Furniture maker Herman Miller, the company behind the ubiquitous Aeron chair you've seen in many offices, has developed a new connected device: the cloud-powered smart desk. It comes with built-in infrared sensors that connect to a software platform.
Along with the desk, Herman Miller will sell an annual subscription to its cloud-based Live OS service. Customers can even take in any traditional Herman Miller desk to be retrofitted with these sensors.
So, what's the point of a smart desk?
It works a bit like a fitness tracker for the whole body. The data collected can help users adjust the height of the desk and chair to the correct, ergonomic height for their bodies.
The connected desk also monitors movement patterns to determine the points in the day when users should get up and move around more, and users can input goals for improving that data. And for those who choose the sit/stand convertible desk, sensors will light up and buzz when it's time to get back on their feet.
Herman Miller isn't stopping there, and plans to release a connected version of the Aeron chair in 2018, designed to monitor posture.
The desk and its associated software, while it can be bought by an individual, is really being pitched to employers to purchase for the whole office. Herman Miller says the data collected from the desks and sent to employers will be scrubbed of identifying data. But even if this connected, data-mining furniture is billed as an office health initiative, many employees still might find the surveillance of how often they leave their desks unnerving.