How Emotion-Sensing Technology Can Reshape the Workplace

As companies search for new ways to improve performance, some executives have begun paying attention to developments in emotion-sensing technologies (ESTs) and software fueled by artificial emotional intelligence. Although we are still in the early days, research shows that these technologies, which read such things as eye movements, facial expressions, and skin conductance, can help employees make better decisions, improve concentration, and alleviate stress. While important privacy issues need to be addressed, the opportunities are significant.

Consider the technology developed by Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. and ABN AMRO Bank N.V., both based in Amsterdam, to reduce trading risk in financial markets. Research has shown that traders in heightened emotional states will overpay for assets and downplay risk, a condition known as “auction fever” or “bidding frenzy.” To address this problem, the companies jointly developed a tool called the Rationalizer that has two components: a bracelet attached to the trader’s wrist that measures emotions via electrodermal activity (similar to the way a lie detector works) and a display showing the strength of the person’s emotions using light patterns and colors. Researchers have found that when users become aware of their heightened emotional states, they are more likely to rethink their decisions. In addition to helping individuals improve performance, the aggregated data from such settings can help managers understand how internal and external environmental factors influence the risks taken by groups.

Individuals are also more prone to make mistakes when they are not paying enough attention. Although multitasking has become standard in many jobs, there are some activities, such as air-traffic control and fast-paced buying and selling, where maintaining one’s undivided attention is critical. In a high-profile foul-up in 2005, a trader working for Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo intended to sell a single share of a stock it owned for about 610,000 yen (which was approximately $ 5,000). By mistake, he placed an order to sell 610,000 shares for one yen. The company was unable to cancel the sell order, leading to an estimated loss of $ 224 million.

Although such egregious blunders are rare, the story speaks to how important it is to hold the attention of employees involved in high-stakes activities. ESTs can help people improve their focus, often with relatively minimal technological investment. For example, recent research has found that slow or uneven cursor movements can be an indication of distraction or negative emotions. Detection doesn’t require installing expensive hardware, but rather just some additional code or software to computers or smartphones.

Professional athletes have been early adopters of tools that can help people sharpen their focus to gain a competitive edge. Major League Baseball All-Star Carlos Quentin, National Basketball Association All-Star Kyle Korver, and Olympic gold medal swimmer Eric Shanteau are among those who have used special headsets produced by San Francisco-based SenseLabs Inc. to monitor cognitive performance and develop customized training aimed at shoring up their personal weaknesses. Microsoft Corp. has also conducted research on the use of wearable sensors in an effort to understand, among other things, what work activities are associated with changes in emotion and when people working on certain types of tasks should take breaks.

In settings where employee engagement is critical, the ability of managers to recognize boredom is vital. Assuming that data can be accessed without compromising privacy or anonymity, managers will soon be able to watch for signs of boredom in an underperforming team and take steps to counter it. Indeed, researchers at Telefónica I+D in Barcelona have developed an algorithm that analyzes smartphone activity for such signs. On the basis of a combination of data points — including how often users check their email, whether they log in to Instagram, whether they are adjusting their device settings, and how much battery power they consume — the algorithm correctly identifies user boredom more than 80% of the time. It can tell when employees use their phones to pass the time as opposed to pursuing specific goals.

In light of such discoveries, managers can seek to redesign processes that induce boredom or alternate them with other activities that employees find more engaging. ESTs, moreover, might help managers figure out which work schedules work best for particular teams: Employees in one group may be most productive in the early morning, while another group may do better later in the day. Meeting schedules could be organized to take advantage of this information.

Reducing Stress and Burnout

Although some types of stress can help people focus, research shows that too much stress is detrimental to productivity, creativity, and job satisfaction, not to mention psychological and physical health. What’s more, stress can reach harmful levels long before people are aware of it. In some organizations, human resources departments try to monitor stress levels using surveys. But surveys don’t necessarily capture how employees actually feel, in part because people don’t always know when their stress levels are elevated. Having a tool that provides a quantifiable, objective measure of stress would be extremely helpful.

As with tools to improve decision-making and focus, numerous options are available, including smart watches and fitness trackers that detect stress by measuring changes in heart rate and sweat (through what’s known as electrodermal activity). These measures can identify small changes that users themselves don’t notice. And as with algorithms that monitor smartphone usage for boredom or cursor activity for distraction, stress-related information can also be drawn from the hardware that people are accustomed to using every day. For example, a study by MIT’s Affective Computing Lab found that computer users who were under stress pushed harder on keyboard keys and held the mouse more tightly. Other research has found that it’s possible to detect stress-related surges in heart rates by monitoring the changes in the light reflected off users’ faces with an ordinary webcam.

We have found that there can be important benefits to monitoring stress at both the individual level and across the organization. At the individual level, managers can learn when people are under sustained pressure (and therefore more susceptible to recklessness, burnout, or conflict with others) and take steps to help ameliorate such situations. At an organizational level, measuring physiology (for example, heart rate or electrodermal activity) can help managers identify stress “hot spots” among teams and functions. Using wristbands or webcams, for example, managers can pick up on problems relating to excessive workload or interpersonal conflict and respond to them, often before employees are aware they exist. Employees may be spinning their wheels on frustrating, unproductive activities (for example, arguing over who has responsibility for specific tasks). Having access to this data might allow managers to create a “heat map” indicating where the problem is concentrated.

Addressing the Barriers

As companies become interested in ESTs, they will need to address barriers related to cost, complexity, and issues of privacy. (See “Implementation Barriers for Emotion-Sensing Technologies.”)

The cost- and complexity-related barriers seem to be relatively straightforward — both have been declining, and numerous low-cost/low-complexity options are already available. Allaying the privacy concerns, however, will be trickier. Many employees are highly skeptical of monitoring technology and uneasy about how ESTs might be used. A fundamental issue is who will get to see the data and whether the data will be broken down individually or aggregated across groups. Such concerns are understandable given that much of the value will come from measuring and managing aspects of behavior that people are unable (or perhaps unwilling) to self-report. Even if all parties agree to common rules for consent, anonymity, and personal well-being, there are lingering issues. For example, what happens if ESTs uncover medical issues that individuals aren’t aware of or wish to keep private?

One can speculate that privacy concerns will become less problematic when the people being measured are the beneficiaries and when disclosure is voluntary. But even then, there are dicey issues, such as whether an employee interprets feedback in an unexpected way or overadjusts to correct behaviors. With that in mind, managers can attempt both to maintain oversight and to reduce employee concerns by doing the following:

  1. Be sensitive to employee concerns. Prepare your organization for using ESTs through education and transparency. Explain how the tools can benefit employees by reducing stress and risks of burnout. One potentially useful strategy, known as BYOD, involves inviting employees to bring their own devices to work. Under this scenario, individuals maintain a sense of ownership over the deployment of ESTs and the data they are gathering.
  2. Develop data governance agreements. Employees should have sole control over their personal emotional data and be able to stipulate what types of usage are permitted (for example, data can be used only on an aggregate level, and no one can drill down into individual data signatures).
  3. Similarly, assure employees in written agreements that emotional data will be used only for specific business goals. For technologies that rely on broad-stroke measures, such as webcam-based emotion detection, data gathering and analysis should be directed toward highly specific and well-defined outcomes.

As long as organizations operate responsibly, we believe employees will gradually become comfortable with the gathering and analysis of physiological, behavioral, and emotional data. Although this won’t happen overnight, several trends suggest that trust can be built over time. Millions of individuals already use smart watches and fitness devices like Apple Watches and Fitbits, and many people share their workout and nutrition data openly on social media. Social media itself has conditioned us to accept and even embrace new levels of personal transparency. The challenge will be to introduce new devices and measures into workplaces in a way that empowers performance, mitigates privacy concerns, and generally reassures employees that the benefits are mutual.

MIT Sloan Management Review

Could AI Be the Cure for Workplace Gender Inequality?

Many researchers are reporting, and our research confirms, that artificial intelligence (AI) will reshape our economy — and the roles of workers and leaders along with it. Jobs that don’t disappear will see a significant shift as the tasks that are easily and inexpensively accomplished by robots become automated. The work that remains will very likely focus on relating. To adapt and prosper, the smart worker will invest in “human relating” skills — empathy, compassion, influence, and engagement. For simplicity, let’s call these emotional quotient (EQ) skills. These are skills in which women commonly excel.

Gender differences are a sensitive topic and we address them in this article with trepidation. There is a fine line between understanding commonalities and stereotyping, and the debate about nature versus nurture is robust. But whether you believe that men and women, on average, have different types of brains (as Simon Baron-Cohen, a British clinical psychologist and professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge, has theorized) or that gender differences are a result of cultural norms and conditioning (as numerous other studies have explored), the real-world results are similar: Men and women, on average, excel in different dimensions and take on different roles in the workforce. By no means does that suggest that men and women are not equal — just different.

It is clear that men have quite an advantage in the working world — just check out the latest research by McKinsey & Co. on gender equality in the workplace. Men have greater representation among leadership roles, greater presence in higher-paid industries, hold nearly 80% of board seats, and earn higher compensation on average, even for the same jobs.

We believe that AI has the ability to help level the playing field. It will do so, we think, by replacing many roles and functions where men typically dominate.

Jobs That Currently Demand High EQ Are Dominated by Women

An examination of common occupations by gender in the U.S. by the Department of Labor reveals some unsurprising data. Women predominate in jobs that involve relating, caretaking, and providing services, making up more than 80% of the country’s school teachers, nurses and home health aides, social workers, and secretaries and administrative assistants. Men outweigh women in fields that tend to be physical, STEM- and finance- related, and more isolated rather than relational, such as truck drivers, janitors, laborers, and software developers. Men are also better represented in higher-paying, often analytical fields, such as law, medicine, and engineering.

One perspective on the ways that different skill sets play out at work is the empathizing-systemizing theory, which measures people’s inclinations to empathize (identify, understand, and respond to the mental states of others) and to systemize (analyze, understand, and predict system). According to Baron-Cohen, the theory’s author, women score higher on empathizing and men higher on systemizing. A recent Korn Ferry report aligns with this point of view: It found that women score higher than men on 11 out of 12 key emotional intelligence competencies. These include demonstrating empathy, conflict management, and coaching/mentoring.

EQ Is Likely to Become a Critical Job Differentiator in More Roles

Differences in current skills and roles mean that the evolving AI economy is going to affect men and women differently.

We all know that changes due to AI are imminent, and that some roles will likely disappear over the next decade. This will not be limited to any particular industry or pay grade. Robots will replace not only truck drivers and stock pickers, but also radiologists, consultants, and financial planners (all of which are traditionally male-dominated roles).

The jobs, or the parts of jobs, likely to have more staying power in the AI economy are those that rely more heavily on EQ — abilities such as empathy, persuasion, and inspiration. AI may determine that your radiology scans indicate cancer, but a human will likely sit down with you and help create a treatment plan that suits your goals and lifestyle. AI may suggest operational improvements within a company, but a human will be more effective at persuading the leadership team to tackle the problem. Chinese technologist Kal-Fu Lee predicts that AI will probably wipe out 50% of jobs within a decade, but adds that nothing can replace human-to-human interaction: “Touching one’s heart with your heart is something that machines, I believe, will never be good at,” he told CNBC.

Research has suggested that these relating skills, where men lag women, will put men at a workplace disadvantage in the AI economy. They won’t be as successful as women unless they embrace these differentiator skills of empathizing, mentoring, and engagement.

Three Steps to Prepare for the EQ Revolution

Given this prognosis, all of us — men, women, and the organizations we work with — need to pay real attention to these often-neglected EQ skills.

Although we tend to think of relating skills as innate and static, this is incorrect. Just like any job skill, a person’s emotional intelligence can be improved with some effort. Here are three steps to get started:

  1. Figure out what you’re working with. What is your EQ baseline? Many sharp, effective people have low EQ but have no idea they need to improve because they simply haven’t paid attention to the subtle indicators from their peers. Most of us are very hesitant to criticize someone’s interpersonal skills directly because such feedback can be perceived as an unwelcome critique. This means that you should pay attention to couched feedback you’ve been given, especially comments along the lines of, “You are difficult to work with,” “You are too argumentative,” “You need to do a better job ‘reading the room.’”
  2. Admit to yourself the importance of EQ. Emotional intelligence has been undervalued in the marketplace since…forever. Although every job has an EQ component, employees and managers are more often trained and assessed on “systemizing” skills — perhaps because they are simpler to measure. For example, doctors are well trained on identifying and treating disease. But they are not well trained on personalizing treatment to suit a patient’s preference and lifestyle, nor on influencing patients to take steps such as changing diet or exercise. If you want to grow your EQ, you must first change your mental model about what is important in your work. Is getting the diagnosis right the most important measure of success? Or is it actually improving someone’s health? Recognize that making an impact on the world almost always involves human interaction.
  3. Practice and train your EQ. Research shows that attention and training programs can affect one’s emotional intelligence. Identify the parts of your job that allow you to practice understanding, coaching, encouraging, and influencing others — these are the parts of your role likely to persist over the next decade — and direct your energy to these interpersonal opportunities. Find a coach who will give you honest feedback and mentoring, or find a training program. We naturally take these steps with many job skills, but are hesitant to do so with EQ for two reasons: None of us want to admit our EQ needs work, and we have the idea that our EQ is inborn and unchangeable. We are wrong on both accounts.

Whether it is genes or training that inclines women to empathize, relate, and engage more than men is irrelevant. As AI-based tools become integrated into roles across levels and industries, these “soft” skills will become more important for earning hard dollars.

Companies and organizations need to be aware of this shift in job skills, as it will affect hiring, managing, and training employees. Those who can’t adjust will see their skills become irrelevant, from the boardroom to the manufacturing floor. There are many things that people will not be able to do as effectively as the robots that are moving into our workplaces, so it’s time to focus on what people can do best — understanding and relating to each other.

MIT Sloan Management Review

1aim brings connected devices to workplace doors & beyond

connected security devices

In the era of connected technology Berlin company 1aim are carving a niche for themselves in connected security for commercial buildings. I met with Torben Friehe, CEO of 1aim to find out more.

1aim builds a complex array of hardware and software for a simple purpose: open any door by waving a smartphone in front of a retrofitted lock instead of needing a key, swipe card or access code. Administrators use a simple app interface to issue digital passes via email or SMS to anyone visiting including non-registered users like guests or contractors.

Friehe likens them to “a central nervous system for buildings” explaining that 1aim  has created an enterprise-grade access control system that serves two functions – first, to allow professional access and identity management and, second, to gather large amounts of valuable data to enable companies to identify space usage patterns in their commercial space.

lightacess_3Friehe explains that as the company ships more software, customers will be able to use the device to collect and analyze data and perform a suite of tasks to improve cost flows and efficiency, such as arm areas or turn off electricity to reduce utility expenses as employees leave their offices.Other features include allowing users to request conference rooms and automatically provide them with the ideal premises fitting their requirements.

“Since our platform knows who is where and when, it will also be able to allocate the right space to every employee on an individual basis and offer strategic work-layout suggestions to optimize operations.”

What are the cultural differences when it comes to smart locks in Germany compared to the US?

As an expat myself living in Germany I was interested to know the differences in how Deutsch and American people view security and technology. Friehe noted that:

“German homeowners would not trust doors that are seen as perfectly safe in America. In Germany, homeowners take enormous pride in the so-called “Resistance Class” that their door fulfills. But most U.S. doors would not even pass the lowest grade of such certification. The same goes for mechanical locks. Many German homeowners purchase high-quality lock cylinders that cost up to a few hundred euro per piece. Although there are security grades in America as well, German consumers have a much wider variety of choices and can select products offering more mechanical security. We have had meet extremely high-security standards in Germany as part of our partnership with the Hormann Group.”

Connected security in a crowded space requires complex solutions

Connected security is becoming a crowded space with the involvement of industry stalwarts like Honeywell and Yale. However, the majority are focused on the consumer market and fewer are equipped to respond to the challenges of older commercial buildings. Friehe explains that:

“In the building platform space, we see competitors attempting to build a “building operating system,” a software connecting all the hardware in a building. We don’t see this approach as working. Without a strong hardware foundation, there is just no way to connect legacy and modern systems. These companies might be able to supply middleware, but as long as they focus on software alone they will not be able to dominate this space. So our major differentiation point here is that we supply the hardware at the core of our system, providing quality ID-related data.”

Friehe also compares questions companies that monitor space utilization using sensor boxes as their hardware, noting that

“These companies cannot supply the same data quality that we can provide, as their data is not connected to the ID of users in any way and the number of potential data points is limited.”

The company sees the opportunity in the future to team up with companies in the HVAC and energy optimization sector where “We can make good use of their data, and they might require some of ours.”

How secure are connected locks?

One need only read the agenda of the latest DEFCON or Black Hat conference to know that there will be security researchers showing their prowess in hacking connected home security devices.  Then over the last week, we’ve seen spirited discussion after Amazon revealed they are sealing smart door locks that enable Amazon to deliver packages inside your home with a smart lock and connected camera. Walmart recently offered to deliver groceries straight to people’s fridges with a similar system. When polled about the idea of Amazon in-home delivery three different surveys suggested strong opposition to the idea, perhaps in the spirit of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.’

In regard to security, Friehe believes that:

“As an industry, we must guarantee that companies are not developing software to a negligent degree. They need to implement accepted industry practices, which should be enhanced to demand more regular audits when it comes to how data is collected and stored. Companies need to have security in mind and be held accountable if they fail to observe best-practices. This is especially so with connected devices, where extremely personal life data is concerned.

Ultimately, the free market will serve as the catalyst for ensuring that security in the IT sector catches pace, but there will be much more bloodshed and massive attacks.”

Presently, 1aim’s access control product LightAccess Pro can be purchased on Amazon Germany, UK and France, or by contacting their offices directly.

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NEC Improves Workplace Efficiency with AR Solution Utilizing Smart Glasses

Augmented Reality (AR) and wearable tech is a marriage made for the enterprise says Beecham Research

Augmented Reality (AR) and wearable tech is a marriage made for the enterprise says Beecham Research

NEC Corporation today announced the development of an Augmented Reality (AR) solution to assist users with the selection of items through the use of smart glasses, a smart watch and new “ARmKeypad”1 functions.

This solution enables users to perform tasks without having to look away from objects, making it ideal for use in manufacturing, logistics and other industries. Currently, NEC is carrying out demonstration tests at a hospital pharmacy2 and a manufacturing floor, where it has confirmed a reduction in workplace errors and working time thanks to the assistance of the new solution.

Hiroshi Kuzuno, General Manager, System Integration & Services Market Development Division, NEC Corporation, said:

“In contrast to NEC’s original ARmKeypad, which created a virtual selection screen on a user’s arm, the ‘eyes-free’ ARmKeypad in this solution displays an input selection screen on a pair of smart glasses. As a result, users can make selections simply by inclining and touching their arm, which allows work to be completed without the need to look away from objects. This is very helpful in workplaces where mistakes are likely to occur due to eye movements or workplaces where working speed is required.”

Features of the solution are described below:

1. Visualizes work procedures

The solution capitalizes on AR in order to display work procedures on a pair of smart glasses, such as guiding users to the location of objects stored on a shelf. This improves the efficiency of operations and reduces mistakes, even for inexperienced workers and in workplaces where tasks often change.

2. Allows “eyes-free” operation

The solution enables input operations to take place through the accelerometer of a smart watch worn by users. Changes in the incline of a user’s arm can be understood in order to select items from a menu screen displayed on a pair of smart glasses. Finger contact with the arm can also be used to make selections. This allows for confirmation and registration to take place without looking away from an object.

NEC is carrying out demonstration tests of this solution at a hospital pharmacy and a manufacturing floor, where it has confirmed a reduction in workplace errors and working time.

NEC Improves Workplace Efficiency with AR Solution Utilizing Smart Glasses1) Demonstration test at a hospital pharmacy

NEC is conducting a demonstration test aimed at preventing work errors when selecting drugs in a hospital pharmacy. The system reads barcodes on prescriptions with a camera on the glasses, displays a drug selection list on the glasses, and provides guidance about which drug on which shelf is to be selected. This is done using AR when the operator looks at the medicine cabinet. As a user of the solution picks up a drug, they are able to confirm and register the item by inclining their arm. This has confirmed that selection errors could be reduced to virtually zero. Using conventional methods, approximately five errors are assumed per 300 operations daily3.

2) Demonstration test at a manufacturing floor

A demonstration test is being conducted at NEC Networks & System Integration Corporation in order to ensure efficient management of equipment. The solution assists in locating equipment from cabinets where it is temporarily stored using an AR guidance display. The demonstration test confirmed that work time could be reduced by 18.2% when compared to conventional methods.

1 NEC develops new user interface that turns arm into virtual keyboard –
2 The system built for verification is not certified as medical equipment
3 The technical verification was carried out in a limited environment, and the number of errors is an estimation based on measured values. Before providing drugs, multiple confirmations are conducted. The number does not represent cases of actual medication errors.

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IoT Business News

How IoT is Revolutionizing Workplace Safety?

workplace safety glasses

Safety is a concern & responsibility for all businesses, especially when talking about workplace safety. It is a vital responsibility on the part of safety assurance experts to check and confirm whether the worksite is suitable and safe for the employees to carry on with their daily tasks. Workplace safety becomes crucial when the area is objectively an accident-prone zone.

International Labor Organization has reported that about 151 laborers face workplace accidents every 15 seconds. It goes without saying that the count is both high and alarming. According to reports, globally, a striking 317 million non-fatal occupational hazards occur per year. The  report also states that about 321,000 workers die annually from workplace-related mishaps.

See AlsoTata makes worker safety wearable available to competitors

Ramon T. Llamas, the Research Manager at International Data Corporation, Massachusetts for mobile phones and wearable, believes that devices using IoT technology will serve as a healthy medium to share crucial information.

This technology will have sensors at the core of their functionality. This will help the managers in extracting real time safety information in order to alert the employees and their supervisors so that they can take necessary steps and prevent any potential worksite hazard. Most of the worksite accidents that take place can actually be prevented if the worker’s status is continuously monitored .

With the help of IoT devices and hybrid solutions, one can monitor and send across safety information which includes an employee’s biometrics. This, as a result, will help companies reduce their insurance cost through enhancing worksite safety in a smart and effective manner. Since workplace safety is a top concern, development and collaboration of such IoT technologies will be critical for companies to invest in. 

Author Bio

Hello I’m Berney, I am creative blogger by profession & offer freelance assignment writing. It’s my hobby to write and educate people with the latest news and industry buzz. You can follow me on social media and stay connected to read more of such informative blogs covering a plethora of category.

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