All I Want for Christmas is a Smart Watch

As we march into the future, technology is beginning to wrap itself around us, literally. For many of us, wearable technology (or wearables) is a source of infinite curiosity. For others, this new wave of tech is a way to complement their existing lifestyle and reduce the latent frustration between tech and their own well being. Whether it’s a smartwatch that lets you stay on top of your communication without having to lift a finger; or a health/activity tracker that monitors your heart rate and calories on the road to helping you achieve your fitness goals; wearable tech is a nod to the Internet of Things as human interaction takes the back-seat.

But how does wearable technology fit with the modern workplace and your 9-5 existence?

If you start to really listen to people, it seems what most people are chasing is a healthier and happier lifestyle amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life. That extends, and might importantly come to emphasise, the time spent working or simply busy working on other things.

Try this; ask yourself one simple question: Are you happy with your job? What would you do different? Okay, maybe that’s more than one question – and yes, it can be difficult to answer. Human sentiment is something wearable technology is yet to fully address. But it’s something highly valuable to both ourselves and those who we interact with in our daily working life.

In light of the fact that sentiment is a human feeling or emotion, how can we ask our tech to measure that, or even acknowledge it in the first place? Tone can be lost or misunderstood when written; have you ever sent a throw-away email only to land yourself in trouble? Social media attempts to tackle this using a simple “like” or “dislike” icon to express how we feel about something.  But using an icon without elaborating on the comment doesn’t really explain why we had that sentiment in the first place. We may need to move away from a survey-based approach to a rewards-based; live engagement format.

Just imagine being able to build a symbiotic relationship where the sole purpose of the technology in your everyday life is to somehow help and encourage you to achieve your life goals, or even deal with grief or find joy.

Although some of the technology and science out there today is trying to answer these questions using artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning, we are still stumbling in the dark hoping to one day find we have a virtual personality – think: siri, alexa, cortana or google assistance – that truly understands how we feel and helps us to practice compassion with others.

Some would say “Sentiment Analysis” is the new frontier. And while its mostly used to measure marketing success or to help create targeted ads, it’s also being used to create amazing visualisations, in one such example through sentiment trackers built for Twitter. Imagine that instead of explaining a trend you are able to visualise it using graphics or patterns. This is exactly what some innovating tech companies are already beginning to do. Meanwhile, other technology companies are paying attention to you. Companies are analysing what your facial expressions say about your emotions while you walk around performing your daily shopping routine; all for the utopic dream of providing a better shopping experience.

With a growing population and ever-connected mobile devices, the wealth of data out there tends to reshape itself as noise. Even in a small workplace, it can be hard to discern information and then go on to find correlating links between them. Do we know who needs help? Can we discern who is unhappy? Services like Splunk provide the ability to analyse, search and create meaningful reports on large volumes of information. Eventually, we can only hope that these technologies will converge to realise embedded sentiment analysis playing an underlying role in driving a better workplace experience. In so doing, creating a far more satisfying and enriching human experience for us all.

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