i-Watch Could Let Managers Snoop on Employees

Tim Cook, Apple Watch (Associated Press)
Associated Press

UPS is probably America’s premier example of how Fred Taylor’s scientific management methods are being applied using “telematics” to break down every worker task to eliminate all un-essential movements–and then use the right tools, training and incentives to achieve optimum workflow productivity and dump excess Teamster members. By giving their employees an Apple i-Watch, managers across almost all industries could soon be using telematics to increase productivity and dump employees.

Orion telematics system algorithmic route selection is integrated into the working life of UPS drivers through hand-held delivery-information acquisition devices (DIAD), and more than 200 sensors on every delivery truck. The DIAD tracks everything from delivery time, speed, stop times and seat-belt use.

From a Taylorist perspective, this data tool is observing and judging every moment of employees’ working lives. Each time a driver stops and scans a package for delivery, the system records the time, location and wait. It records the same details again when a customer signs for the package. Supervisors receive all this “big-data” in real time.

Most American workers do not believe their job could be constantly managed like a UPS driver, because they believe their managers could not have them carry a telematics hand-held DIAD to constantly measure their movements. But by giving an i-Watch to every employee, Taylorite managers would have the ability to measure and control all their employees’ movements.

The i-Watch is a powerful “wrist-held” computer with Bluetooth connection to the Internet. The first i-Watch model features programmable “activity collection” to measure workouts through GPS location tracking, bio-metric logging, a stop watch, and data link.

As the philosopher Julian Baggini wrote in the Guardian, “…smart watches encourage a kind of auto-instrumentalization in which we treat ourselves as machines to be well-oiled, serviced and working at maximum efficiency.” The “quantified self” movement has mostly been conceived–perhaps because that’s how its adherents would like to see it–in terms of “new modes of introspection and self-governance.”

But Taylorite managers see the i-Watch’s features as telematic big-data collectors capable of being uploaded onto the Internet in real time. An added i-Watch benefit is that employees might wear their i-Watches when they are not working. This would give managers the opportunity to data surveil what employees are doing on their time off.

In the March 2015 issue of Harper’s magazine there is an interesting article by Esther Kaplan called, “The Spy who Fired Me: The Human Costs of Workplace Monitoring.” Kaplan examines the $30 billion industry of “telematics”: software and hardware that allows firms and managers to surveil their workers in real-time and in excruciating detail.

Kaplan explains that Orion was introduced to UPS employees as a safety measure. But executives told security analysts that telematics was a productivity device aimed at saving the company $100 million through operating efficiencies, including reductions in fuel, maintenance, and Teamster union labor.

But problems have arisen with “You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” if “You only manage what you do measure.”

A UPS spokesperson told Kaplan telematics has improved overall safety and lifted seat-belt compliance to an “almost perfect” 98.8 percent. But UPS drivers tell stories about how drivers can game telematic measurements to beat their quota by buckling the seat belt behind them, using high backing speeds and driving with the back door open.

One of the fastest growing technology focuses has been the “Internet of Things” (IoT). That explains why Microsoft will offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade for non-enterprise users on phones, tablets, and PCs. The company wants to unite all consumer-facing devices under a single operating system that can access “universal apps” and channeled to Azure, the Microsoft cloud service. With all data in a common location and format, Microsoft will be able to achieve spectacular data-mining opportunities.

UPS has demonstrated Orion telematics can drastically increase operating efficiencies and reduce union labor. By putting the i-Watch on every employees’ wrist, Taylorite managers could soon be driving up productivity and dumping lots of employees.


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