Employers will need to accept tradeoffs to foster “digital trust” with employees if they want to gather the workplace data necessary to realize the full benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the sharing economy.
That’s according to a report, “The Data Sharing Economy: Quantifying Tradeoffs that Power New Business Models,” by American International Group Inc. The insurer unveiled the study during the the giant Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The IoT’s potential seems limitless and borderless, with sensors, storage, analytics and other connected technology becoming faster, smarter and less expensive to implement. However, realizing the potential of the IoT relies on the willingness of businesses and employees to share data so that connected devices can generate insight, action and value.
When benefits are perceived by those surveyed, the willingness of businesses and employees to participate in data sharing jumps to 75 percent from only 11 percent when no benefit is perceived.
Employees are interested in the safety benefits provided by wearables at work, but not to the same degree employers are.
There is common ground between companies and employees about what conditions are needed to create a data sharing environment. Seventy six percent (76%) of employees surveyed globally indicate digital trust requires that employers notify them if data collection is taking place. The same percentage of companies surveyed (76%) agree that notifying employees about data sharing is important.
Eighty one percent (81%) of employees also see their employer as responsible for keeping their data private, should they choose to share it, while more than 70 percent of companies responded that it is important to establish clear policies when it comes to data collection.
Both businesses and employees agree by wide majorities (89% and 87%, respectively) that laws must be updated to accommodate new data sharing business models, balancing privacy protections with innovation, particularly in the IoT space.
“Smart, safe data sharing will power the new economy,” said Rob Schimek, chief executive officer, Commercial Insurance, who spoke at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week in Las Vegas. “We conducted this study to quantify the tradeoffs necessary for success in the sharing economy. A new kind of digital trust is being built in the workplace based on these tradeoffs, and every employer and employee using technology today is part of it.”
The report is based on the findings from a survey commissioned by AIG that targeted employees and business decision-makers in nine countries: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Singapore, Japan and China. Approximately 400 employees and 250 business executives in each country were asked to complete a 20-minute online survey. The survey was conducted on behalf of AIG by RTi Research, an independent global research firm.
AIG, which is one of the world’s largest workers’ compensation insurers, just one year ago announced it had made a strategic investment in Human Condition Safety (HCS), an early-stage technology startup company developing wearable devices, analytics and systems for use at worksites. Schimek discussed that investment at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show.
New York-based HCS, part of a larger technology invention research organization and lab called Human Condition Global, is creating tools it says will help workers, their managers, and worksite owners prevent injuries before they happen.
While there is some overlap in attitudes between companies and employees about data access, differences exist that may require tradeoffs to be made and compromises to be struck, according to the survey.
The study shows that more than half of all businesses (56%) believe that firms should require employees to agree to workplace monitoring as a condition of employment. On average globally, about the same number of companies would ask employees to wear devices (wearables) that help ensure safety in the workplace.
Employers further indicate they would be willing to invest in wearable devices and telematics in support of fleet vehicle safety to realize benefits. Employers in the U.S. would invest the most, up to $917 on wearables and $835 on telematics devices – per employee per year – which is about the cost of a mobile phone plan.
Employees are also interested in the safety benefits provided by wearables at work, but not to the same degree employers are. Thirty eight percent (38%) of U.S. and Australian workers would agree to wearables, which was in line with workers in the U.K. and France (40%) and Japan (36%). Employees in Italy, Singapore, and China were most inclined to accept wearables (56%), while German employees were least open to the idea (29%).
Of those employees globally who would accept wearables, they are most interested in sharing workplace environmental conditions, presumably for the benefit of their own health and safety. This suggests there is a basis for additional incentives and trust building to persuade more employees to share their workplace data, according to the report.
Perhaps the most challenging divide revealed in the study is that while a majority of companies would mandate data monitoring, employees by nearly three to one (71%) feel they should be able to choose the data they provide to employers, rather than accept mandatory data sharing requirements.
In a video on its website last year with principals from HCS and AIG discussing the potential for the technology, an AIG executive called wearables a potential “game changer” for the industry in reducing costs and improving workers’ experience.
AIG is not the only insurer interested in wearables. A survey reported by Accenture in May, 2015 found that that nearly two-thirds of insurers expected wearable technologies to have a significant impact on the industry within two years. Some insurers have experimented with Google glasses.
Researchers at Virginia Tech have been combining tiny radio sensors that construction workers can wear on or inside vests with connected vehicle technology that allows cars to “talk” to one another, roadside infrastructure, and personal electronics such as mobile phones. IBM is also working on wearables and analytics for multiple uses including workplace safety.
While wearables offer the promise of improving efficiency and reducing the risk of injury, some worry they also pose a data privacy and security risk in their collection and sharing of information. Others have raised concerns about potential health risks such as headaches, double vision and dizziness from wearing devices.