Today’s post comes to us courtesy of board member Mark Wales.  What’s your take on the pros and cons of technology that knows where you are and what you’re doing?

Workforce technology is meant to simplify the workplace and improve productivity – but when does it go from being cool to being creepy? I recently hosted a panel of industry thought leaders at an international Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA) conference. Amongst the topics we discussed was the emergence of location-based data and technology, and what the implications might be for employees. The rapid innovation and changing relationship between product companies and customers is having an immediate impact on customer expectations and as well as on what retail employees are expected to know.

For instance, an employee in a retail location today may be asked to understand:

  • What personal digital offers a customer has on their smart device;
  • What is on sale in other stores or online; and
  • What bot may have been texting the customer creating the semblance of human interaction?

Complexity for the employee is escalating rapidly.

And beyond just the customer, location-based technology is giving employers much more detail about their employees and overall operations.

For example, companies can now know not just if their employee has clocked in, but where they are and what they’re doing. Technology can now show where customers are in the store, whether staff are in the right place to service the customer, and whether employees have restocked the right products or sizes.

A pilot in the UK placed a large screen in the back of a retail store to show employees the customer demand and whether there was sufficient staffing in the right departments – a not-so-subtle way of trying to tackle the eternal retail problem of too few employees interacting with customers and too many in the back doing task work.

Technology can also improve the quality of work life, such as by reminding the employee that they’ve forgotten to punch out when they leave the store which simplifies life for the manager and employee.

But, as with all change, there is often risk and resistance.

The current backlash over the use of personal data doesn’t stop with Facebook. Many people are nervous about the vast amounts of data that enable just about anyone to figure out who you are, where you are, and what you’re doing.

Our panel was asked by the audience if anyone thought there might be a movement to buy back privacy. While this might be an option in a private setting, how it would work in a corporate environment is less clear. The interactive discussion with the audience exposed a generational issue, with older attendees leaning much more to desiring their privacy, and perhaps being willing to sacrifice functionality or pay for it. Meanwhile, the younger generations seemed much more accepting of the value derived by the sharing of information.

Personally, I think connection through social media, the service of automated bots and the curation from personalization are integral parts of our lives that I certainly don’t want to lose. However, it remains to be seen how corporate organizations will manage the human side of emerging technology.

Image courtesy of By jannoon028 / Freepik

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