Thursday, September 24, 2015

How Your Employer Can Track Your Work Day

Updated March 2017

An interesting article from Techcrunch provides us with a glimpse of what the working world may look like in the not-too-distant future.  

According to the article, Humanyze, a new firm founded by Ben Waber, Daniel Olguin-Olguin, Taemie Kim and Dr. Alex Peatland from the human Dynamics Laboratory at MIT has developed a method of tracking every move that an employee makes during a working day.  Humanyze "helps companies improve by understanding their people" through the use of wearable sensors which provide digital data that can be analyzed by the corporate world.  One technology that Humanyze has developed is a smart employee badge that collects the behaviour of employees through their working day which can then be analyzed with the hope/promise of improving productivity and the bottom line.

The Sociometric Badge, a smart badge worn by employees, contains a microphone, bluetooth connection and accelerometer to measure how people moved throughout the office during the day, who they communicated with along with their tone of voice during inter-employee interactions as well as nearly 40 additional types of information that are collected.  It can also capture face-to-face interactions and extract social signals from speech and body movements.  The device resembles a smart phone and each badge collects about 4 GB of data per day which is then uploaded to the cloud where Humanyze can analyze it.  The data is then reduced to 6 key aspects that are the most important to each of their corporate clients.  While all of this may seem rather "Big Brotherish", Humanyze claims that they have taken precautions to ensure privacy by preventing companies from having access to individual's data and that individual's data will not be shared with anyone else.  Content is not recorded and is analyzed immediately without being saved to memory.  Humanyze claims that by "...using this platform, we help organizations unlock the potential of their people, and develop iterative and disruptive innovations to match their evolving business demands."

Here is a video showing how one of their analytical products works:

Note that the data gathered from the smart badge can be used to measure how employees dominate, participate in and take turns in company meetings.  This supposedly increases collaboration and engagement for meeting participants.

This product is suited for:

1.) The retail sector - improvement of employee-customer interaction

2.) Mergers and Acquisitions - identifying cultural and structural differences

3.) Training and Development - tailoring training programs by quantifying the mix of behaviours that lead to success

4.) Human Capital Management - provide tools for recruiting and managing talent

5.) Call Centers - revealing the drivers of employee engagement

6.) Engineering and Technical Teams - mapping the sharing of knowledge within a team to uncover gaps and challenges

On its website, Humanyze cites seven case studies where its product was used.  In one case, they used their Sociometric Badge and Humanyze Analytics System to examine the productivity of the 10,000 employees employed at the call centers for the Bank of America, analyzing the call center's social engagement, team cohesion and job satisfaction.  Their analysis uncovered a lack of social engagement among teammates which led to poorer performance and job satisfaction.  They recommended changes to the company's scheduling which allowed employees to all take lunch at the same time so that they could communicate with each other.  Network cohesiveness as measured by how well employees communicated improved by 18 percent, stress as measured using tone of voice dropped by 19 percent and call completion time improved by 23 percent.  One does have to wonder how much of the improvements were short-term because of the presence of the badges and how long the improvements will last.  Other companies that have used the Sociometric Badge include Cubist Pharmaceuticals, an unnamed IT company, the marketing division of a large German bank and the sales division of an Eastern European Bank.

I find this technology both fascinating and frightening at the same time.  Now that technology has allowed the development of a smart employee badge that can track every word and action of an employee during his or her working hours, how long will it be before corporations around the world adopt this technology under the guise of improving employee morale and productivity at the same time as they intrude ever further into their employees lives?  How long will it be before companies force employees to wear smart badges with no promise of anonymity or privacy of any kind as a condition of employment?


  1. Anyone that thinks making people wear a badge that monitors everything they do has a chance at improving employee morale needs some sort mental help. All that badge is designed to do is track and monitor employees. Its most likely going to be used to locate under performing employees. It might also be able to identify type A personalities for possible promotion. Those that take control of conversations between piers but do so in a calm manner. Having worked in a call center there is almost nothing worse one can do in life. Call centers are hell you do the same repetitive things over and over and because your logged into a system already they track everything you do. I was questioned multiple times about being signed off the system for 4 minutes to use the bathroom in between breaks. Also take 16 minutes and your reminded that breaks are 15 minutes and being selfish and taking extra time hurts everyone.

    1. Couldn't agree more. Also the name "Humanyze" couldn't be more of a misnomer. Systems like this are nothing more than corporate "Big Brother" looking over your shoulder every second of the day. Screw them.

  2. Nice Post...
    I also found one which can solve this problem
    Track employees through Android Spy App