Future Friday: Wearable Devices for Everyone


Will everyone be wearing such a device in the future?
Will everyone be wearing such a device in the future?

I have dipped my toe into the wearable device world. Actually that is not entirely correct. I have worn a watch for a long time, though that dropped out when I started carrying a mobile phone. I have also worn heart rate monitors during exercise. This time around I am going to be wearing a device meant to be worn 24/7. I have gotten a Fitbit wrist device. And that got me to thinking. How might we use, or abuse, such a device in the future?
Tracking 24/7
There is a new show on TV, called Almost Human, set in the year 2048. It is a police drama, so it focuses on shadier side of life at that time, though they don’t portray the world as a dystopia like you see in most futuristic shows and movies. In one episode a weapon had been developed that fired a bullet that could find its victim anywhere. As long as the bullet had been programmed with the settings of your personal locator device it would find you.
That got me thinking. Does a Fitbit, which communicates to other devices via BluTooth essentially have me wearing a “personal locater”? Many of the sports watches/devices have GPS in them so they would serve the same role. It is not all that much of a leap to see situations where an employee could be required to wear such a device so we can keep track of where they are all the time. For safety reasons wouldn’t it be reasonable to ask a police officer to wear such a device? What about a soldier? What about just any employee? I don’t we are anywhere near that but in 20 years?
Movement as a metric
The other thing a device like Fitbit does is measure activity. It feeds back to you, in the name of fitness, how much you have gotten up and moved around. The goal is to move 10,000 steps per day or some other type of metric. Activity measured as calories burned is also another exercise metric that current devices measure.
What if movement was a metric for a specific job? Say it had been ascertained that an employee would not be accomplishing their work if they had not moved a minimum amount on a daily basis. Would it be reasonable to have a device that measured that movement to make sure that someone is performing as required? You might not require them to wear the device 24/7 but they would need to wear it for the entire period they are working. How different is that from the GPS devices that track the location and movement of UPS trucks? Or OnStar for that matter?
As these devices become more ubiquitous the acceptance will be greater and people won’t even think about the fact that they could be tracked and measured all the time. Will HR take on the responsibility for insuring that managers are not inappropriately using this information? What ethical issues or privacy issues will need to be overcome first? Trust in an employer will also become a point of contention.
So as you go exercise using your GPS watch, or you Fitbit wrist device, or even carry your smart phone give some consideration to how these current devices might change the nature of the world of work and then prepare for it.

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