A new mobile phone has been developed by the KDDI Corporation, one of Japan’s leading phone manufacturers, that will allow an individual to monitor the movements of the owner of the phone. Walking, climbing a staircase, even cleaning – a huge range of motion could be monitored from a distance with the help of the inbuilt accelerometers now found in most modern mobile devices. The company have plans to sell this technology to managers, foremen and many others, to enable managers to remotely monitor their staff.

This technology from KDDI is the first to accurately measure precise movements using the sensors built into mobile phones. Prior to its development, the sensors have only been able to monitor movements such as walking or running that are highly repetitive.

It’s a new piece of analytical software that allows the distinctions between different movements to be recognised. For example, in the pocket of an office employee the device could be used to monitor how much time is spent by the desk, whereas for a cleaner the time spent sweeping, walking and emptying rubbish bins could be recorded.

While Hiroyuki Yokoyama, the head of web data research KDDI, insists that the technology could be used to maximise the performance of employees by helping them to work more efficiently, and to allow managers to keep an eye on the productivity of their staff while away from the office, others are less happy with the development. Human rights activists have expressed concern that the new device will push the country ever more toward a ‘Big Brother’ state.

Japanese lorry drivers are already monitored via their mobile phones to ensure they stay on course. Salespeople too are often observed via GPS by managers back at the office. This technology looks set to be readily adopted then to keep an eye on employees in a range of different sectors. In fact, KDDI is already said to have had talks with at least one employment agency that specialises in work for cleaning staff, as well as security personnel.

The technology might be popular in Japan, but whether it will cross to other countries remains to be seen. Certainly the breakthrough in technology could create more accurate applications for download to mobile phones via broadband providers. Exercise apps, for example, have previously been limited to measuring the number of steps taken on a walk or run. With this added sensitivity, other movements could be measured such as press ups or lunges. We could also see real life multiplayer games allowing the sensors to communicate movements to others with mobile broadband coverage.

It seems then that KDDI have taken great strides in creating a motion sensitive technology, but whether this technology is best used in effectively spying on the movements of employees remains to be seen.