I can't believe I am talking about "wearables" for the second time in a week. I wrote about this on Monday with a discussion on the impact wearable technology will have on medical services and workers' compensation. I figured I was done with it for a while. Yet here we are again, and this time with one whiz bang idea for solving that pesky investigation issue that surrounds every workers' compensation claim.
This idea will clearly get me that Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. Either one. I'm not fussy.
It came to me just this morning, while I was reading an article about the NFL boosting their statistics tracking and accuracy with the use of RFID tags in the players shoulder pads. It seems these amazing little chips will allow NFL statisticians to know "real-time position data for each player", as well as "precise info on acceleration, speed, routes and distance". This is part of the NFL's "Next Gen Stats" initiative for their fans.
For those who are unaware, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology is the hot new thing. Essentially an RFID tag contains a passive ID chip that can be activated by receivers as it passes near them. It requires no battery power, and is highly reliable. Stores like Walmart now use them extensively to track and monitor inventory changes. Even my Florida SunPass tag uses one. The small sticker on my windshield allows me to zip through tolls and access parking at Tampa International Airport without talking to anyone or even rolling down my window. Of course, it also allows the state to bill me for that activity, and serves to notify the NSA that I am on the move again. But they probably already knew that. The complete loss of privacy is a small price to pay for not having to chat up a friendly toll taker.
I am so glad the NFL has gone with RFID. It is a much more reliable technology than those old scanner barcodes. That was a disaster - having to get the player to run into the end zone 6 times before the scanner could capture the touchdown - but I digress.....
While the source article was prattling on about all the useless stats fans could now have access too, I was thinking in an entirely different direction. I recognized that the NFL has inadvertently invented the personal "Black Box" for workplace accidents. Think about it. This is a technology that could be employed in offices and factories all over the country.
Employers could easily monitor "real-time position data for each employee", as well as "precise info on acceleration, speed, routes and distance" as they move throughout the day. An RFID enabled wearable could tell accident investigators if an employee was running when they slipped and fell down the stairs, as well as how many rotations they took as they progressed to the bottom. They could determine that an employee was idle in the break room at the time they claimed to be straining their back on the loading dock. And biometric sensors added to the RFID wearable could actually cross reference stress levels and physiological indicators to the time and location of the accident, giving a clearer view of events than ever before possible.
It is just like data used from airplane black boxes to reconstruct what actually happened to cause an accident. I am telling you, this technology could be a tremendous boon for risk managers and accident investigators everywhere. But why should they have all the fun?
Safety professionals could leverage the same technology to prevent accidents in the first place. Restaurant servers would no longer have to yell “corner” or “door” when traversing areas with visual limitations. Their RFID enabled monitors would send real time location updates of other employees in the vicinity to their heads up display located within their Google Glass. The system would issue potential collision warnings similar to those in today's aviation industry. I'm telling you, Big Brother really may have all the answers after all.
Unless, of course, all the employees were watching internet porn on their Google Glass heads up display, and no work would get done anywhere. On the plus side, biometric sensors should pick up signs of unauthorized porn viewing, so it may be controllable after all.
The remaining challenge will be the design and implementation of the RFID Biometric Wearable Devices. Will they be embedded in the work clothes or uniforms, in bracelets, necklaces or other accessories, or simply implanted in our skulls? For the record, I do not recommend the skull implant method. My wife tells me my skull is so thick, the signal could never get out. Also, multiple sensors may need to be deployed on every employee, such as in shoes and on the head. This would be helpful for a truly accurate rotation count on those extended fall injuries.
So in the end, we may all be wired to the hilt, with no more need to verbally communicate in the workplace. But we will have our personal Black Boxes. We'll all end up as fat people in our little floaty chairs. But damn it, if we oversensored tubbos have a collision, thanks to wearable technology, investigators will have a much clearer idea of what went tragically wrong.
And even though it is somewhat creepy and I am largely joking, I think we may actually have something here. Black Box Wearables. Coming soon to a workplace near you.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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