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19 June 2018

IoT or Big Brother? 5 concerns to consider before embarking on an IoT initiative

It’s estimated that there are already 23 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) in use worldwide, and it is estimated that the figure will swell to anywhere from 31 billion to 200 billion by 2020.

With experts saying that 60% of the market will consist of corporate devices, IoT in the workplace is surely set for an imminent explosion.

On the face of things, this spells superb news for employers who can reap the benefits of a Big Data, the likes of which have never before been seen, boosting productivity and streamlining every aspect of the business. For employees, the change might be less attractive. Concerns about privacy and the thin end of a Big Brother wedge make those who have not yet been exposed to the technology apprehensive about its introduction.

So how can companies gain the rewards of IoT without risking employee objection? Here are five areas to consider before embarking on an IoT initiative.

1. The pros and cons of IoT in the workplace

Whilst concerns have been expressed over implementation and running costs, internet bandwidth and device battery consumption, as well as the threat of cyber-security breaches, the IoT can be massively rewarding for an array of industries.

Using IoT devices to track and monitor anything from a production chain to office temperature can present an opportunity to trigger workflows and automations that result in optimisation and reduction of wasted resources. It can also contribute to the improvement of working conditions for staff and provide them with tools and insights that make their job easier.

By analysing your organisation’s processes, it is likely you will identify processes that are currently being done manually in response to a trigger that can be triggered and automated by IoT devices. Any forward-thinking business should look to stay ahead of the curve by investigating how IoT can impact their own operations, then harnessing its power to satisfy the interests of all.

2. What’s in it for the little guy?

The optimisation of all performance aspects of a business, from employee movements to energy consumption, is obviously an attractive proposition for the C-suite. But what’s in it for the little guy?

In the first place, the technology behind the IoT is capable of handling those time-wasting, menial tasks such as clocking in, turning on the lights and adjusting temperature controls. This means that employees can spend more time on their actual job – increasing job satisfaction – and environmental IoT controls can lead to more pleasant working conditions – and lower energy bills.

3. Is Big Brother watching you?

However, probably the biggest sticking point for employees is their own privacy. While many of us are quite comfortable with using GPS tracking software on our smartphones for location services or for fitness monitoring purposes, we might be more reluctant to relinquish our data to our bosses. Orwellian dystopias have given many people a knee-jerk reaction against continual surveillance and the intrusion into every working moment is a bridge too far for some.

4. The psychological effect on employee performance and dedication

Additionally, there’s also the potential for the system to become overused and abused, with negative effects on productivity and the bottom line. Analysing metrics to demand better performance is sensible up to a point, but beyond that, it’s easy to foresee a scenario in which bosses become overdemanding of their workforce and employees burn-out as a result. Even without this overbearing influence from above, the very existence of monitoring technology can put undue stress on an employee, causing them to feel intimidated and inhibiting their performance rather than enhancing it. By excessively monitoring employees, there is potential for a breakdown in trust, and with that could come a drop in dedication and loyalty.

5. How to increase acceptance

While the above are entirely legitimate concerns, some studies actually tell a rather different story. GPS company TSheets conducted a recent survey of 1,000 office workers who both had and hadn’t been exposed to monitoring software, to gauge public opinion on IoT solutions in the workplace. The results were illuminating. Of the staff members who had never used GPS software in the office, 60% were comfortable with using it on their personal apps, but only 16% were happy to do so while at work. 38% were actively against the idea.

On the other hand, those who had already used tracking software around the workplace were far more open to this type of monitoring. 54% of respondents had a positive impression of the software, while only 5% were against it.

The fact that over half of those already familiar with the technology saw it as a plus implies that a staged approach to workplace IoT implementation could help mitigate employee concerns.

Big Brother? Not if adopted responsibly

A tool is always only as good as its user, and the same is true for IoT. The potential for abuse of the system is certainly there, but only in the hands of unscrupulous or inconsiderate management. The introduction of IoT within organisations undoubtedly has very tangible optimisation benefits. But when used for performance optimisation purposes, taking into consideration how the technology might adversely affect employees on a personal level and devising methods and programmes to support performance improvement may be key to keeping everyone happy – paving a smoother path to increased business optimisation.

To learn more about how Velocity IT can help your organisation go digital, visit our Digital Transformation page or get in touch with a consultant.