Is your boss watching you?

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The days of skiv­ing behind your boss’s back may be num­bered, fol­low­ing the announce­ment of a new prod­uct that can track your every move­ment in the workplace.

Elec­tron­ics man­u­fac­tur­er Hitachi has unveiled a high-tech ID badge that not only tracks an employ­ee’s exact loca­tion with­in the office, it also keeps a record of all the oth­er staff mem­bers they have spo­ken to, for how long and how energetically.

Business Microscope

Dubbed the Busi­ness Micro­scope, the device will also send an employ­er infor­ma­tion on how much time each mem­ber of staff spends out of their seat — and even how long they have spent in the toilet.

As well as being used to find out which employ­ees spend their days aim­less­ly wan­der­ing around the office gos­sip­ing to friends, the Busi­ness Micro­scope will also record how ener­get­i­cal­ly they have con­tributed to group meet­ings, where a high lev­el of enthu­si­asm and ani­ma­tion can be a good thing.

Although the prod­uct looks more like an ID badge or busi­ness card than a high-tech sur­veil­lance device, it actu­al­ly con­tains com­pli­cat­ed sen­sors that allow it to sync and inter­act with oth­er Busi­ness Micro­scopes belong­ing to the company.

A mes­sage post­ed on the Hitachi web­site said: ‘Busi­ness Micro­scope uses senor [sic] tech­nol­o­gy to mea­sure and analyse inner com­pa­ny com­mu­ni­ca­tion and activities.

Mul­ti­ple sen­sor devices are placed inside a name­plate-type sen­sor that is attached to employees’.

When the name tag sen­sors come with­in a spe­cif­ic dis­tance of each oth­er, they recog­nise each oth­er and record the face time, body and behav­iour rhythm data to a server’.

Hitatchi said the tech­nol­o­gy was designed to help boost effi­cien­cy lev­els in the work­place and to help employ­ers realise and react to prob­lems that may oth­er­wise have gone unnoticed.

Per­haps recog­nis­ing the prod­uct is unlike­ly to be pop­u­lar among employ­ees, includ­ing their own, Hitatchi adds that they hope it will help boost employ­ee coop­er­a­tion, lead­ing to a bet­ter atmosphere.

The Busi­ness Micro­scope is by no means the first sur­veil­lance device to be mar­ket­ed towards employ­ers for use in the workplace.

Many com­pa­nies already employ ‘inter­net mon­i­tor­ing’ soft­ware that scans sent and received emails, as well as mon­i­tor­ing the web­sites they vis­it over the course of the work­ing day.

These sys­tems often auto­mat­i­cal­ly send alerts direct­ly to the employ­er when com­pa­ny rules are believed to have been broken.

And in 2008 Microsoft filed a patent for soft­ware that allowed work­ers to be tracked remote­ly, mon­i­tored their com­pe­tence and pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and even mea­sured per­son­al infor­ma­tion such as body tem­per­a­ture, blood pres­sure and facial expressions.

It is believed Microsoft aban­doned the prod­uct short­ly after the patent was filed.