In the quest for the perfect workspace, IBM and Steelcase , an international work effectiveness company, have created BlueSpace - an interactive and personalised ‘smart’ office. The joint project combines IBM's technology expertise with Steelcase's workplace knowledge to create a new office environment that integrates the physical workspace with advanced computer, sensor, display and wireless technologies.
With a combination of technology and design, BlueSpace enriches the overall work environment by providing greater comfort and personalization through unmatched user control, enhancing productivity, increasing collaboration and improving space utilisation.
Highlights of the elements in this fully Internet-enabled IBM-Steelcase smart office include:
BlueScreen: This touch screen, which sits adjacent to the computer monitor, puts users in control of their physical and virtual environments. Interactive icons allow users to adjust - with the touch of a finger - temperature, airflow or lighting to suit their preference. Users can direct heat to cold feet, adjust humidity levels, increase volume of white noise, or modify lighting based on preference or the focus of their work. Interactive icons help employees share projects, better communicate with their team members, and access real time news feeds.
Monitor Rail: This patent-pending moving rail consists of a work surface that travels the length of the work space and a dual monitor arm that almost rotates to a complete circle, allowing the users to be positioned anywhere in the area.
Everywhere Display: A display projects information onto any surface, be it a wall, desktop, or floor, transforming everyday objects into interactive displays, and untethering employees from their desktop computers. Wireless computer-processed sensing technologies enable touch sensitivity, allowing fingers to act as cursors, even on walls or desktops. A guest badge in the office vicinity automatically helps cloak confidential information by prompting the Everywhere Display to project a generic image.
Threshold: Designed in response to a need for increased privacy control, this patent-pending moveable work surface, ceiling and wall act as a "technology totem" that provides on-demand visual and territorial privacy to the user. Color-coded lighting at the top of the threshold in blue, red and green alerts colleagues when an employee is away, busy or accepting visitors. An integrated front panel display on the threshold can visually communicate what each employee wants to share with colleagues, such as current projects and scheduling. The lighting and entrance display promotes employee interaction without unwanted disruption.
"IBM's work with companies like Steelcase is part of a company-wide initiative to drive computing into everyday things not normally associated with computing, even furniture and walls," said Rod Adkins, General Manager of IBM's Pervasive Computing Division. "By combining IBM's technological expertise and Steelcase's knowledge of the workplace, we're now able to embed computing into the physical office and focus on creating work environments that fit the needs of individuals."
"As work becomes more collaborative and office workers become increasingly dependent on technology and the ability to be more mobile, Steelcase and IBM are offering new ways to develop future office environments that provide highly effective, user centered space," said Mark Greiner, senior vice president of ventures, concepts and research and development for Steelcase Inc.
Studying the ways people work through user observation and video ethnography, coupled with intensive focus groups, allowed IBM and Steelcase to identify a number of unmet and emerging needs facing today's knowledge workers. This includes the need to eliminate "distractions" through user control of the physical environment, to improve knowledge sharing and collaborative work through the ability to constantly display information, and to increase speed and access to information. These needs provided the basis for many of the elements developed and designed for BlueSpace.