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Sensor-Based Furniture Improves Office Health

by david.nunes

Sensor-Based Furniture Improves Office Health

See how software and sensors are being used to improve office productivity, ergonomics, and the health of employees.

Melissa Jun Rowley

March 31 , 2015

Sooner or later, the days of sitting at one’s desk idly or talking with a co-worker will be long gone. Two years ago, businesses started taking a cue from the sensor-based quantified self movement by using technology and data to track employee activity.  Of course, this all started to improve office productivity. But what about improving the collective health of an office?

Smart Gadgets

Based on the belief that sitting is the new smoking, companies are looking for new ways to keep their workers active, and the tech industry is aiming to fulfill that need. Apple CEO Tim Cook is touting health as the biggest reason for people to buy the Apple Watch smartwatch, which will send hourly reminders to people to be more active. The research firm CCS Insight is expecting the product, which is scheduled to launch in April, to be “the most successful smartwatch ever.

Furniture with Sensors

Another company poised to make waves in the office health and productivity niche is Tome Software, which created OfficeIQ, a software and sensor solution promoting an active healthy office place through the existing furniture products of Humanscale.

“With OfficeIQ, we believe that sensors should be attached to furniture not people,” says Tome CEO, Jake Sigal. “So it’s nice to have sensors integrated into a desk.”

See Also: Wearable Tech Targets the Enterprise

Prior to launching Tome, Sigal was the CEO of the automotive app maker Livio, which he sold to Ford in 2013. During that time, his wife who works in corporate wellness said, ‘listen, you’ve to do something to take your knowledge of tech and apply it to healthcare.’

And that’s exactly what Sigal is doing.

“At Livio, we bought standing desks for all of our employees,” says Sigal. “I’ve never met somebody who’s owned a standing desk that could ever go back to a sitting desk. So we thought maybe we should make a treadmill desk or our own desks. What we ended up on settling with was creating a company that makes software and uses sensors to connect with office furniture. So we approached Humanscale last year and launched the OfficeIQ product at CES in January.”

See Also: The Big Data Opportunity in Medicine

Set to be released on the market this summer at a price point of $200, OfficeIQ has been integrated into Humanscale’s float desk, a standing desk that goes up and down. A dashboard on the backend shows who’s sitting and standing. When someone is sitting, sensors in the chair and desk indicate the activity through a gateway on an iPad. If this person stands up, the status will switch from ‘sitting’ to ‘unknown.’ The desk will beep when it reaches the correct height standing height. For people wanting to lose weight, the dashboard shows how many calories are burned just from being upright.

Stand at Your Desk

“In order to promote standing, we look for motivation, ability and a trigger,” shares Sigal. “That’s the Dr. Fogg model of changing behavior. We wanted to try to make very small changes throughout the day that would promote standing. So what we’ve done is we’ve integrated software on your computer, which can synchronize with your calendar to meet your personal goals. If you say, ‘I want to stand two hours a day or 15 minutes every hour,  it can look in your calendar and say, ‘you have a call today. Maybe you should stand for it.’ Or it may say, ‘you’ve been sitting down for 45 minutes. Maybe you should stand up.’”

The biggest concern people are having so far about sensor-monitored furniture is data and privacy policy. So what Sigal and his team are doing is asking consumers whether or not something seems like an invasion of privacy, and making sure that aggregated data is kept anonymous. A business using OfficeIQ can see the activity of an entire floor, but is unable to track what users are doing individually.

Sitting could very well be the new smoking. To combat this, perhaps intelligent furniture can be the new personal trainer.

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