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Exclusive: Amazon uses thermal imagers in warehouses to search for fever faster

(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc has started using thermal cameras in its warehouses to speed up screening for feverish workers who may be infected with the coronavirus, employees told Reuters.

FILE PHOTO: The Amazon logo can be seen on November 5, 201

9 at the company’s logistics center in Boves, France. REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol / File Photo

The cameras actually measure how much heat people give off in relation to their surroundings. You need less time and contact than a forehead thermometer that was previously taken over by Amazon.

Cases of viruses have been reported by employees in more than 50 U.S. warehouses from Amazon. This has caused some workers to worry about their safety and quit the job. Unions and elected officials have asked Amazon to close buildings.

The use of cameras, previously unreported, shows how America’s second largest employer is looking for ways to curb the spread of the virus without closing the warehouses essential to its operations.

The U.S. has given Amazon the green light to ship goods to almost all countries at home as part of orders.

In France, Amazon has temporarily closed six of its fulfillment centers – one of the biggest consequences of a dispute with workers over the risks of coronavirus infection.

Other companies that have dealt with the use of thermal camera technology are Tyson Foods Inc and Intel Corp. The camera systems that were widespread at airports in Asia after the SARS epidemic in 2003 can cost between $ 5,000 and $ 20,000.

This week and last week, Amazon installed the thermal imaging hardware in at least six warehouses outside of Los Angeles and Seattle where the company is based, according to employees and social media contributions.

Thermal imaging cameras will also replace thermometers at employee entrances to many Amazon Whole Foods stores. This emerges from an employee announcement recently published by Reuters and previously reported by Business Insider.

The company is doing a second check of the forehead thermometer on everyone tagged by the cameras to get an accurate temperature, one of the employees said. An international standard requires additional verification, although a camera system manufacturer said the infrared scan is more accurate than a thermometer.

How far Amazon will use the technology at a time when camera manufacturers are dealing with an increase in demand has not been determined. A Whole Foods representative said cameras ordered weeks ago would arrive for use.

Amazon confirmed that some warehouses have implemented the systems to optimize controls. The company measures temperatures “to support the health and safety of our employees, who continue to perform an important service in our communities,” a statement said.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced plans to offer face masks and check hundreds of thousands of people daily for fever in all camps in the U.S. and Europe. Employees go to a plexiglass screen, and an employee on the other hand scans his forehead by pointing a thermometer through a small hole.

This process was not without challenges. A worker who performed temperature tests in Houston said that his proximity to employees made him uncomfortable, even though the screen separated them.

“I didn’t sign up for it,” he said.

An employee from the Los Angeles area, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said that a line had formed in front of her warehouse and the employees could only get masks after they entered the building and measured their temperatures.

The thermal imaging camera system is faster, said two other workers, without stopping in front of a screen. The cameras are connected to a computer so that an employee can view the results remotely.

Amazon did not disclose whose gadgets it was using. One of the employees in a warehouse outside of Seattle said the technology came from Infrared Cameras Inc in Texas. Gary Strahan, CEO of ICI, was reached on the phone and said he would neither confirm nor reject his company’s collaboration with Amazon.

Other suppliers are Thermoteknix from Great Britain and FLIR Systems Inc. from the USA.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Krystal Hu in New York; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis; Edited by Vanessa O’Connell and Leslie Adler

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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