We will spend $42bn (£34bn) globally on 225 million wearable devices such as smart watches this year, consultancy Gartner predicts. So perhaps it’s no surprise workplaces are exploring their potential too.
Wearables that monitor physical performance have become commonplace for professional athletes and Dr Chris Brauer, from Goldsmiths, the University of London, thinks they’ll move into white-collar environments too. A company might, for example, pull someone from a big sales pitch if the biometric data shows they haven’t slept for the past three nights. Ambitious workers might turn it to their advantage too, handing over their data to potential employers to show how well they respond to stress.
The law around the collection of biometric data in the workplace is still emerging, and this technology could certainly raise privacy, data storage and anti-discrimination concerns. For an athlete, there are clear and compelling reasons to collect physical performance data that would otherwise be considered intrusive. But will optimising white-collar productivity be seen as justifiable?
Gartner found that 6% of US, European and Canadian companies surveyed tracked workers using biometrics. Right now, it’s most often a fingerprint or retinal scan to clock on rather than monitoring physical performance at work. It seems inevitable, though, that some firms will see an advantage in expanding its uses.