Should firms use staff as wearable testers?

We talked the other day about how workplaces would probably need to bring in new rules for wearables and staff privacy, potentially even governments drafting new legislation to make sure people receive their basic rights in a wearable dominated world. However not everyone agrees it seems, as one Forrester analyst believes staff at firms would make perfect guinea pigs for wearables developments.

Highlighting how Virgin Atlantic had begun using Google Glass to give its customer facing staff more information, much more quickly, he said there were plenty of other jobs that could find big uses for wearables, if only they’d provide staff with them.

“[Virgin] have reported that it is been very successful and customers felt they were getting better customer service, more info and more attention. I would think they are going to roll this out, slowly, with the employees first,” he said. 

Looking at privacy concerns for wearables, the analyst said that it was paramount that we sort those problems out before pushing wearables on consumers, but that employees at the firms developing them and at other companies, could make great guinea pigs, since they don’t quite have the same rights as customers and therefore are able to see where the problems lie in the products before they go on sale to the general public.

1st Class Virgin customers were some of the first to be greeted by Google Glass wearing employees last year

1st Class Virgin customers were some of the first to be greeted by Google Glass wearing employees last year

“A lot of B2B2C scenarios have thorny privacy issues,” he said. “If you give a [wearable device] to your employees you have some privacy risks – but you have capability to calibrate, educate and learn before taking it to consumer market.”

However, he did add the caveat that there are potential issues with wearable devices that capture personal information, especially video, since it could theoretically be storing information about customers without them agreeing to it. It’s different if the experience being offered is limited to a specific service, as in the case of Virgin Atlantic when Google Glass equipped employees were only found in the first class lounge, but if Glass headsets were given to your average assistant in a retail outlet, people might have more of a problem with that.

“With the example of Virgin Atlantic, in that sense customers have already opted in to the experience of the first class lounge and have already authenticated. But someone who walks into your shop has not authenticated you to know their personal details. The target market of wealthy, frequent travellers who tend toward the tech savvy are different from the general Virgin Atlantic kiosk in Heathrow,” he said.

The important part he said was to introduce wearables slowly. The worst thing any developer could do would be to try and rush it out there before the issues with privacy are solved, otherwise it risks alienating large numbers of people who consider their personal privacy more important than the functionality offered by wearable devices.

[Thanks ComputerWorld]