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Biometric tracking in the enterprise: what is it, who is using office wearables and what are the concerns?

Scott Carey | Feb. 15, 2017
Tracking employees via biometric badges is a growing trend in the enterprise

The company then combines this physical world data with data from work systems (primarily Microsoft) to pull in calendar and email usage data, not content. By combining this digital communications data with data from the physical world managers using Humanyze dashboards can get a "holistic view of what goes on in the company", Waber says. Managers can start to see how they spread their time between people, how different teams talk to one another, if meetings are inclusive enough and how cohesive groups are.

This may sound like a micromanagers dream, but Waber says the overall aim is not to shame employees but for "quantifying the value of employees having coffee together in the age of of working from home."

Employees can also access their own personal dashboards to see "what you do, how you compare to the team average. If you want a different role you can look at what they do. You can start to see how you compare, so benchmarking within your company."

There are other vendors focusing on cutting down on stress levels in the workplace using biometric tracking.

Earlier this month LinkedIn and Stanford University's mind and body lab collaborated with the makers of a wearable breathing tracker called Spire to prove that "workers who wore a Spire tracker -- a small, pebble-sized device that clips to a belt buckle or bra strap -- experienced significantly less stress and negative moods, as well as more productive and "focused" work hours than non-Spire users," the press release reads.

LinkedIn's global wellness manager, Michael Susi, said they "used Spire to make tangible improvements to things that can seem fleeting: focus, distraction, and productivity. Lowering stress while increasing productivity is crucial to the success of any business, and to be able to do both of those with one device is rather powerful."


Unsurprisingly PwC found that "more than half of employees would consider wearing a smartwatch from their employer if their data was used to improve things such as working hours, stress levels and where they can work from." The problem then tends to come down to trust that your boss won't use this data against you.

Concerns over workplace monitoring and biometrics came to a head last year when Daily Telegraph journalists objected to their desk time being monitored.

Part of the issue here was around consent. According to Buzzfeed the staff were not asked for consent to be monitored at their desk and only discovered what the devices were after "Googling the brand name and discovered they were wireless motion detectors produced by a company called OccupEye that monitor whether individuals are using their desks."


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