Holst Centre smart chair to improve workplace vitality

As we lead an ever more sedentary life, vitality at the workplace is gaining attention. It seems like everyone wants a healthy and sustainable work environment. But what does that environment look like? How do we create it and what contribution can technology bring? The Workplace Experience is showcasing the latest innovations in the field of workplace vitality. Visitors can experience the workplace of the future live on 29 and 30 March 2022. Holst Centre will showcase its ‘vitality chair’ in the Innovation Circle, hosted by the Workplace Vitality Hub.

Many people in the Netherlands and around the globe suffer from obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is largely caused by our lifestyle, which has become more sedentary over the last decades. Stress and physical inactivity are in the workplace a cause of declined health and well-being. The Dutch government wants to counteract the effects and is supporting businesses to come up with solutions to improve people’s health and lifestyle, also in the workplace.

Workplace Vitality Hub

In the search for improved vitality, the work floor has become a focus area. Knowledge partners imec, TNO, TU/e and Fontys have founded the Workplace Vitality Hub at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven. They have already accumulated a vast knowledge base on sensors, data technology and the physical work environment. Together with business partners and solution providers a broad innovation network has been set up. The Vitality Hub is a living lab where technological, design and social innovations are developed to be marketed. It is also a place where employees and employers can experience what workplace vitality entails and a community is built around office vitality.

Vitality chairs

At Holst Centre, two chairs are currently under development. Project leaders Bernard Grundlehner (imec) and Margreet de Kok (TNO) took a closer look at the sensor technologies that already existed within their respective knowledge institutes. Bernard explains: “Margreet and I thought about how we can adapt and combine these existing technologies. Imec, for instance, has been looking into EKG measurements without the use of patches and direct skin contact. We have incorporated this technology in car seats, but we had not looked at an office environment yet.”

The TNO vitality chair with the sensor mat in the seating

Pressure sensors

TNO at Holst Centre uses two kinds of sensors in the vitality chair. Margreet: “We can measure pressure to assess posture with piezo-resistive sensors. With the so-called piezo-electric sensors we measure the dynamics of pressure instead of pressure alone. That way, you can detect small changes in pressure, indicating a heartbeat or breathing pattern.

The sensor mat is both flexible and stretchable

Gaining knowledge

The vitality chair will not feature in tomorrow’s office furniture catalogue, but great steps are expected to be made this year in the development of the chair. Margreet: “Finetuning the sensor technologies is scheduled for the near future. We proved that we can do the measurements, but there is always room for improvement. As soon as people are working in the chair in real life, that is when we know how much data we can gather and what we can do with that data. The privacy aspect is also an important aspect to master: who has access to the data collected.

In the office test set-ups at the Workplace Vitality Hub, researchers also learn about giving user feedback. Bernard: “We want to learn how to turn the data we measure into useful feedback. How do you tell someone their posture needs improving? What kind of intervention message would that require? In the end the office worker should benefit and be supported to show a more healthy behaviour.

Supporting workplace vitality

The vitality chair can provide a vast amount of knowledge in how to support people to improve their vitality in their working environment. In addition to that common goal, there is also added value for knowledge institutes in this kind of innovation projects. Margreet: “As imec and TNO, we can use our technologies in a much broader network. At the same time, we can also experience how our technologies contribute in practice and respond to the wishes and requirements of society as a whole. This is really gaining momentum.


Margreet de Kok, project leader TNO at Holst Centre, margreet.dekok@tno.nl

Bernard Grundlehner project leader imec at Holst Centre, bernard.grundlehner@imec.nl

More information about the Workplace Experience: WorkPlace Xperience | 29 en 30 maart 2022 | Gorinchem (Dutch only)