New Steelcase Device Prevents Awkward Interruptions

June 13, 2002
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Down the hall, around the corner and straight ahead — finally, Rob Boogaard found a conference room.

  or so he believed.

Turning the handle, opening the door and stepping into the room, Boogaard interrupted a meeting in progress.

After an awkward moment and a quick apology, he stepped out, closed the door and headed off in search of an open conference room that he could use to explain to a visitor Steelcase Inc’s. newest electronic gadget that’s designed to prevent precisely what has just occurred.

Called RoomWizard, the device is the first of many Web-based office appliances that Steelcase plans to roll out in the years ahead.

RoomWizard is an electronic reservation system that enables office workers to reserve a conference room and access information about its use via the company intranet.

Once an office is wired, monitors also hang on the wall outside of conference rooms, displaying real-time data on whether the room is open or in use, as well as future meeting dates for that room, who has it reserved, for what purpose, and who’s attending the meeting.

The idea behind RoomWizard, the product of Steelcase’s alliance with Appliance Studio Ltd., a United Kingdom-based spin-off of computer-maker Hewlett-Packard, is to improve office communications and help people work more effectively … or, at the very least, to stop the scurry for a meeting place.

Using Room Wizard, Boogard said, makes scheduling a conference room much simpler.

“What this technology does is help people connect with each other,” said Boogaard, manager of product marketing for Wizard Web Signs, the new Steelcase venture that is developing the office appliances with Appliance Studio.

“It’s the right information, at the right time, at the right place,” Boogaard said. “It provides new function to the space and enhances people’s ability to work effectively.”

RoomWizard is one of three Wizard Web Signs products that Steelcase unveiled in June at NeoCon, the office furniture industry’s annual trade show in Chicago.

The other products are MyWizard and InfoWizard, both of which are designed to better disseminate information in the workplace and eliminate small daily annoyances like meeting interruptions and scheduling conflicts.

Reducing or eliminating those occurrences can save the company and its workers time and, through improved efficiency, money, Boogaard said.

“We’re really talking about small nuances in the office space, but with really large consequences,” Boogaard said.

InfoWizard works like a kiosk, welcoming visitors or new employees to the company and providing directions. A company can post display signs in public areas throughout the building, such as the elevators or lobby.

MyWizard works at individual workstations, displaying such information as personal messages, whether a person is in or out, where the person is, the person’s schedule and the status of a project.

The information appliances follow Steelcase’s two-year-old business strategy to develop new products that a company can integrate into the office architecture to improve the work environment and productivity.

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