Smart @rse

by Ben Capper

Terminator 2 fans have long pondered the moment technology gains ‘self awareness’. In such an event, our trusted smartphones alone could cause massive damage – Tweet dodgy photos of you, send racy texts to Aunt Maud and proclaim to your Facebook friends that you’re now a City fan. It doesn’t even bear thinking about.


As the workplace gets ever smarter, increasing levels of information is gathered on employees, productivity and working patterns. The simple fact is: as ‘likes’ and routines are established, tech gets to know you and “improves user experience” to coin an Apple phrase.

Bloomberg recently published an article on The World’s most intelligent building – an outstanding project. With it’s own app, the building gets to know your schedule, how you like your coffee, your light and temperature preferences. It tells you where to park, which desk to use and it cleans and hoovers itself at night…

Coming over here with their smart hoovers, taking our jobs…

Piecemeal information gathering is one thing, but it’s the joining up of the dots that intimidates our squishy, outdated human brains. At what point does smart tech become smart arse? Or am I sounding like my mum who still refuses to use internet banking? We are being immersed further into technology… and now even your trusted office chair is in on it.


BMA Smart chair

Your ‘personal posture coach’; BMA’s Smart chair has pressure pads imbedded in the seat and back cushions to monitor users’ sitting posture. Data on user posture (yes really) and chair occupancy periods are sent to a nominated computer. If you’re slouching, the chair gently buzzes as a prompt to sit up straight. As an occasional sloucher, I found this slightly nagging at times, but others who shall remain nameless claimed to enjoy the chair’s gentle vibrations. Hmm. No doubt this ergonomically advanced chair is a big help to health focused employers battling against staff back complaints. Healthy body equals happy productive office worker.


Table Air Smart desk

Meanwhile for the Star Wars fans out there, Table Air have launched a height adjustable desk with an LED illuminated edge that changes colour. You can pretend you’re in Minority Report and raise the desk height with a wave of the hand. Snazzy eh? They are developing the Table Air App to memorise individual height and light preferences too. I reckon Darth Vader would have specified a few of these for Death Star HQ (wonder what BREEAM rating that got?).


Bene Nice Wall

Our friends in Austria (and their friends ‘we-inspire’) have developed a room module for meetings, brainstorming sessions and visual presentations: the Nice Wall; a continuous, frameless and interactive wall that can be scaled up to 30 metres in length. Allowing multiple users at once and integrating Skype and other software, this impressive presentation tool allows users at multiple locations to collaborate and sketch together in real time. With all that going for it you’d think they would come up with a better name… Pleasant Wall for example.

With advanced BIM technology reshaping the design and planning process, it’s clear computer advances are positively impacting our working lives. But with recent news of a Ukrainian Power Station suffering power outage due to hackers, my ‘Jerry Springer final thought’ is this: As our reliance on office tech increases, is the potential impact of a cyber attack more damaging than ever? Is our reliance on technology becoming a dangerous habit?

You’ll have to ask Arnie for the answers I’m afraid. I’m logging off for now… but I’ll be back.