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Amazon to sell software that lets firms detect if staff, customers follow coronavirus rules

Amazon to sell software called Panorama to companies which helps detect when staff are not wearing face masks or following physical distancing.

Beyond the pandemic, the system could also be used to track compliance of other workplace rules or to monitor the public.

The tool can automate inspection tasks, such as detecting manufacturing defects or tracking the movement of barcodes and labels.




But the tool can also be applied to people.

For example, in a retail shop, it could count the number of customers, track their movements and check the length of queues, Amazon has suggested.

In a factory or other workplace, the same tech can be used to monitor employees “and get notified immediately about any potential issues or unsafe situations so you can take pre-emptive action”, the company said.



It involves retrofitting a box to existing security cameras that can then draw on off-the-shelf AI apps.

But this has raised some privacy concerns.

Remote working has already led to an increase in the use of software that checks up on employees, but Amazon’s new solution is focused on tracking people and products in factories, shops and other traditional workplaces.

Amazon refutes the characterisation of its new product as a surveillance tool.

Amazon has already faced scrutiny over how its warehouse employees are monitored. In September, a report from a US research group said Amazon used extensive worker surveillance to limit union organising activity. And the company has clashed with some of its employees who have accused it treating them “like robots”.

This week, Microsoft apologised for allowing individuals’ activity to be monitored by their employers through a “productivity score” designed to give high-level oversights.