Manufacturing and Technology

Herman Miller debuts smart desk technology

Sensors embedded in office furniture keeps records of desk utilization, helps workers reach activity goals.

June 16, 2017
| By Pat Evans |
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Live OS
A sensor-enabled Live OS workstation. Courtesy Herman Miller

Herman Miller showcased a new product meant to track human needs last week at NeoCon in Chicago.

The Holland-based furniture manufacturer released Live OS, a technology-driven system meant to engage with the user and help workplaces learn about worker habits.

“Live OS is an example of how Herman Miller continues to evolve to better serve our customers as they increasingly look to the workplace to drive their own business transformation,” said Greg Bylsma, president  of Herman Miller North America. “With decades of experience in human-centered design, we’re introducing services like Live OS to help our customers create workplaces that empower, energize and perform.”

Sensors for the furniture, such as sit-to-stand and fixed height desks, are installed from the manufacturer but also can be retrofitted onto existing furniture and are connected to an app, which offers a dashboard of insights based on the data collected through the sensors.

Costs for the desks have yet to be announced but will be available within the North American market at first through the Herman Miller Living Office. Standalone sensors are $100, with an annual subscription fee of $36; the subscription fee for the Herman Miller desk embedded with the sensor is $60.

Subscription prices go down for volume users. Herman Miller worked with a variety of companies to develop Live OS, including Canada-based Dynastream, San Francisco-based fuseproject and Denver-based Universal Mind.

Two West Michigan companies also were included in the development: Holland-based Twisthink and Grand Rapids-based Open Systems Technologies (OST).

Twisthink designed and engineered the hardware and software for data transmission, while OST built the cloud infrastructure.

The sensors always are connected to the cloud using a cellular network, keeping records of desk utilization and the way workers interact with their workstations.

A sit-to-stand desk, for instance, will remember a worker’s preferred posture, allowing the user to tap the desk control as it adjusts to the saved position. The desk also can remind users to switch postures, if desired by the worker, helping them reach activity goals. The preferred postures move with the workers, as more workplaces are offering shared workspaces where there are no assigned desks.

Upgrades to other Herman Miller products, such as the Aeron chair, also are in the works.

The data is made anonymous, as it’s sent to the cloud for data analytics, which will offer an array of insights into how workplaces are used.

“Organizations can better measure and manage workplace strategy to optimize real estate usage and improve employee experience,” Live OS Director of Commercialization Ryan Anderson said. “Our initial testing indicates that employees using Live sit-to-stand desks have become more active, transitioning between sitting and standing six times as often as previously recorded.

“We’re excited by these early results as we seek to improve comfort and encourage people to adopt healthier behaviors in the workplace.”

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