Companies Are Putting Sensors On Employees To Track Their Every Move

Photo Credit: joelabell

The idea of having employees walk around with electronic sensors to track their every move is unsettling. There are privacy and legal issues, and who wants to feel like they are just a cog in a system?

But data companies say that the resulting reams of information will improve life for companies and employees.

Sociometric Solutions has created tracking devices for Bank of America, Steelcase, and Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc., and is in talks with General Motors. It was started by a team of Ph.D students from MIT who decided to study the chemistry behind what makes certain workspaces like Google great at building teams. They came up with sensors placed in employee identification badges that 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.

“Google really cares about creating a community because the social conversations — the ones at the water cooler, coffee maker — those are the ones that have the biggest impact,” says Ben Waber, president of Sociometrics and one of the company’s founders. “In the U.S., there’s this notion that your most productive time is when you’re sitting at your desk staring at the computer,” and that’s not necessarily true.

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.

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