CNC is offering small business owners a free seminar on a less expensive way to keep track of their employees when they're out on the road, but they may want to tread carefully when implementing the system.
Set for this evening, from 6 to 9 p.m. in room 1-112, the seminar focuses on using Google Maps Coordinate and smartphones, as opposed to GPS and enterprise software, to provide the service.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn said the employer will need to be careful to make sure the information collected is for the right reasons or risk violating privacy laws.
"It's one thing to say 'we have mobile teams and we need to know at any point time where they are because we need to deploy them in X, Y and Z fashion," Vonn said. "That would probably be reasonable, versus 'hey, we want to know where everybody is, we like the idea of surveillance.' It really depends on the purpose."
Zelda Craig, the industry liaison in CNC's applied research and innovation department, said the seminar does not include a legal component and will be strictly about how to use the system. She agreed privacy issues could be a concern but also suggested there may be a simple answer to the question.
"They would probably only use technology loaded onto a company smartphone," Craig said. "You wouldn't be tracking employees on their personal phones, I wouldn't think."
Provincial privacy commissioner Elizabeth Denham declined to comment Monday but her office did provide two recent rulings on the issue.
In one, she found the employer failed to give employees proper notice of its plans and in another she recommended the employer's policy be revised to make it clear the information gathered can be used for disciplinary purposes.
Will Cadell, of Sparkgeo Consulting, a geo-spatial strategist based in Prince George, is delivering the seminar. The goal is to show small businesses who lack a company vehicle fleet equipped with GPS and tailor-made software a cost-effective way to efficiently and safely deploy their employees when they are out on the job or making deliveries, said Craig.
"Plumbers and electricians that do residential contracts are usually in town and they're constantly being dispatched out, so if you had a work order and it was something quick and simple or you just needed somebody to do an estimate, you could just look at this, see who's close and send them off," Craig said.
The safety aspect comes in instances when an employee fails to check in.
"You can look at the map and know exactly where they are, or at least where their phone is," Craig said.
Registration is free and participants can sign up at: http://googlecoordinate.eventbrite.ca/#.
Depending on how many more people express interest, Craig said an additional seminar is possible.
"We are planning to investigate the possibility of having this workshop done in Terrace and Fort St. John as well and we are exploring the opportunity to perhaps videotape the presentation tomorrow [Tuesday] night and host something on our website," Craig said.
"We are definitely looking at multiple opportunities to get the information out there."