Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Workplace wearables: Your boss knows when you've had a good night's sleep?

The future will be bright in all those augmented realities. <a href='' target='_blank'>Google Glass</a> is the wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information on a visual display. The future will be bright in all those augmented realities. Google Glass is the wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information on a visual display.
Eyeing you up
20 wearable technologies of the future
Don't sweat it
Dirt Vader
Impact on the future
Sweet vibrations
Smokin' hot
What's your poison?
Fist-Bump your phone
Light me up!
Track it down
Shine on
Climate control
Safety sock
  • What effect will wearables have in the workplace?
  • Dr Chris Brauer's team has found some "startling" results
  • Productivity of those wearing wearables increased by 8.5%
  • Job satisfaction increased by 3.5% but alertness fell by 9%

Editor's note: Dr Chris Brauer is a senior lecturer in the Institute of Management Studies and Director of the Human Cloud at Work research project at Goldsmiths, University of London in collaboration with Rackspace, the open cloud company. Follow him on Twitter.

(CNN) -- We know how wearable tech can enhance our fitness lives; some of us use it to track our diets and even record our daily entertainment choices; but there's evidence that its most significant application is yet to come: the workplace.

The Human Cloud at Work is an experimental design research collaboration between the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths, University of London and Rackspace, the open cloud company -- assessing the impact of wearable technologies on productivity and performance in the workplace.

Dr Chris Brauer
Dr Chris Brauer

During a month-long preliminary study participants were equipped with three devices: the GENEActiv high-velocity accelerometer wristband, which measures movement and activity; the NeuroSky Mindwave portable biosensor EEG, which monitors brain activity; and the LUMOback posture and activity coach.

Initial results show that productivity of those using the wearable tech increased by 8.5% and job satisfaction by 3.5%. We're in the process of increasing our sample size and study duration to assess the longer-term implications of these findings.

However, while it'll be interesting to see how individual workers harness wearable tech to improve their performance, its the organizations themselves that -- in my view -- stand to benefit most if the technology is broadly adopted in the workplace.

Making sea water drinkable
Artificial leaf mimics nature
Is wireless electricity within reach?

Why? It's all about the data.

Consider this: using just machine data gathered from the three wearable devices it's possible to develop rich behavioral and lifestyle profiles of individuals and/or employees. How might an employer use this information to make better company decisions?

Let's look at "Chloe", a randomly selected and anonymized participant in our research. Using her wearable device data we learn her mid-sleep time is 3:45am, in the later quartile suggesting she is in her 20s.

In sleep profiling she is an Owl, not a Lark, with an active social life but not a party animal. Chloe is a conscientious individual, physically active but not a gym bunny, she lives close to work with a short commute of 90 minutes from waking, has no children, above average long daytime sedentary periods indicating potential future health risk, below average focus/concentration levels, and at her most productive on days when she has evening social events planned with friends.

This behavioral data from her wearables can empower Chloe. She can develop a biometric CV and demand a work environment be optimized for her from environmental design to working hours. She can schedule her big pitch meetings on afternoons when she knows she will be most productive. And she can choose a job that aligns with her lifestyle, health and well being aspirations, and productivity and performance expectations.

Of course organizations implementing software and cloud innovations can harness the power of the data as well. Some employers could have real-time executive dashboard resource allocation systems that will recommend a CEO assign Chloe to a big pitch meeting that afternoon instead of Peter because Peter is in the midst of a particularly poor productivity cycle and Chole had way above average sleep quality the night before and her sleep quality is strongly and positively correlated with her job performance.

This is a particularly rosy interpretation of how this data will be used.
Dr Chris Brauer

And if this decision wins the contract, can you blame them? They are, after-all, paying the salaries of Chloe and Peter to deliver results at work. Peter isn't put under undue pressure to perform when he has other priorities and considerations in his life and Chloe is only asked to step-up when she is optimally conditioned to perform at her highest level.

This is a particularly rosy interpretation of how this data will be used. Around the world, as in so many areas of emerging technology, regulatory and policy frameworks are struggling to adapt to the rapid emergence of wearables in the workplace. Handling behavioral data like that used to profile Chloe entail responsibilities that will lie with self-regulating organizations who will need to work within a social contract to collect and use this type of data sensitively and appropriately.

Read more from Make, Create, Innovate:

Forget wearable tech, embeddable implants are already here

Feeling glum, happy, aroused? New technology can detect your mood

Forget text messaging, the 'oPhone' lets you send smells

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dr Chris Brauer.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Engineer Alan Bond has been developing a new concept for space travel for over 30 years -- and his creation is now on the verge of lift off.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Crumbling buildings, burnt-out PCs, and cracked screens -- a new generation of "self-healing" technologies could soon consign them to history.
updated 5:09 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Discover a dancing cactus field, basketball on the Hudson River, and mind-bending 3D projections on robotic screens.
updated 1:07 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Would you live there? Design student Peter Trimble says it's actually a surprisingly good idea.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
Alpha Sphere
Singing Tesla coils, musical ice cream, vegetables on drums... and this ball? Find out how "hackers" have created a new generation of instruments.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Technology has long learned from nature, but now it's going micro. "Cellular biomimicry" sees designers take inspiration from plant and animal cells.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Forget wearable tech, embeddable implants are here. Learn more about the pioneers who are implanting devices into their bodies.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
A visitor of the 'NEXT Berlin' conference tries out Google Glass, a wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information before your eyes. It is expected to go to market in late 2013.
We know how wearable tech can enhance our fitness lives but there's evidence that its most significant application is yet to come: the workplace.
updated 4:13 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Samsung's research unit announces new way to synthesize graphene, potentially opening the door to commercial production.
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
iRobot, creators of vacuuming robot Roomba reveal how they learned from secret experiments -- in space travel, minefields, and toys.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
A light-bulb glowing in middle of a room with no wires attached. "It's the future," says Dr Katie Hall.
updated 11:26 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Knee replacements that encourage cells to regrow could soon be manufactured -- by spiders. Find out how.
updated 9:03 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Meet Chuck Hull: the humble American engineer who changed the world of manufacturing.
updated 9:48 AM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
The key to self-knowledge? Or just the return of the phony "mood ring"? Check out our top mood-sensing technology in development.