Big Data Insights from Wearable Tech

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by Jonathan Buckley

How much sleep did you actually get last night? How many miles did you walk last week? Who cares?

Well, suddenly lots of people actually. There’s enough of a fitness focus these days that companies are rolling out innovative wristbands that give greater insights into how active we are. Manufacturers like Jawbone and Nike are designing products that count calories, monitor heart rates and track fitness goals. Newer devices are even adding other capabilities, like the ability to send tweets, read messages and make purchases.

These wearable devices collect lots of information about their users, and companies want their hands on it. With the growing trend of big data analysis, companies want to learn from the results these devices are recording. You may wonder what companies would do with people’s fitness results. Well, for one, they could learn fitness trends and the more popular ways people like to exercise. The data from these fitness bands has taught us people are more active at the beginning of the week, but their motivation deteriorates towards the weekend. Gyms could use that information to save money or create tailored programs based on which day it is. They can determine when to have more staff on hand, and when they don’t need to have as many trainers available.

But fitness bands are just the tip of the wearable tech iceberg. Wearable device potential extends further than calorie counting. You can make a safe bet businesses will begin adopting wearable tech into the workface. Bring your own device (BYOD) is a trend that’s been gaining momentum the past few years. Employees want to use their own devices at work instead of the old, standard-issue machines that offices normally supply. And just as we’ve seen the workforce bring their personal phones and tablets into the office, we’ll see the same with wearable tech.

Devices like Google Glass or Apple Watch introduce a number of ways to track what people are doing. These gadgets could operate as ID badges that determine when you clock in or out of the building. Employers could even find out who you talk to at work, who speaks up the most during meetings, and who spends more time at the water cooler than at their desk. This kind of information would allow for detailed performance evaluations and determining the right candidates for promotions.

As devices improve with better sensors and overall functionality, you can be sure even more of them will spill into the office. Here are 3 simple things to keep in mind when preparing to deal with wearable tech at work:

1) Useful vs. Cool

Google Glass is very cool. Lot’s of people are saying it would be perfect for online meetings. Sure, that could be true, but is the added benefit really that much better than your computer’s camera? You’ll need to consider the overall improvements of using a new device. For example, tracking team interactions at work seems beneficial, but if it doesn’t actually improve their productivity, is it worth investing in? Remember, do you want it because it’s cool, or because it’ll help the business?

2) Big Brother

In 1984, Apple introduced the Macintosh with a commercial alluding to George Orwell’s novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Ironically, Apple’s innovative developments have almost created what they were mocking. We aren’t ruled by a giant screen, but we certainly are addicted to our little ones. Not to mention, we can be tracked almost everywhere we go, both physically and online. Privacy concerns should be taken very seriously when overseeing employee habits. Be completely transparent with your intentions and let employees know what will be monitored. Make sure there are clear boundaries on what employees can do with their devices, and what the employer is allowed to do.

3) IT Involvement

Don’t start issuing your employees smartwatches or other wearable tech without first consulting IT. There needs to be a plan and system in place to support these devices. Help IT understand the purpose behind their usage. That way they can focus on creating customized solutions to support the devices and collect their data. In addition, big data analytics aren’t as simple as crunching a few numbers. You’ll need the right tools to store, manage and process the data to help you understand what insights you can actually gain.

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