In my reading I came across an article that talked about how to make technology wearable. According to the article “Wearable technology is the next new wave of technology.” This got me to wondering about tracking your employees by the uniforms they wear.
We know that there is already a lot of wearable technology. Your smartphone is essentially a wearable technology that potentially allows tracking of someone through their GPS. Wristwatches and heart rate monitors used for exercising are wearable technology. But in the article referenced above, 3 Ways To Make Wearable Tech Actually Wearable, written in FastCompany by Jennifer Darmour, she says:
“Today’s wearable technology products are mainly in the fitness space, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Wearable tech will start permeating many other domains, including medical, entertainment, security, financial, and more. The more pervasive it becomes, the more important it is to advocate for products that are beautiful, peripheral, and meaningful. Only then will wearable technology achieve its full potential to enhance our lives, rather than disrupt, disconnect, and distract us.”
The ability of companies to put the technology easily into a garment will lend itself to tracking employees with a GPS or some other technology.
Why track employees?
There are a lot of reasons to track employees. Trucking companies have done it by putting GPS systems in the vehicles. UPS and FEDEX have done it as well. They have found that by tracking vehicles, and thus employees, they have made them more productive, safer and effective. I have noticed that there are fewer speeding trucks on the interstates and I attribute this to the GPS devices.
So if it works for trucks why wouldn’t it work for employees? If there is a company uniform a device could be sewn into the garment that would show where employees were located, who they might be in proximity to, where they might travel, even how long they might spend on break. As a matter of fact such a uniform might take the place of the time clock.
Already being done
After I had read about wearing technology and had the thought about the potential to track employees I came an article that indicates some companies are already doing this, not with clothing, but with tracking devices in their company badge. Vivian Giang, writing in Business Insider, tells us about a company called Sociometric Solutions in Companies Are Putting Sensors On Employees To Track Their Every Move. This company has developed a tracking device that is being used by companies like Bank of America and Steelcase. These sensors “gather real-time information to help companies measure productivity. The sensors identify a person’s tone of voice, movement and even their posture when communicating with others.” The premise is that to be productive employees actually need to be interacting with others and not just sitting at their desks. As Gaing says “The sensors are intended to measure when and how employees are truly productive. While individual information is collected, it’s anonymized to provide metadata and hedge against privacy concerns. The information is then used to suggest how employees, and the company as a whole, can work more efficiently.” The device listens to the tone of voices (not the actual words), tells whether the person is sitting or standing, how they are engaging others, and other interactive data.
So here is more metrics to measure and analytics to perform for HR to help determine how you might be able to make employees more productive. This kind of data make help determine the best way to for a team and how to run a project.
A big unknown
Although analysts are giddy with excitement about the possibilities of this kind of data gathering and what it may tell us about social interactions in the workplace the lawyers and some HR people are not quite as excited. Although there is not Federal privacy law that deals with the workplace, there are many state laws and a wide variety of expectations of privacy that may be infringed by wearing a device that tracks you were ever you go. So I am sure plaintiff attorneys may start seeing some $$$ signs in the future as this technology progresses.
About a year ago I did write a post called Tracking Employees By GPS: Better Have a Good Policy. This will provide you with some further information on this touchy subject.
What is your take on this?