Smart glasses have long been an interest of consumer tech early adopters, many of who have eagerly awaited the integration of wearables into daily life. What these eager would-be wearers might not realize, though, is that these tools are already in wide use in enterprise settings like hospitals and factories, where field technicians can take photographs and fill out documents hands free.
Despite the potential for increased productivity and efficiency, smart glasses face obstacles—with plenty of businesses voicing concern over privacy implications and vulnerability to security breaches.
As with smart glasses, this same mixture of concern and enthusiasm exists regarding other wearables in the workplace. Take the slew of sensors that can monitor and improve an employees’ posture. These include technologies like the Philips ErgoSensor, Discreet UpRight and the Lumo Back. For employers, the benefit to installing these sensors seems obvious: In a world that increasingly requires workers to sit at computers for long stretches of time, these sensors could help prevent long-term back problems. Less obvious are the pitfalls: What happens if these sensors aren’t calibrated properly, give bad advice and cause an employer to become complicit in an employee’s deteriorating back strength? That creates a considerable workers’ compensation dilemma.
The same is true for wearable stickers that can measure exposure to UV rays. L’Oreal recently partnered with sensor-maker MC10 and design firm PCH to create one of these, called My UV Patch. Like a temporary tattoo, it attaches to human skin easily and is unobtrusive. Sensors collect data about sun exposure and relay it to an app on the user’s device. In many of the industries that are exploring wearable technology for workers—like construction, for example—these sticker-tattoos could help stave off skin cancer. But, on the flipside, a bug in the system could lead to bad advice. Or a worker could become distracted by the device and the app and get injured.
In both cases, the employer risks liability. In this Wild West landscape of wearables-at-work, there is no legislation in place yet to determine this. Without it, companies would be wise to work closely with their insurance providers to better understand the risks, the financial benefits and risks, and any associated privacy policies. This means looking at technology holistically and frequently. The rules are in flux and technology moves fast. What’s true today will surely be different tomorrow.
To learn more about the risks of wearable technologies in the workplace, visit Zurichna.com.
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