The workplace of the future tracks your every move, whether you like it or not

Access control is nothing new in the office world, where keys slowly migrated over to smart key cards. However, several new startups now aim to give employers a more vivid picture of their office environment by tracking everything their employees do — save for visiting the restroom — via smart sensors and new technologies.

One of the most sophisticated companies in this brave new world is Enlighted, an IoT company whose goal is no less than “redefining smart buildings.” At the heart of Enlightened’s monitoring system are its smart sensors which collect a vast amount of information about the environment and issues reports in real-time. The dime-sized sensors, which owners install via lighting, computers, or a building’s HVAC system, detect motion, daylight, and energy use.

Privacy issues prevent many companies from instituting biometric IDs.

Taking smart sensors to yet another level is the five-year-old startup Humanyze, an MIT spinoff that aims to overlay biometric analysis and analytics over the traditional employee badge technology.

Humanyze badges look like traditional employee identification badges but they’re much more robust. The company equipped these bad boys with not just radio frequency identification (RFID) and near field communications (NFC) sensors — of which libraries and the retail industry already widely use — but it also on-boards the badges with Bluetooth, an infrared detector capable of tracking face-to-face interactions, an accelerometer, and two microphones.

The badges link up with beacons placed around the office to detect where an employee is at any one time. The microphones, on the other hand, creep frighteningly close to Big Brother territory but they don’t have the ability to record conversations. Instead, the mics measure tone, volume, and speed, along with potentially monitoring stress. The data processes in real time and delivers directly to managers in the form of an aggregated, anonymized view of their teams.

smart sensors in the workplace humanyze sensor product 0001

Naturally, in the age of massive intelligence-gathering scandals, one might expect some worries about privacy, risk, and legality. Legally speaking, employers have the option of performing any kind of monitoring in the workplace as long as they inform employees and don’t put cameras in the bathroom. But what’s more surprising are the attitudes of the tracked employees.

TSheets surveyed 1,000 employees last year and found radical differences in opinion depending on whether they thought their employers tracked them or not. Of the employees untracked with GPS at work, only 16 percent had a positive opinion of this type of technology, while 38 percent held a negative opinion. Meanwhile, 54 percent of employees tracked with GPS at work held a positive opinion, while only 5 percent had a negative opinion.

Despite the concerns of employees, many human resources experts say employee monitoring offers benefits to both employers and employees, particularly at companies with mobile employees like construction companies, service providers, or health and safety professionals. These benefits range from accounting for employees in emergency situations to protecting employees and employers from unfounded complaints.

Although biometric monitoring of employees remains a growing trend, the widespread use of these new technologies remains rare due to privacy and legal concerns. Privacy issues prevent many companies from instituting biometric IDs simply because — like anything else — they pose a hacking risk, too.

Product Review

Ring Video Doorbell 2 is the simplest entry into a smarter doorway

The Ring Video Doorbell 2 may lack the style and sophistication of premium door-dingers, but few can match its simplicity and versatility. The device, available in both wired and wireless configurations, is easy to set up and adds instant…
Smart Home

Project Alias is a ‘smart parasite’ that stops smart speakers from listening

Two designers chose to do something about nosy smart speakers. The result is Project Alias, a "smart parasite" that whispers nonsense to Google Home and Alexa until it hears a specific wake word.
Movies & TV

Netflix recruits Steve Carell for the Trump-inspired comedy ‘Space Force’

Steve Carell, Netflix, and The Office showrunner Greg Daniels are teaming up for Space Force, a workplace comedy poking fun at the Trump White House's plans to establish a sixth branch of the U.S. military.
Computing

2019 could be the year AMD has a full lineup of 7nm Radeon GPUs

AMD just came off the reveal of the worlds first consumer 7nm graphics card, but In a new interview, AMD's chief technology officer hints that 2019 could be the year where it has a full lineup of 7nm Radeon GPUs. 
Business

‘Aquaman’ becomes first DC cinematic universe movie to cross $1 billion

Aquaman fell to second place at the weekend box office, but its worldwide earnings crossed the $1 billion mark, making it the first film in Warner Bros. Pictures' DC Extended Universe to do so.
Smart Home

Ring security camera catches man licking the doorbell for hours

A family in Salinas, California had their Ring camera capture something pretty unexpected: a man licking the doorbell outside of their home for more than three hours. The incident took place around 5:00 a.m.
Health & Fitness

In search of the fountain of youth, beauty companies turn to tech

Beauty tech is a fairly new concept, but at CES 2019, companies such as Olay, L’Oreal, and Neutrogena were fully embracing it with all kinds of gadgets that promise to give you glowing skin.
Smart Home

GHSP makes a (back)splash with its touchscreen concept kitchen

One of the coolest concept kitchens from CES 2019 came from GHSP. It created a backsplash entirely made of touchscreens. That means the control panel for your kitchen is accessible no matter where you are.
Product Review

Kwikset Kevo Contemporary review

Tired of carrying around keys? Make keyless entry so easy that all you have to do is have your phone nearby to open the door. It’s a little pricey, but sleek lines and simple features make the Kwikset Kevo Contemporary a great choice for…
Smart Home

Airbnb says sorry to guest for how it dealt with undisclosed security camera

An Airbnb guest recently found a surveillance camera in his rental apartment that hadn't been properly disclosed in the listing. The firm admits its initial response to the guest's complaint was poor, but has since made amends.
Smart Home

Thinking of buying an Instant Pot? Here's what you need to know

The Instant Pot is a powerful kitchen appliance that does everything from pressure cook to to slow cook to steam. Heck, you can even make yogurt in it. Here's all you need to know about the magic device.
Smart Home

Want a smarter home? Ditch the keys with these great smart locks

A good smart lock should offer a combination of security and convenience. Fortunately, these devices keep your home protected, your family safe, and your belongings secure from possible intruders.
Smart Home

The best sous vide machines cook your food perfectly, every single time

Want to make four-star meals from the comforts of your own kitchen? Here are the best sous vide machines available right now, whether you prefer simple immersion circulators or something more complex.
Smart Home

Busted: Facebook Portal gets 5-star reviews from company employees

It's fair to say that Facebook's Portal smart display received a tepid response at launch, so it was something of a surprise to see lots of glowing reviews of the device on Amazon. Turns out some were written by Facebook workers.