Stand up with IOM


three week project led by Helena Tobiasson, researcher and PostDoc at the Royal Institute of Technology, and Fredrik Nilbring, IT engineer at the Interactive Institute Umeå. I collaborated with Anton Almgren, Etienne Bouron, and Frida Stenlund.

How might we reduce the amount of sitting time and encourage movement in offices by modifying existing behaviour?


IOM is an interactive and personal noise cancellation system that encourages you to stand up more by activating a quiet zone when you work standing up.

Concept video showcasing how IOM encourages office workers to stand up more. 


IOM uses directional noise cancellation technology to create a personal quiet zone for office workers. Office workers in a noisy open floor plan offices can access this quite zone by using their standing desk. IOM encourages employees to break their sedentary behaviour by offering an additional incentive. 

1. Single tap to turn on personal noise reduction zone

2. Desk automatically raises

3. Twist to change the level of noise cancellation

4. Double tap to change soundscape

Q. How did you conduct your research? 

We started with observational research and ethnographic interviews...

and visited employees at Lanstyrelsen, the regional government office, Cinnober, Struktur Design and the Umeå Architecture school.  After observing our interviewees in the offices, we discovered that our users were not using their standing desks, noise and privacy in a problem in an open floor plan office, and they did not like interruptions to their workflow.

“The greatest problem for me is the disturbance, there is never a private moment.”

- Sven-Erik Hilberer,  Umeå School of Architecture

Interview with Erik Person, administrator 

Interview with Sven-Erik Hilberer, computer technician at the Umeå School of Architecture

Clips from semi-structured interviews with different office employees 

Observing the Struktur Design office

From our secondary research phase, we concluded that targeting sitting time rather than subscribing exercises was better in addressing sedentary behaviour in the office. (See the sources of my secondary research here)

"Targeting sitting time, rather than physical activity, is the most effective way to reduce prolonged sitting, according to the first comprehensive review of strategies designed to reduce sitting time.”

-  Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, Kings Collage London, in Journal Health Psychology Review

As a result, we decided to approach the problem by simply reducing the amount of sitting time and not prescribing specific movements or exercises. Our main function is simply to motivate people to stand up

Visiting Cinnober's open floor plan office

Q. How did you come up with your concepts? 

We brainstormed using body storming, brain sketching, and dream sketching techniques...

Since all of our users pinpointed noise as an issue in open-plan office, we decided to ideate around this opportunity area. And because exisiting solution such as app and ergonomic furniture were not success in motivating people to move, we decided to focus on modifying the existing behaviours in the office that does not interupt workflow. 

Initial brainstorming focused on wild ideas 

Concept evaluation session

Sketching out the user scenario 

Anton testing out noise cancellation headphones

Q. How did you test your concepts? 

We hosted a workshop to test the usability our initial concepts... 

We also conducted a negative brainstorming session with our users, and collected more information about their work environment. From our workshop we found that people are generally aware of ergonomic behaviours and the reminders systems and negative reinforcement was not incentive enough for them to stand up. However, reducing the noise in the work environment is a powerful motivator for people to stand up. Thus, we decided to continue exploring how quiet spaces can be used to motivate people to move.

    During the workshop we surveyed users to understanding their behaviour in the office

Negative brainstorming workshop with user

Quick prototype of concept for usibility testing

Testing our lamp concept that becomes sad when you sit for too long

Q. How did you come up with your concepts? 

Our choosen concept is to create a quite zone that is activated when you stand up...

Since this concept is fairly conceptual. We decided to make lo-fi video prototypes to test with other students. We received feedback that having a quiet zone is an good incentive instead of something that negatively re-enforced. Users reported back that having a quiet space while still being away of all the things going on in the office is an added bonus. 

Making the video prototype for evaluative testing 

Video still from the lo-fi video prototype

Innitial physical prototypes for our concept

Showing our lo-fi prototypes to users 

Q. What was your role in this project? 

I took a lead role in the video prototyping and usability testing...

In the negative brainstorming workshop, I asked participants to think of ways to keep people in their chairs and then reverse their ideas into something that helps people get out of their chairs. I contributed to the research phase with my own ethnographic interviews and observational research. In addition to working together with my team in the brainstorming and ideation phase, I contributed to the research phase with my own ethnographic interviews and observational research.

Presenting project IOM at the Cinnober office