Trends and Concepts for 2016: Sensors and the Workplace

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The turn of each year is marked with forecasters trying their best to predict trends that will take the world by storm in the coming twelve months. Tech, design, and business consultancies are busy trying to identify tendencies and opportunities that might occur in the near future and figure out how to help others tap into them. We thought that it might be fun to show how these trends might work together in an app. In order to take advantage of their full potential and demonstrate how our approach positions trends as business and design opportunities, we combined them with real user needs. Trends are a great creativity trigger, but when it comes to app design you need to be both creative and realistic, so we distilled one idea that banged around our heads into a concept of an app that might actually work and help people.

Ideas, Technology, and User Needs

First, we focused on a particular lifestyle trend: the work-life balance. Even though our private and professional lives exist in different contexts, they naturally influence one another. The more relaxed you are, the greater your efficiency and the less exhausted you feel by the end of the workday. The awareness of work-life balance is getting especially popular in countries with a strong work ethic. Everyone slowly begins to realize that contrary to what the trends of the late nineties and the aughts have been telling us, multitasking is rarely, if ever, effective. Multitasking and working overtime is not only bad for you, it’s also bad for your company. In fact, the less stressed you are, the bigger the subsequent boost to your productivity, it’s as simple as that.

The app we came up with is supposed to encourage people to work more efficiently and intelligently, to relax more often, and to foster interactions and support between coworkers. Work better, not more, and take care to nurture proper work-life balance. Companies should advocate transparency and avoid any attempts at controlling their employees. Obviously, we don’t want to wake up in a George Orwell book one day. We imagine the app to be anonymous and totally autonomous from management, the HR department, or any wellbeing officer on staff; everyone should see what is influencing their life and company, but we want to keep our users’ private lives private, even if that were to impact the work of the company in general. The less external control in people’s lives, the happier and safer they feel. Instead of allowing further administrative control, the app should empower the employees.

To make the idea more clear to ourselves (and now to you), we tried to be as precise as possible and treated this concept app as we would a real one. We used our usual tools to profile user groups and their needs.

TARGET GROUP

Companies with a strong work ethic, where owners value employees and employees value company time. Companies with a high awareness of the inefficiency of multitasking and the increases in performance observed in relaxed and unfatigued employees. Companies that value good relationships between employees and foster esprit de corps.

COMPANY-LEVEL PROBLEMS

  1. employers don’t know whether employees are happy with their job in general,
  2. companies don’t know what is happening and what the general mood and vibe inside the teams is,
  3. companies don’t know the company-wide level of employee engagement over the course of the workday,

EMPLOYEE-LEVEL PROBLEMS

  1. over-reliance on ineffective multitasking,
  2. insufficient amount of relaxation: employees don’t know when and how to relax at work,
  3. lack of awareness of team moods and the ideal moments to solve problems and support one another,
  4. lack of awareness of what influences their professional and private lives the most and what the correlation between those two contexts is.

After sorting out these initial considerations, we decide to include two additional tech-trends predicted by Frog Design for 2016

1. FILM REVIEWS, WRITTEN BY YOUR HEARTBEAT “Wearable data such as activity levels and sleep patterns will be crowd sourced to automatically and objectively rate the products and services we use. Imagine exercise class ratings based on activity data of participants, or mattress ratings based on sleep data from users. Soon we will be able to have tangible proof of how good the food is at a restaurant, how scary a movie is, how thrilling a rollercoaster is, how stressful a commute is, all based on the biometric responses of the people who experienced them.

2. SENSORS START TO COMBINE & DISAPPEAR “As sensing technology continues to shrink, the notion of the single purpose, visible, discrete, battery or mains-powered sensor will be rare. This revolution is being led by companies like Well Being Digital—producers of tiny biosensors that fit on and around the human body, and Clime—producers of environmental sensors that combine a tiny form factor with the ability to fuse together basic measurements such as temperature, humidity, light and movement to drive subtle applications.

We ideated a correlation between sensors that could be used in the concept app and the results the user may receive after combining them. Here is a list of what we may acquire from sensor data:

  1. rating of your work focus and fatigue level,
  2. overall rating of the company itself, team meetings, and personal involvement of employees,
  3. rating of concentration levels and general mood throughout the day in conjunction with data from sleep and heart monitors,
  4. composite vibe sourced from different devices and sensors in the company,
  5. close proximity between sensors allowing company-wide data collection,
  6. rating of teamwork and collaboration,
  7. location-based context switching.

Monitor Your Work-Life Balance Throughout the Day

Your life is usually divided into two contexts: private and professional. The app could determine whether you are at home or at work and, based on that, display only the necessary info for the given context, providing live updates and summaries from the sensors.

Our app gathers all the information from a variety of sensors to show you your general mood, whether you are working at optimum performance, and how your condition influences others at your company. The information is not presented in the form of complicated statistics, instead the feedback is qualitative (numbers are crunched and results are translated into simple messages) and delivered to the user via a change in the app’s background color, easily understandable copy, and a small chart depicting fluctuations in a given metric over the past seven days. If the user doesn’t consider this automatically-generated summary to be correct, they can modify the summary on their wearable. The more accurate the info, the better the app gets at learning about the habits and feelings of the user.

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Fig. 1. Check and confirm your personal vibe for today on your Apple Watch

Monitor Sensors and Their Influence

If the user wants to know how the work-life balance score was calculated, they can check a detailed overview listing out types of data collected by sensors connected with the app and how each one contributed to the final result.

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Monitor Overall Company Vibe

When at work, the app identifies your location based on GPS and indoor iBeacon sensors. It anonymously gathers data from other sensors and user devices and crunches it using advanced machine learning algorithms to display the overall company atmosphere, select ideal meeting times based on past events and moods, and encourage employees to try and avoid multitasking if it discovers that their calendars or to-do lists contain an overwhelming amount of tasks. Fear not, we’re not trying to make Big Brother a reality; the app doesn’t collect any personal data or display any details that would tie the displayed mood or productivity levels to a specific person. You can take the advice the app gives you into consideration but you don’t have to, it’s your choice and yours alone. No HR rep or wellbeing officer will know what the user is doing. The app will have the same UI and features for HR or even the boss as it will for regular employees. Everything is transparent and anonymous, and is supposed to foster a better understanding of teamwork within the company, not facilitate employee control.

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Monitor the Emotion-Based Rating of Your Teamwork and Team Vibe

Every time you meet with your teammates, the app pools the data from your devices on your general mood, fatigue, stress, and involvement levels, and everything else that may be invisibly influencing your performance. If the team sees that something bad is happening, they can quickly react and give each other support to make the work easier for everyone. This feature is also available only to employees and members of particular teams and will not be available to management for oversight purposes. You will be able switch teams if you are a member of more than one. The app will know (thanks to data flowing in from various sensors) when the members of the team are together or in a meeting, will gather data in the background, analyze it, and then ask to confirm the automated team mood score is calculated using the pooled info on your wearable. You don’t have to confirm it immediately, the app will keep the data and you can come back to it if you change your mind at a later time.

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Fig. 2. Every member of the team can confirm the automated team mood rating or correct it to reflect their feelings.

We’d Love to Hear from You!

This is only one of the ways in which we imagine the future of sensors. If you like our ideas or would like to talk with us about possible uses of sensors or any other stuff involving app design, development, or a future-oriented approach to mobile technologies, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this concept, the general future of wearables and the plethora of sensors that already surround us whose number will only grow in the near future.

Got inspired? Contact us to discuss your app design!

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