Did you take an hour to make a coffee in the staff room this morning? Did you go out for a leisurely lunch and beer this afternoon? A little piece of technology could be snitching on you.
The Orwellian-sounding “OccupEye” and “Enlighted” systems are sensor technologies that can be placed in many spaces, including under an employee's desk to monitor how often they are there. The sensors can also be used to locate available workspaces and meeting rooms, while also managing lighting levels to save companies costs.
Last year, there were reports of numerous companies using these electronic devices to keep tabs on their employees. Journalists at the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph found them under their desk and kicked up an uproar, which promptly saw the boxes disappear overnight.
However, a new report by Bloomberg says these sensors are still present in many workplaces, often unbeknownst to employees. They estimated that up to 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies use them in their workplaces.
“Most people, when they walk into buildings, don’t even notice them,” Joe Costello, chief executive officer of Enlighted, told Bloomberg. He added that they could be hidden anywhere, from under the desk, to in lights, to even ID badges.
The systems are sold on the premise that it helps “optimize” office spaces. The sensors collect data on when people are at their desk and can learn when certain areas of space will be empty. Once fed into the wider “Internet of things” of the workplace, it can ensure the company isn’t wasting money by using lights, heating, or air-con on empty desks. This alone has the potential to cut an office's energy bill by 25 percent.
They can also collect information on how employees behave, such as how often they get up and talk to other employees. This data can then be used to redesign spaces to help staff communicate more efficiently.
They're certainly a smart piece of tech for big employers hoping to watch their wallets. However, like many pieces of technology in the ever more connected world, the pay-off is your privacy.