Technology-embedded office furniture keeps employees healthier


Sitting in an office chair hunched over a computer screen for 40 hours per week can cause permanent damage to the body’s bone structure.

The proper medical term, according to Mayo Clinic, is kyphosis, which can result in the weakening of back muscles and cause extreme pain. Most of us know it as “hunchback,” for which there is no cure.

Evolution in technology and the careful collection of data throughout the furniture industry, however, has resulted in office furniture products that can be personalized for each employee in an effort to provide better working environments that don’t put so much strain on the body.

Data collection of workspaces has allowed companies like Open Systems Technologies in Grand Rapids to collaborate with manufacturing companies such as Steelcase and Herman Miller in West Michigan to develop technology that connects to the furniture they are developing, according to Alex Jantz, solutions architect of OST’s connected products and data analytics practice.

We partner alongside them in areas like the cloud and data analytics platforms they are going to use to collect the data, the software they are going to use to either embed into their products and/or create mobile application experiences,” Jantz said. “We are also often a part of the strategy conversation.”

OST helps to build web and mobile applications by using its cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, to collect data and provide insight.

The data comes from surveys or questionnaires companies ask their employees that cover such areas as how they work and how they feel like they should be working best. That information is used to help install connected furniture.

The software that we work with to partner with any manufacturing company is specifically customized to meet their needs,” said Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST. “Those cloud platforms, whether it is AWS or Microsoft Azure, are the foundation of these connected furniture or products.”

Once the furniture, like a connected chair, is made with the software installed in it, employees not only have the option of adjusting the chair the way they would like by using a button on the side of the chair, but they can do it via a mobile app if they have opted-in.

Jantz said employees using a connected phone app can take their saved preferred work settings and use the app to connect to any furniture that features the smart technology, resulting in comfortable and supportive personalized seating adjustments from work station to work station.

With a connected chair, you will be able to get feedback saying ‘you are not sitting well or you may need to adjust your lower back or you are perched on the edge of your chair,’” Jantz said. “There are sensors in the chair that will be able to send you notifications on your phone that (suggest ways you can) adjust the chair.”

One of the apps is called Steelcase Rise, which pairs with a smart phone via Bluetooth technology and can remind users when to sit, stand, walk and track movement throughout the day if desired, according to Steelcase.

Herman Miller also has an app of its own that Jantz said is called Live OS, which has setting preferences that include posture and height adjustment features.

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