One of my favourite shows growing up was Get Smart. It seemed like space age technology to talk into a shoe phone! (Now it just seems a little unhygienic and inconvenient, not to mention smelly!) Now lots of us (myself included) are wearing technology on our wrists that allow us to get emails, text messages, take and make phone calls as well as track heart rate, sleeping patterns and physical activity. Oh and they also tell the time!
But is there a risk element to a smart watch and how does having all this technology strapped to our wrists affect our inherent safety?
On the positive side, having a connected watch could provide people working in isolation, in a dangerous situation or remote areas with a quick and convenient way of sending an SOS or getting help in an emergency situation. The GPS coordinates on the watch could help emergency services locate the person. Timely messages can be sent through via text or email.
A health related positive is that in certain cases, a smart watch can give you data about health issues. It could pick up that your heart rate is too high, too low, erratic – some watches even tell you to seek medical attention!
However, on the negative side, being connected and having all alerts buzz and light up on your wrist can be very distracting. As with mobile phones, if you or your workers are undertaking a task that requires concentration or is high risk, a safety directive may need to be made to put the watch on flight mode, or to otherwise turn off notifications while at work.
What will the future hold? Will smart watches and other wearables be able to detect fatigue or illness? Drug or alcohol blood levels? Will watches be able to detect when workers are entering a high risk or no-go area and alert both the worker and their supervisor? What productivity improvements could be built into the wearable tech? How far will the technology seep into our lives? There are significant privacy and security considerations to think about both from an organisation and individual point of view.
There will need to be very clear and transparent rules in workplaces about what data is collected, how it is used, consequences to workers of any ‘failed’ parameters and also how the data is stored, secured and or destroyed.
Smart watches and other wearable technology has and will continue to influence the future of safety – it will be a question of how much and when.
At least we can keep our shoes on to make phone calls!