Latest in Workplace Tech from Microsoft

If you’re a staff member under the heel of a huge corporation you ought to be horrified by the vision of the future of linked gadgets that Microsoft revealed at its Build Developer conference in Seattle.

Two tech demonstrations from the international keynote speakers’ presentation caught people’s attention, both for being entertaining and for revealing a possibly frightening future for anyone working for a big company with the will to micro-monitor its staff members.

The first featured camera’s viewing workers on a construction worksite. The electronic cameras are connected into the cloud, where artificial intelligence screens everything in real time, noting identities of employees in addition to recognizing almost each piece of equipment on the worksite, a really handy tool in the claims process for commercial insurance brokers.

That is undoubtedly cool, particularly as the AI can instantly notice when somebody is on the worksite that should not be, or determine when someone is utilizing harmful equipment in a fashion that would be ill-advised and void the company’s builder’s indemnity insurance.

Microsoft’s demonstration purposely concentrated on a building worksite, where mishaps are too common, and a smart AI overseer sort of makes sense. Identifying OSHA infractions or intruders rapidly then communicating those details to an employer by means of mobile alerts could truly save limbs and lives.

However it comes into question, just how relevant these tools are in other workplaces. Not a location where security or safety is a primary concern, however instead, a location where employers obsessively keep track of staff members in some misguided attempt to maximise profit by chewing up and spitting out the fleshy COGS on their device.

With a surveillance system like this you couldn’t invite your good friend to drop in for lunch due to the fact that your boss would know, a notification quickly appearing on their phone. There’d be no long lunches or grabbing extra office supplies from the closet. Take a lot of smoke breaks or have a bout of indigestion that leaves you on the toilet longer than usual? The AI would have the ability to notice so quickly that your boss could satisfy you in the corridor with a bottle of antacids.

The little bit of autonomy many staff members still have in the workplace would be gotten rid of if the system the keynote speaker was demonstrating were moved from construction worksites and into more traditional workplaces.

This other workplace tech demonstration focused on Cortana, and how it might now be all over, instead of it just being on your laptop or phone. The demonstration shows a female chatting with a Cortana-powered Invoke speaker in a set planned to look like her home. Then it advised her she had a conference, so she hopped in the car, where it promptly told her traffic was going to make her late and informed her office, and then tapped her into a conference currently in progress so she could listen to the conference speaker from her car.

This sounds cool and convenient; however there was one thing Microsoft left unsaid. This woman was logged into her home and car with her work ID, which implies her employers, might now have access to information from her house and cars. If work-life balance is of any issue to you, then your house speaker system may one day inform you to rush and get to the workplace due to the fact that you’re late and you’re chronically late must be disconcerting.

These demonstrations highlight the compromises inherent in a world in which we use increasingly more connected devices. You have to give up some of your personal privacy in order to profit from a network of devices tuned to you and your impulses. But the truths of these compromises start to feel worse with Microsoft due to the fact that despite its range of customer products, like the Surface Pro and Microsoft 10 House, Microsoft is in the business of working with organisations. Those are its main clients, and it’s who Microsoft invested most of today’s keynote talking to. You are not the business model. Your business is. Asking customers to offer their data to a big faceless corporation like Google so it can sell ads is something, but asking them to offer all that data to the people who sign their checks is another.

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