Microsoft patents technology to derive “overall quality scores” from meetings with data such as body language, facial expressions, and more

During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, which began forcing the greatest home working experience in China, the working age has expanded worldwide. In the process, employers are looking for ways to control, monitor and boost employee productivity. Microsoft is therefore introducing a productivity score for employees within Microsoft 365 to meet this need. The tool is the subject of controversy like that of other editors.

The Employee Productivity Score has recently become generally available within Microsoft 365. Access to the latter is through the administration center. The tool is based on two main families of indicators: the use of the cloud office suite and that of the underlying technologies. The employee experience part related to the use of the office automation suite is divided into five axes: collaboration, communication, meeting, teamwork, mobility. The technological part includes three: terminals, networks, application park condition. They all have the same weight in the new employee performance monitoring tool. Microsoft scores each axis on 100 points. The software supported are: Excel, Exchange, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, SharePoint, Skype, Teams, Word and Yammer. Scoring access requires a minimum Microsoft 365 Business or Office 365 Enterprise subscription.

Before the general availability of this employee productivity score within Microsoft 365, employers already relied on solutions such as Sneek. It’s a collaboration tool that allows employers to photograph their employees every 5 minutes through a continuous video service. The software interface allows the employer to have a “wall of faces” (for each office) that stays active throughout the working day and presents photos of employees taken with their laptops every day. five minutes. What really needs to be said is that the app allows employees to set their webcams to be automatically photographed every five minutes, depending on how often their boss needs it. In addition, the employer can initiate a live video call with an employee by clicking their picture, even if they have not accepted. This is a standard software setting that can be changed to make the receipt of the call a manual action, provided it is part of the rules approved by the employer.

Microsoft said the goal is to help organizations ensure their employees use tools such as shared workspaces and cloud file sharing to work more efficiently. It also benefits Microsoft by encouraging the use of its products such as Teams and SharePoint within enterprises, making future Microsoft 365 license renewals more likely.

But the tool made headlines last week when reports showed that managers can see individual user data by default.

Productivity Score turns Microsoft 365 into a fully-fledged workplace monitoring tool, wrote Wolfie Christl of the independent digital research institute Cracked Labs Vienna, Austria. Employers / managers can analyze the activities of employees on an individual level (!), For example the number of days an employee has sent emails, uses chat, ‘mentions’ in emails, uses emails, etc.

In announcing the general availability of Productivity Score on Oct. 29, the company anticipated and attempted to address these privacy concerns. Microsoft is committed to privacy in all of our services, Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 corporate vice president, wrote in a blog post.

Let me be clear: Productivity Score is not a work tracking tool, he added. The Productivity Score is about discovering new ways of working, providing your employees with great collaboration and technology experiences. It focuses on actionable insights into how people and teams use tools, so you can make improvements or provide training to continue your digital transformation.

Microsoft says it gives organizations the ability to control who can see individual user data, with the ability to anonymize or delete individual data. To maintain confidentiality and trust, the report says the user data provided in the Productivity Score is collected over a 28-day period.

But critics say it’s not enough for companies, not employees, to end up in control of privacy settings.

Microsoft wants to go further

Microsoft is therefore criticized for its new tool Productivity Score. However, the company has even more ideas for using technology to help companies monitor people to maximize the productivity of the organization.

Microsoft’s new patent filings describe a system for driving and predicting overall meeting quality scores using data such as body language, facial expressions, room temperature, time and number. of those present at the meeting. The system uses cameras, sensors and software tools to determine, for example, how much a participant contributes to a meeting versus performing other tasks (e.g. texting, checking e-mail, browsing the internet).

The meeting analysis computer system would then predict the likelihood that a group would hold a high-quality meeting. For example, it would indicate potential challenges when an entity is holding a meeting and recommend alternative places, times, or people to include in the meeting, for example.

Because conventional computerized scheduling systems have no real context, users may not be aware that they are trying to schedule suboptimal meetings, which can result in meetings that are unproductive at best, according to a patent application. public on November 12. It is also pointed out that many organizations are plagued by excessively long, irregular and recurring meetings that could be modified and / or accelerated if more information on the quality of the meetings were available.

The approach would apply to in-person and virtual meetings, and hybrids of both. The individuals named in the repositories include members of the company’s Azure IoT and Microsoft 365 teams. Patent applications show that the concept is at least two years old within the company. The new patent application follows a related application filed in 2018 and issued in August this year.

The deposits do not provide details on possible confidentiality protection.

However, patents are not products and there is no indication yet that Microsoft is considering deploying this hypothetical system. Microsoft has established an internal artificial intelligence ethics office and a company-wide committee to ensure that its AI products adhere to responsible AI principles, including transparency and confidentiality. .

However, the down payments are a window into the ideas circulating within Microsoft, and they are consistent with the direction the company is already taking.

Source: patent depot, Microsoft, Wolfie

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