I have written several times on the subject of wearables in the workplace. I have conjectured that companies will use these to track employees as they work. We are already seeing this to an extent with GPS in vehicles and tracking smart devices such as iPhones. In my blog post Future Friday: Wearable Devices for Everyone I even said that Fitbits and other such devices will be used to measure movement as a metric. Well guess what the future is here.
Company tracking “steps”
In a Forbes article by author Parmy Olson describes Karl Dahal who “walked more than 1.5 million steps around Houston, each step tracked by the Fitbit Zip that was clipped to his clothes.” The reason he, and his wife, wore this device was that he got healthcare premium discounts. His employer, BP, administer over 14,000 free Fitbits to employees, another 6000 to spouses and 4000 to retirees.
Fitbit sells its devices in bulk to a number of companies such as Autodesk and TokyoElectron. They and thousands of other employers use these as a part of their corporate wellness programs. Fitbit collects all the data on these users. For privacy reasons that data is not managed by Fitbit or by the client customers. A third party administrator manages this data.
These kinds of tracking devices are “wins” for most of the parties involved. For wearers, such as I am, become more conscious of the activity. Awareness increases use and subsequently may have an effect on health.
It is a win for the companies giving these to employees. Active employers are generally healthier and healthier employees are generally more productive. Productive employees generally make their companies more money.
It turns out it is also a lucrative for Fitbit and other such companies. Selling the data on the users to the health insurance companies is turning a nice profit for the sellers. In fact the data selling and management is predicted to be a bigger business than selling the devices.
Required to wear
Right now these devices are worn voluntarily. However, it is not too much of a reach to think that companies may make wearing a Fitbit a requirement in order to extend the benefits of healthier employees. At the same time movement, as I suggested in my other blog post, may become another metric that could be used by employers. So get used to seeing those black wrist bands. By the way, I wear mine all the time, but due to an injury it is going to be a long time before I hit 1.5 million steps.