GRAND RAPIDS — Steelcase Inc. has partnered with a global tech firm to capitalize on the growing market for connected devices in the office.
After years of increasing the technological content in the modern office, Grand Rapids-based Steelcase (NYSE: SCS) has created five office layouts — dubbed “Creative Spaces” — that integrate Microsoft Corp.’s Surface devices.
“As a company, we see the future is going to involve more smart and connected things that can augment the way that people go about their daily lives,” said Sara Armbruster, vice president of strategy, research and new business innovation. “We’ve been thinking really hard about how a smart and connected office can support people in accomplishing their goals in a number of ways, at work, in health care environments, in educational settings. I would say that Steelcase was already on the path of thinking about this exciting new feature of the workplace, even before we began discussing the opportunity with Microsoft. But obviously, there is a lot there that we found we had in common to dig into.”
Steelcase’s new Creative Spaces include layouts that focus on privacy, collaboration and “respite.” As the name implies, the environments are meant to encourage worker creativity, something that is going to become more important for workers in the future, according to internal research conducted by Steelcase and Microsoft.
The joint study, which surveyed 515 U.S. and Canadian companies that employ more than 100 people, found that 76 percent of workers believed creativity will become more essential in the workplace as technology eliminates routine work.
Under the new partnership, Steelcase dealers will be able to directly sell Microsoft Surface products in conjunction with Steelcase furniture.
While Steelcase has worked with Microsoft on a variety of projects in previous years, talks for this particular partnership began approximately 18 months ago, Armbruster told MiBiz.
Steelcase plans to continue its partnership with Microsoft to integrate more connected technologies — commonly referred to as the internet of things — into its products. Specifically, the company will integrate Microsoft’s Azure internet of things technology into its products in the coming years.
“This is really the first step,” Armbruster said. “We’re developing the creative spaces that we’re bringing to market, but at the same time, we have also been working together to develop further technology-enabled workplace solutions.”
Armbruster declined to comment specifically on the type of connected products Steelcase and Microsoft plan to partner on in the future.