The Connected Pod that brings the smart officeCase Studies
The Device Chronicle interviews Veikko Lindberg, CIO, Framery on how this Finnish company designed the world’s most advanced and stylish connected pod for open offices and uses OTA software updates to evolve the product into the future.
“Doing firmware updates can be quite scary and quite a big headache if it goes wrong” so begins Veikko Lindberg on the essential need for robust and secure OTA software updates. Veikko is the CIO from Framery, a pioneer developing sound isolated phone booths and meeting pods that solve noise and privacy issues in offices worldwide.
Starting this year, Framery is transforming the product category of office phone booths so they can be smarter and better connected. The pioneering Framery One product will evolve over time through feature extensibility and OTA software updates are the way that the Framery product management team will make this happen.
Weighing in at just 357Kg, the Framery One is a high quality connected office pod. The product has passed Life Cycle Assessments according to ISO 14040 and 14044 and released industry first Environmental Product Declarations (EPD) according to ISO 14025. The Farmery products are Health Product Declaration-compliant, and Greenguard-certified. Framery’s management system is also certified according to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and ISO 45001.
Despite the fact that the Framery One was just launched in February 2021. Veikko and his team have already been grappling with the challenge of launching the product to market while also designing and developing the new feature set for the next generation product.
Solving the open office problem
The issue with an open plan office is that it is very difficult for professionals to focus in what can be a noisy environment full of distractions. This problem is well understood. There can be a cacophony of noise – from phone calls and video calls to ad hoc stand up meetings taking place in the open plan office environment. Those workers who are talking can disturb others who may need silence to conduct their work. Veikko describes the company’s mission statement: “Framery is dedicated to ensuring that offices across the globe are equipped with the necessary solutions for employee success and happiness, and in this new, increasingly virtualized age, Framery pods remain a key solution. As a result of the global pandemic and a continued increase of video conferencing, Framery pods address the need for on-demand privacy that allows people from all around the world to connect effortlessly and uninterrupted.” The company’s mission and product philosophy is explained in this Framery blog post.
The Framery solution brings a sound isolated phone booth or “pod” to the office and workers can use this for meetings. Veikko explains “We have been doing this for a considerable number of years and we have learned through trial and error how to deliver the highest quality in sound isolation. Veikko says that the sound isolation is so good that regardless of how busy the office is, a user will only hear slight mumblings through the walls of the pod. The company has a patent for the structure of the wall and the glass is specially designed to be sound proof.
Tech in the Pod
The device in the phone booth consists of two main IoT components: a control unit, and a ceiling unit. There is also a 4G modem. In the ceiling unit, there is an MCU (micro control unit) with an ST Microsystems processor. It is running a RTOS (real time operating system), and there is the logic that determines if a person is in the pod or not and communicates this information to the control unit and there are controls for the light and ventilation for optimal air flow. There is a CANBUS that connects the ceiling unit to the control unit and this control unit is a rather simple computer that is running Linux, it has a touch screen UI and a 4G connectivity. The touchscreen applications are designed in Qt. Framery team members from the UI technology group had experience with the Qt application beforehand and they were so pleased with the results from that work so it made sense to use Qt again for the Framery project. A user can adjust the lighting and ventilation levels through the high resolution touchscreen UI.
With a Framery Connect subscription, Framery customers can integrate the pod as a meeting room or resource in the calendar system, there are occupancy lights that switch between red and green depending on pod occupancy. In the future, new applications will be added such as user polls shere the facility manager of the office can interact with the users.
Framery One and Mender
With robust and secure OTA software updates, Framery gets product extensibility. Veikko says this means that Framery are now in a position to bring new features and functionalities to their products after the products are in the field, and over time. This ensures that users of Framery One are using the most versatile connected pod in the market and that the operators of the pods are getting increased value from their initial purchase on a continuous basis.
Mender pushes the OTA software updates to the devices, so we needed robust technology to handle the updates reliably. After testing, it worked well and we have a large fleet of 200 devices in the field, and this is growing all the time. We are doing system updates once a month providing the operating system for both the control unit and the ceiling unit via the canbus. It is based on Yocto.
Veikko sees great potential in the Mender Delta Updates functionality, once the Framery device fleet grows to the thousands or tens of thousands devices, the amounts of data they will transfer will be quite big so we want to save on data transfer fees. This is a significant predicted saving by availing of the ability to deliver compressed software updates.
The Mender team also addressed and provided answers to some complex security questions for the Framery team.
The chassis of the product is almost indestructible, with a lifetime of several decades. We think 5 to 10 years before digital components will need to be replaced. Security is also key and the last thing we want is a “botnet of phone booths” to occur. We have taken measures to secure the connection between our AWS-based cloud platform and the devices, always a VPN gateway in between, the connection is authenticated with certificates. From day one, we wanted to play it safe and make the security work well. The firmware updates are securely pushed with Mender.
Framery customers can manage their fleet of Framery One products through Framery Connect service: Veikko admits that this wouldn’t be possible without proper IoT device management.
We wish Veikko and his colleagues well as they continue to bring great new features to revolutionary connected office pods.