Wearables in the Warehouse Bring Privacy Concerns to the Forefront

Encouraging supply chain employees to use smart watches and other wearables is becoming increasingly common as the data they generate can present great benefits to the company. Analysts track variables such as steps and heart rate to determine whether tasks cause too much strain or could be optimized.

While wearables offer an incredible solution and pathway toward the "touchless" supply chain—where picking is limited or removed entirely—many question whether the use of such technology is an invasion of employees' privacy.

Randy Bradley, assistant professor of information systems and supply chain management at the University of Tennessee, provided valuable insight surrounding this discussion in a May 2019 Supply Chain Dive article.

Bradley agrees that there are benefits in having employees use wearables. Tracking movement throughout a supply chain facility can result in modified and improved performance, he says. However, while most companies haven't yet required the use of wearables, when it comes to tracking, storing, and analyzing behavioral data without securing employees' personal information, companies will face some privacy challenges.

Bradley explains that it's unclear whether organizations understand that data will continue to be collected when employees engage in certain behaviors, like taking a bathroom or lunch break. Some employees may even feel micromanaged if companies move toward making use a requirement, Bradley says.

The challenges companies face relative to data security are not unique to supply chain management. But the benefits achieved from automation, AI, and IoT in the supply chain can ultimately improve safety and save lives.