Sensors in the modern factory can monitor things like vibration, humidity, or temperature in ways that allow the owners to predict when a particular valve might need replacement or a particular machine might benefit from reman.
But what about the human workers? It’s possible that owners could also gather information on whether workers are getting too tired to continue working safely, or if their vital signs suggest that they might have health issues.
While AI developers see this as an important way to improve human safety in the workplace, legal scholars wonder whether it’s a serious invasion of privacy.
Safety or privacy?
Privacy and personal liberty are very important to Americans. Japanese workplaces monitor employee eye movements and drop the temperature when people get drowsy. A blast of cold air wakes them up. Apparently, Japanese workers accept this. Americans probably wouldn’t.
Would American workers accept surveillance that showed if their blood pressure got dangerously high? What if that information was used to decide whether to fire employees?
As is so often the case, it’s hard to predict what might actually happen. Amazon tried to develop an AI hiring and firing system. Unfortunately, it picked up the ambient biases in the company and discriminated against women. Amazon shut it down.
They still track worker productivity, though. Sensors can determine ToT — time off task — and flag workers who take breaks or left their minds wander. Amazon feels that this is an example of unbiased, fair employee tracking.
Until they discover that it isn’t. Or maybe it is. The problem is, human beings have on many occasions thought that some AI algorithm was fair and unbiased… until they learned that it wasn’t.
Robots can help
Some researchers are identifying dangerous actions and programming collaborative robots to help. “Let me help you lift that heavy object down from the shelf,” the robot might say.
AI could also allow systems to alert workers to environmental dangers and improve training — including safety training.
The future is murky when it comes to the intersection between worker safety and personal privacy, or even personal liberty. Laws will doubtless be made, and legal battles will doubtless be involved.
In the meantime, let us help you keep your Rexroth drive and control systems at peak performance. We have the largest inventory of emergency replacement units in the nation, and we can facilitate 24 hour turnaround on factory repair and reman.