancement to the existing labor force. Amazon is smartly pushing at boundaries here, looking for ways to use robots or automated technology that improve its overall process. Both of these, should they ever be actually implemented, accomplish that.
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