What Does It Take to Build a Smart Desk?

September 9th, 2015 by Martin Kozaczek |
It takes a lot of creativity and perseverance!




No one has ever before conceived and tried to make something like a Stir Kinetic Desk. It’s a rare opportunity to start from scratch on something and that opportunity allowed and required our team to experiment a lot. The downside of that is of course, not being able to use the failures of others before us. Personally I like that sort of problem. But you need a pretty high tolerance for failure and a “quick recovery culture” to be undaunted.

Stir Kinetic Desks are smart, but what exactly does that mean?

Our desks combine sensors, wi-fi, bluetooth, proprietary software and built-in power, making the desk able to understand its surroundings as well as adapt to those surroundings over time. The biggest challenges for our team were finding ways for all of these elements to not only function as independent components, but also to perform flawlessly together as a cohesive system. On their own, each element helps the user accomplish some specific task, but together they make the entire experience frictionless and provide the most value/benefit to a desk owner.

Of all of the desk’s smart features, its ability to engage with the user and provide them reminders and feedback on their usage of the desk (as tracked by our sensors sensors) is probably the most important. To give a user Whisperbreath reminders and track their progress towards goals, the desk needs to know when a user is present at their desk – not just when the desk is in a sitting or standing position. We integrated multiple presence detection sensors into the desk platform with a new approach to sensor fusion. That sensor fusion combined with our sophisticated presence detection software algorithms enable us to provide a capable and robust data tracking platform that works tirelessly to ensure that our users get accurate and meaningful data and also help differentiate our desks from anything on the market today.

Those sophisticated sensors would of course lie dormant without our own proprietary software. Developing our own unique, linux-based software platform allowed us a much fuller flexibility than adopting an existing platform (Android/iOS) would have. That flexibility is key to integrating our control electronics (the desk’s brain) with the individual presence detection sensors, motor controllers and other peripheral devices used in our designs. Using a Linux-based OS also ensures a stable and lasting platform which can be easily upgraded over time and doesn’t become obsolete – which is a growing concern in today’s “gadget-a-day” culture.

We all realize that (unfortunately) our latest smartphone will only remain as such for another year on average, and the odds are that it will be rendered useless in 2 to 3 years. Furniture on the other hand, and commercial furniture in particular, needs to last 10 years on average and remain useful throughout that lifespan. We could have overcome that by simply relying on the user of the desk to have a phone and use it to control the desk. However, research shows that people are using apps less and less, and in order to really help people maximize what they get from their standing desk, we felt we needed to have a screen built in.

To ensure that our desks continue to perform and can be serviced and upgraded over time, we not only had to design in enough processing power to run today’s software (and future versions of it) but we also had to make sure that the form factors (e.g. screen size) and components we selected would last for as long as a customer expected to have their desk. That same thinking was applied to the mechanical components (e.g. legs) of the desk. Designing in the right technology was the first challenge.

Because Stir Kinetic Desk users change position more throughout the day more than most other standing desk users (95% of our users move at least once per day, compared to 30% for the average standing desk) we had to be sure that our desks stand up (see what I did there) to the demands placed on them. That means subjecting the components to a very rigorous testing program during our product development process. Having previously designed movable solar arrays for solar power plants that had to last 30+ years in harsh desert climates, we know a thing or two about reliability testing. We put that experience to good use while testing and qualifying our desk to ensure that it performs as good as the day you got it.

In designing the Stir Kinetic Desk we wanted to not only build a desk that you would fall in love with, but one that would deliver health & wellness, and productivity benefits to you for many years. Although we feel we have succeeded in that effort, there is always room for improvement. In that vein we continue to work on ways to improve the user experience and deliver those upgrades to you via our wireless software updates as well look for ways to improve on the existing design. No idea is too big or too small, we always welcome feedback and suggestions on how to make our desk the best desk on the market.

Post By: Martin Kozaczek
Martin is the head of the team responsible for making amazing Stir plans into delivered Stir realities. He loves his new baby girl, catching up on episodes of Family Guy and spends way too much time playing with vintage mountain bikes.
Interested in seeing more?
Check out the Stir M1 Kinetic Desk in action.
See the M1

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