Office work place

Professional athletes are wearing Health Tech devices during training and competition to help monitor their performance to get maximum results. Oceans of data are analyzed instantly to check to see if an individual is tiring or dehydrated, or may have an injury or even a potential concussion. The vast majority of the population may never compete in sports at the professional level, but a spin-off from the MIT Media Lab is applying the same concepts to the legions of corporate office workers.

Humanyze has come up with a way to match up human biometric data with corporate results. Workers are issued a security ID badge that doubles as wearable fitness sensor with some extra features. The device also tracks who talks with whom during the course of the working day, where people are within the office space, and even the stress levels of individuals. They also work with their client companies to determine measures of success, such as monthly sales, new client acquisition, or other key performance indicators (KPI). The individual data is then aggregated and analyzed in the cloud, seeking to find correlations between activities and behaviors that lead to increases or declines in the KPIs. The results are displayed on a dashboard interface, making it easy to see the results and plan effective responses.

The company asserts that the data is scrubbed of individual identities; managers cannot see the specific data from individual workers. The system is set up to assure privacy of the workers, and their initial installations have been on an opt-in basis for employees. Humanize reports that their client companies have seen 7% to 20% boosts in performance after implementing the service.

This is certainly an intriguing concept, but it also has great potential for abuse. It could become the 21st Century equivalent of the keystroke logger that is used to monitor typist productivity. It is conceivable that such data gathering could eventually become mandatory at some companies, and decisions about promotions or even firings could be made based on individual data. While this sounds a lot like Big Brother, it really may not be much different than monitoring individual performance using other metrics, such as sales records or number of customer calls logged. In any event, this is clearly an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences being applied to the wearable Health Tech market. A double-edge sword, the data could lead to better company profits and more recognition for star employees, but it also could hasten the winnowing of less-productive workers from a company’s ranks.