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Dystopian office tech uses sensors to track workers’ every move

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Are energy savings worth the constant surveillance?

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In the fully developed “smart office,” the boss is always watching. Already, hundreds of companies have embedded sensors in workspaces, lamps, cubicles, and computers to track the activities of workers. One such company, The Boston Consulting Group, is even piloting a program where employees’ badges contain a microphone and location sensor to monitor how office layout impacts communication, according to Bloomberg.

To many, the idea that managers can measure the amount of time you spend at your desk or the minutes in-between conversations with colleagues feels overly invasive. But it’s all entirely legal. “Employers can do any kind of monitoring they want in the workplace that doesn’t involve the bathroom,” said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, in an interview with Bloomberg. That is, as long as all the data collected is anonymized.

To be sure, the detailed monitoring can do more than track whether a worker is spending too much time talking at the water cooler. Advocates of the technology cite the environmental and energy-efficiency benefits of having rooms that know to dim the lights and turn down the heat when no one’s there.

For example, the New York-based office design firm Gensler has installed some 1,000 dime-size sensors across its office for such uses, which has already led to 25 percent savings in energy costs. The company projects that the cost of installation—about $200,000—can be recouped in five years. Get the full story here.

Via: Bloomberg, MIT Technology Review