British Companies Are Using a Tracking Device That Monitors Their Workers' Voices, Steps and Stress Levels

At least four British companies are using a device to track details about their workers, reports the New York Times. Currently participation in the program is voluntary, but 90 percent of the employees have asked to be included.


The technology was developed by a Boston-based company called Humanyze, which has created a tracker that monitors workers via their lanyards. The lanyards track the employees' number of steps, location and even stress levels. 

“It’s looking at the amount of time you talk, who you talk to, your tone of voice, activity levels, dynamics like how often you interrupt," Humanyze CEO Ben Waber told the Times. "By mining that data, you can actually get very detailed information on how people are communicating, how physiologically aroused people are, and can make predictions about how productive and happy they are at work."

The company notes that workers were "enthusiastic" about volunteering for the program and no one was forced to participate. Some observers, however, have expressed concerns about the new technology. A report from the British website IT Pro quotes Open Rights Group spokesperson Pam Cowburn, who points out that some workers may feel pressure to join in.

"Staff may feel [pressured] into consenting to wearing surveillance devices because they fear that they will be discriminated against if they don't," she said.

A Washington Post story from last year quotes Waber predicting this technology will soon be widespread: "Within three or four years, every single ID badge is going to have these sensors. We are only scratching the surface right now.”

Read the entire report on the Times website.

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