Fitness 2.0

Shocker: Cloud Company Reports People Love Putting Their Health Data in the Cloud

Forget security and privacy — what you need is more storage space.
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She’s got a fresh latte, what could possibly go wrong? (photo via Fitbit)

Companies like Fitbit, who make fitness wearables and health trackers, purport to want to help businesses wire up their employees to improve productivity — and allegedly, employees love it, according to a convenient new report by The Human Cloud at Work project.

The project is a collaboration between Goldsmiths, University of London and cloud services company Rackspace. They worked with British businesses to hook their employees up to a combination of three wearables: an accelerometer wristband, a brain wave sensor, and a posture coaching device.

“Initial results show that productivity of those using the wearable tech increased by 8.5 percent and job satisfaction by 3.5 percent,” Project Director Dr. Chris Brauer wrote for CNN.

But these modest gains had less to do with what employers did with the information — which isn’t entirely clear in the report — and more to do with employees simply being aware that they were being monitored.

“The benefits of wearing NeuroSky during my work day is that, on some level, this whole experiment at work made me more aware of my productivity,” one participant wrote as part of the report.

The biggest gains were seen by employees who were already predisposed to thinking wearable tech might improve their daily lives, making the reported results seem like a self-fulfilling prophesy.

But these go-getters and early adopters weren’t the only ones ready to get started. The study found that fewer than a tenth of employees surveyed were worried about how someone might store or use their personal health data. Everyone else was either fine with it, or trusted the company “completely”. Nothing to see here!

“With consumers around the world having grown used to sharing personal information through their eager adoption of such innovations as smartphones, retailers’ loyalty cards and wearable fitness aids, they appear unconcerned about extending the practice in the workplace,” the report says.

No, apparently the biggest concern for companies trying to wire their employees up to brain scanners was storage space. The report estimates that using the tools they chose to monitor and store health information would take a whopping 30 GB per employee each week.

“When this scales to  a workforce, and potentially incorporates other wearables, it presents enormous Big Data and Analytics challenges if organizations are to capitalize on the potential productivity and performance benefits,” the study says.

And how can a company meet those challenges? Rackspace knows the answer — you have to bulk up on your cloud services. The report mentions infrastructure twice as often as security, and always to imply that businesses need to incorporate “hybrid cloud” solutions, for which Rackspace is (surprise!) the “leader”.

Follow Jack Smith IV on Twitter or via RSS. jsmith@observer.com