Amazon Patents Underwater Warehouse Concept

A tightening industrial real estate market is driving e-commerce giant Amazon to consider a new approach to managing its logistics-centric business:  Aquatic Storage Facilities.

According to Business Insider, Amazon successfully patented the concept of Aquatic Storage Facilities with the US Patent and Trademark Office in April 2017 (Patent # 9,624,034 B1).

The e-commerce giant had already filed a patent for a fleet of massive storage airships that would be serviced by drones. It’s also submitted a patent for a beehive-like storage warehouse that drones could fly in and out of.

How it Works

The filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office explains that Amazon products could be locked in airtight containers and placed in pools of water.  They would sit at the bottom of the pools until ready for shipment, at which point an acoustic signal sent through the water would trigger the container to open a balloon and float to the surface.

The containers could also be moved around using artificial currents in the water, Amazon engineers wrote.

In addition to curbing the need to build more distribution centers, Amazon noted that the system would more efficiently utilize storage space by eliminating the shelving and aisle space required in conventional warehouses — as well as the humans or robots needed to move things around.

Strong Demand for Industrial Space

As the economy continues to grow and online commerce becomes more popular, Amazon, Fedex, Costco and others are looking for ways to deal with a growing scarcity of warehouse and fulfillment space. According to Colliers USA, vacancy rates for industrial space dropped to 5.4% in Q1 2017, the lowest rate ever recorded –  despite 55 million square feet of new space being added. A further 198 million sq ft is currently under construction.

The burgeoning industrial real estate market is attracting the attention and dollars of overseas investors, according to Dubai’s National Newspaper. In April, the Bahrain-based Investcorp bought $160 million worth of industrial property in Chicago and Boston, while GFH bought $65m of industrial property in mid-western states last year to add to a $125m portfolio it bought in December 2015. In the same month,  a joint venture between Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) and the Canadian pension fund PSP Investments bought a $3 billion portfolio of industrial properties from Exeter Property Group.

Jobs at Fulfillment Centers

The growth of industrial space is also resulting in a hiring spree with Amazon announcing a whopping 50,000 job openings this week. More than 10,000 of these opportunities will be part-time jobs at the company’s sortation centers throughout the US. These positions will sort and consolidate customer packages to enable superfast shipping speeds and Sunday delivery for customers. Amazon is in a hurry to fill those spots. The company is hosting job fairs at 10 of its fulfillment centers on August 2 to give candidates a look inside, and it plans to make job offers to some candidates on the spot.