Embracing the future of AI and wearable tech in the workplace

null

The modern workplace has already embraced advanced technology with smart devices, paperless workplaces, cloud services and wearable tech that tracks employee productivity.

Research collected by flexible workspace specialist Instant Offices shows office workers believe tech integration improves working conditions, efficiency and communication with co-workers.  John Williams, Head of Marketing at The Instant Group gives his thoughts to what the future of AI in the workplace beholds: 

Wearable tech is becoming a part of everyday life, with more and more people relying on devices like smart watches and fitness trackers to help them make more informed lifestyle decisions. In fact, the international market for wearables reached a new high in 2017 with 16.9 per cent growth year on year.

Fitbit, Jawbone and Bellabeat have become household names and forward-thinking employers have been keeping a close eye on the rising trend of wearable tech.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by Adobe of full and part-time professionals from the US, UK and India found 68 per cent aren’t worried about the growth of AI in the workplace as they feel their roles will still need human abilities that technology can’t replicate. Most employees are actually looking forward to AI assisting them more around the office.

In their top predictions for 2016 and beyond, the researchers at Gartner, Inc. forecasted that 2 million employees would soon be required to wear health and fitness trackers as a condition of employment.

It is expected that employees in law enforcement and emergency response fields are most likely to have to monitor their health with wearables for safety’s sake. Others may include professional athletes, airline pilots and industrial workers.

Wearables have their benefits in more ‘ordinary’ office situations too. They could help boost staff wellness by addressing issues like fatigue and stress and by encouraging employees to exercise and take regular breaks.

The potential benefits of monitoring an employee’s heart rate, respiration and stress levels in a challenging work environment are evident. The requirement for wearable health trackers at work could help keep more people in better health, and could even save lives.

A few examples of wearable technologies emerging in the UK workplace are:

  • A smartphone app and wristband for lone workers, which can be used as a discreet panic button or check-in tool.
  • An ID badge for NHS workers, which can send a discreet audio call to a dedicated call centre in case of an emergency.
  • A smart glasses system which allows workers in the field to video conference with experts in other fields.

Wearables have their benefits in more ‘ordinary’ office situations too. They could help boost staff wellness by addressing issues like fatigue and stress and by encouraging employees to exercise and take regular breaks.

Several surveys also revealed that 45 per cent of the UK workforce would feel comfortable with sharing information via wearable devices for the purpose of protecting their health and wellbeing. However, others reported concerns about their employers knowing details of their lifestyle and the workplace discrimination that could possibly result from that.

Industries embracing AI

According to the TCS Global trend study, by 2020, almost a third of companies believe AI’s greatest impact will be in sales, marketing or customer service. Furthermore, 20 per cent of companies surveyed felt it would be in non-customer facing functions including finance, strategic planning, HR and corporate development.

A further report by Indeed shows these are the top five tasks people are most comfortable with being automated:

  • Job search assistance, 35 per cent
  • Job search assistance, 35 per cent
  • Healthcare support, 25 per cent
  • Finance management, 24 per cent
  • Driving vehicles, 23 per cent

Investment in AI tech across all sectors has grown significantly in the past few years, up from $282 million in 2011 to $2.4 billion in 2015. As of 2016, this amount rose by another $1.5 billion invested in more than 200 AI-focussed companies.

The Global Trend Survey of Artificial Intelligence surveyed the use of AI in 13 industries and found insurance, consumer packaged goods, and high tech outspent others.

  • Automotive – 90 per cent of automotive participants say they use AI today, with an additional 10 per cent saying they plan to incorporate AI by 2020.
  • Banking and Finances – According to the survey, most businesses in this sector made use of AI to deter security breaches.
  • Consumer Packaged Goods – According to the survey, consumer packaged goods companies spent the most on AI in 2015, gaining 12 per cent in revenue and 12 per cent cost savings.
  • Energy – In the energy sector, employee training is key to AI project success. Energy companies are using AI to improve current business processes.
  • Healthcare and Life Sciences – About 86 per cent of participants in this sector make use of cognitive technologies, with two companies spending more than $100 million on AI in a year.

Future of AI in the Workplace

According to Gartner, while AI might destroy 1.8 million jobs, it is expected to create a total of 2.3 million jobs, and in the long term, even more jobs will be created and enhanced by technology.

While these are exciting times for wearable tech developments, this trend obviously means a huge upsurge in IoT (Internet of Things) technologies being present in the workspace. This naturally comes with inherent security risks. In fact, research shows that two out of three companies should expect to experience a significant IoT security breach in the coming year.

The world of work is changing rapidly, with smart offices and mobile technologies leading the workforce into a more agile, connected future. The wearable tech trend has the potential to make the workplace a safer and healthier one, provided it is implemented in an intelligent and secure manner.

Following our research, we can see the benefits of AI for business-owners include improved recruitment processes, increased productivity, lowered costs and better monitoring of workflow, as well as a better understanding of employees and how they engage with office space, teamwork, tasks, meetings and more.

Not only that, it is equally beneficial for employees, as it is clear to see that tech can improve safety at work, increase their happiness and wellbeing, provide impartial and valuable feedback on performance and provide learning opportunities, among other things.

John Williams, Marketing, The Instant Group
Image source: Shutterstock/violetkaipa