Wearable technology is currently one of the fastest-growing technology markets, as consumers clamor for smarter, smaller, and more robust gadgets to track everything from steps to posture. Smartwatches, fitness rings, medical wearables, safety trackers, and fitness trackers continue to become more powerful and affordable. As a result, its user base is rapidly expanding.
One of the first industries to adopt wearable technology is logistics, where specialized safety trackers are entering warehouses in an effort to improve safety and reduce accidents. Workers are wearing devices during their shift that monitor their movements, provide immediate feedback to the employee, and collect data for the company.
How Safety Trackers Work (Updated for COVID-19)
Many wearable technology companies are looking at the logistics and warehouse industries to make an impact on safety. One such company, Brooklyn-based Strongarm Technologies, offers a smartphone-sized device attached to a harness worn by the employee. This device collects data for the employer, but can also alert the employee when they are not picking up a box safely or are doing something that may be risky.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, safety trackers are now offering social distance tracking and temperature to ensure that employees are sticking to the new regulations in warehouses and loading docks.
Companies use the trackers to learn more about the potential safety hazards a worker encounters during their shift so they can improve systems and prevent accidents. The devices also allow the company to assign a safety ranking to the employee based on inputs throughout their shift. The ultimate goal is to maximize employee safety and minimize risk through injury or exposure, which obviously leads to major cost savings.
For the employee, the device serves as a reminder, vibrating when they are doing something improperly or deemed risky. As a result, employees can correct their actions immediately, improving performance in a way that supervisors were often unable to observe and influence.
Big Brother Concerns
As more wearable technologies enter the warehouse, some employees are questioning precisely what data is collected and how it will be used. Manufacturers of safety trackers are united in their objective to make warehouses and other injury-prone workplaces safer and comply with all privacy regulations. Still, companies will need to educate their workforces to not only use the device properly but also to let them know what data it’s collecting.
Some wearable devices collect biometric data, opening up concerns about what employers can learn about an employee’s health, alcohol usage, and even the potential for certain health risks (including COVID-19) Employees have a right to know how this data is collected, how it will monitor employee performance, and how securely the information is retained.
As this technology market matures, wearables will be able to monitor more and more data about an employee, raising red flags with employee advocate groups. We are expecting that the technology will evolve faster than privacy guidelines and information security can keep up.
Should You Wear A Wearable?
Until COVID-19, companies were positioning wearable trackers as voluntary, with some offering incentives to participate during warehouse pilot programs. But, as the risk has increased and the devices mature and employers acquire more data, it’s likely these devices will become mandatory, and HR policies will implement standards.
At present, workers who feel pressured to participate in donning wearables should share any concerns with their supervisor or HR. Employers should share the information gathered and how that data will be used with employees. It should also be clarified if the data collected will be used to evaluate worker performance.
Wearable technology is coming to a warehouse near you in the next few years as companies will be further motivated to reduce injuries, enhance processes, and improve visibility into warehouse performance. For companies, the positives of what they will learn will outweigh the complexities of rolling it out, and they will be able to improve safety quickly.
Spectra360 focuses on logistics and transportation, keeping our fingers on the pulse of the industry. From keeping up with wearable technology to knowing where the next areas of growth will be, Spectra360 can help you stay ahead in the race for the nation’s best employees.
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