Science

Smartphones and fitness trackers used to gauge employee performance

Smartphones and fitness tracke...
Based around a smartphone app, the system also utilizes fitness-tracking bracelets and locational beacons
Based around a smartphone app, the system also utilizes fitness-tracking bracelets and locational beacons
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Based around a smartphone app, the system also utilizes fitness-tracking bracelets and locational beacons
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Based around a smartphone app, the system also utilizes fitness-tracking bracelets and locational beacons
A diagram of the system
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A diagram of the system

Ordinarily, when employers wish to assess the performance of their employees, they have them fill out questionnaires or take part in interviews. A new (and perhaps somewhat Orwellian) system is claimed to be more objective and thus more accurate, however, by utilizing smartphones and fitness trackers.

The passive system incorporates an app known as PhoneAgent, which was developed by Prof. Andrew Campbell at New Hampshire's Dartmouth College. Using the smartphone's own sensors, that app continuously monitors factors such as the worker's phone usage, physical activity level, geographical location, and the ambient light levels of their environment.

PhoneAgent is also Bluetooth-linked to a fitness bracelet worn by the employee, which transmits data including their heart functions, sleep quality, stress levels, and calorie consumption. Additionally, Bluetooth locational beacons in the person's home and workplace monitor how much time they spend at each place, and how often they leave their workstation.

A diagram of the system
A diagram of the system

All of the phone, bracelet and beacon data is transmitted to a cloud-based server, where it's processed via machine-learning algorithms that were "trained" on the habits of people already known to be high- or low-level performers. When tested on 750 workers across the US over a one-year period, the system was reportedly able to distinguish between individuals' performance levels (in a variety of industries) with an accuracy of 80 percent. That number should rise as the system is developed further.

Among other things, it turns out that high-performing employees use their phone less, they sleep longer and deeper, plus they're more physically active and mobile. Not surprisingly, they also spend more time at the workplace on weekends.

"The passive monitoring system is meant to be empowering," says Campbell. "This approach could certainly benefit companies, but can also be helpful to individual employees who are looking to boost their performance."

Source: Dartmouth College

7 comments
Rusty Harris
My work day ends at 5pm. At 5:30pm, my work email "goes to sleep" and stays that way until 7:00am the next day, and, on Friday, turns off at 5pm, until 7am Monday. If my boss wants me to respond to an email on the weekend, a phone call etc...PAY ME! "Not surprisingly, they also spend more time at the workplace on weekends."
paul314
What a mess. Easily gamed, dependent on data from a pre-determined list of good and bad performers (which we know to be accurate, since it was determined by their managers). And 80 percent accuracy may sound good, but it's only a moderate improvement on flipping a coin.
KaiserPingo
Quality of life is to important for shit like this !
piperTom
It's "perhaps somewhat Orwellian"? NO, it's the very definition of Orwellian. First: I'm not wearing that thing! Second: it won't tell the boss what I'm thinking, which the only data that really matters.
Oppen
This is ridiculous. But, for other side, will be perfect to sue companies due to excessive work and privacy issues. What a bad world we are making of us.
flybywire99
I wonder how Prof. Campbell would like it if Dartmouth College would implement his system to track their professor's performance?
Wolf0579
Aside from the creepy, total surveillance aspect of this system, I'm very curious how a bracelet is going to know how many calories in food have been taken in.