Amazon are on a bit of a roll with their patents at the moment and have just got a real doodie… they’ve patented the act of taking your FBA items (and their own retail stock), popping it into a waterproof container and dumping it in the nearest pond.
The thinking is that warehousing facilities are very expensive and Amazon are building them as rapidly as they can. Not only are the premises expensive but they come with business rates so what makes more sense than to dump your stock in the nearest reservoir?
The patent is quite far reaching and describes how each container would have an inflatable bladder which can be activated by sonar. Not only can a container be surfaced, but Amazon propose partial buoyancy to enable them to stage stock at different depths – roughly equivalent to having different floors in a conventional warehouse. The patent suggests that Amazon will forecast daily demand for any particular product and load a day’s supply at a time into the containers so that they’re delivered to the packaging line to meet demand.
“Upon receiving an order for the item, the depth control device may be configured to cause the density of the container to fall below the density of the liquid, e.g., by increasing a volume and/or decreasing a mass of the depth control device, thereby causing the item or the container to naturally rise to a surface or upper portion of the body of liquid, from which the item or the container and the device may be retrieved. Additionally, while an item or a container may be vertically positioned by varying a net density of the item or the container within a body of liquid, e.g., using a depth control device, the item or the container may be horizontally positioned by subjecting the item or the container to natural or artificial current flows in one or more directions, with such flows being initiated or halted by natural or artificial means.”
– Amazon ‘Aquatic storage facilities’ Patent
Don’t think that this is limited to a warehouse with a swimming pool next to it, Amazon also describe “a storage pool, a basin or another natural or artificial facility“. A natural lake could be used with parcels parachuted in from planes and then the retrieval involve the parcel floating down a river to the packing facility. It’s more likely that dumper trucks would simply tip the containers into a reservoir, and water jets would ‘stir’ the parcels to ensure that the required box wasn’t buried irretrievably beneath a stack of heavy items.
It’s an interesting concept but as with all Amazon patents very far fetched and the question has to be asked “Are Amazon serious or have they simply patented the concept to stop others using the idea?”.