Amazon to deploy tools to monitor factory workers and machines

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Amazon is rolling out inexpensive new tools that will allow factories around the world to monitor their workers and machines, as the tech giant seeks to strengthen its presence in the industrial sector.

Launched by AWS, Amazon’s cloud arm, the new machine-learning-based services include hardware to monitor the health of heavy machinery and computer vision capable of detecting whether workers are respecting social distancing.

Amazon said it has created a low-cost two-inch sensor – Monitron – that can be hooked up to equipment to monitor abnormal vibrations or temperatures and predict future faults.

AWS Panorama, on the other hand, is a service that uses computer vision to analyze images collected by cameras in facilities, automatically detecting safety and compliance issues such as workers not wearing PPE or vehicles. conducted in unauthorized areas.

The new services, announced at the company’s annual cloud computing conference on Tuesday, represent a step forward in the tech giant’s efforts to collect and analyze real-world data in areas it currently considers poor. served.

“If you look at manufacturing and industry in general, it’s a space that has seen some innovation, but there are a lot of parts that haven’t been digitized and modernized,” said Matt Garman, sales manager and AWS Marketing, speaking to FT.

“There’s a ton of data in a factory, manufacturing facility, or supply chain. It is simply locked in sensors, locked in machines that many companies could derive great value from. ”

Amazon said it has installed 1,000 Monitron sensors at its distribution centers near the German city of Mönchengladbach, where they are used to monitor parcel handling conveyor belts.

If successful, said analyst Brent Thill of Jefferies, the move would help Amazon consolidate its position as a dominant player in cloud computing, in the face of growing competition from Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, and prolonged segment growth. slow down.

“This idea of ​​predictive analytics can go beyond a factory floor,” said Thill. “He can get in a car, on a bridge or on an oil rig. It can fertilize many different industries. ”

A number of companies are already testing AWS Panorama. Siemens Mobility said it would use the technology to monitor traffic in cities, but did not specify which one. Deloitte said it was working with a large North American seaport to use the tool to monitor the movement of shipments.

However, Amazon’s own use of tools to monitor employee productivity has raised concerns among critics. Throughout the pandemic, the company has used computer vision to ensure employee adherence to social distancing guidelines.

Swami Sivasubramanian, head of machine learning and artificial intelligence at AWS, said none of the advertised services would include “pre-packaged” facial recognition capabilities, and said that AWS would block customers who abuse its terms of service regarding confidentiality and data monitoring.

“When you look at this technology, sometimes it’s really easy for us to worry about how they might be abused,” he told the FT.

“But the same technology can be used to keep workers safe. Are people walking in spaces where they shouldn’t be? Is there an oil spill? Don’t they wear helmets? These are real world issues.

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