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A sensor-equipped seat cushion to support office workers and teach a healthy lifestyle depending on physiological signals gathered unobtrusively.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - SitSmart (A sensor-equipped seat cushion to support office workers and teach a healthy lifestyle depending on physiological signals gathered unobtrusively.)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Fitbase is a pioneer in the German digital prevention industry, supplying companies, the largest health insurance companies as well as banks and SMEs in Germany with online coaches such as back health coaches for their employees or customers. Fitbase’s core competence and source of income is the development of intelligent health prevention online coaches and online content. From our experience with customers and users we have noticed that in addition to our online coaches a sensor-based system could further improve health and wellbeing of our users since it could give instant feedback to users and monitor behavior in real time. Fitbase developed a laboratory prototype of a functional seat cushion. The results of the project were very promising (TRL 4) in the way that such an idea seemed to be feasible. The idea and basic concept for SitSmart was born.

Many evidences show that long-term sitting has significant negative impact on health, particularly in workplaces. Office workers are highly at risk to organ damage, muscle degeneration, back pain ,etc. The main reason for sick days in Germany is back pain. It will cause serious health problems in long term and also causing sick days for workers. Thus one goal of SmartCushion is to reduce health issues regarding sitting for a long time. On the other hand each sick day has a cost for company so employers have a vested interest in keeping their staff healthy which results in rising expenditures for preventative workplace health solutions. We want to help office workers to have a healthier lifestyle, companies to provide a better work environment for the ageing work force, and society to overcome some health risks associated with sedentary lifestyles. SitSmart is a European funded project, that was proposed as part of the innovation associate program to tackle this issue and promotes a healthy lifestyle. It aims at breaking the sedentary sitting lifestyle at workplaces by providing a sensor equipped seat cushion that is able to:

- Recognize the sitting posture;
- Keep track of the time elapsed since last time the user has changed his posture;
- Compare this time to an unhealthy duration set by the user or suggested by the system; and if the elapsed time exceeds this duration,
- Intervene by encouraging the user to change to another posture.

SitSmart gives its users the ability to self-assess their sitting behavior and access both real time feedback and long term analysis (active sitting score).
The SitSmart project was devided in 3 phases:

Phase 1: Development of working prototypes (cushion and mobile app)
Phase 2: Iterative testing of prototype and duplication
Phase 3: Pilot testing in office environment

The main tasks within the SitSmart project were:
• Training a machine learning and deep learning models.
• Developing an android app that receives the data from sensors via Bluetooth and visualize the sitting posture in real time.
• Creating and implementing an algorithm to calculate the active sitting score.
• Supporting and working on improving the seat cushion hardware (sensors and microcontroller) and in particular the innovation development reached during these 12 months.

The addition of the innovation associate to our multidisciplinary team enabled us to unlock new opportunities and coupling our health, IT and business expertise with sensor engineering and data science. Our solutions now are being diversified but at the same time feeding into the scope and the mission of our company. Furthermore, the dissemination of SitSmart helped us getting in touch with other innovative projects and being part of a bigger community. This will open up more opportunities for collaboration and thus more innovative ideas.

Particularly public German health insurances are interested in the project and are willing to collaborate in future commercialization.
"Computers have greatly facilitated our lives, but as a result we are all spending an increasing amount of time seated in front of our desks. The introduction of the computer led to a decline in physical activity over the years because nowadays many adults hold office jobs that require them to sit at a desk to work. During a typical week, many people spend more than 8 hours seated per day - meaning we spend almost 18 years of our adult lifetime sitting down on average!
A healthy sitting posture, especially in long-term sitting, is surprisingly important. Sitting incorrectly (=not active) can cause more problems than most people realise. Primarily, it leads to musculoskeletal disorders like back, neck and muscle problems, carpal tunnel syndrome, postural migraine, etc . However, the consequences of bad posture can go far beyond back pain or headaches. Several studies point out that sitting incorrectly may actually cut years off your life, as it affects blood pressure and can compromise organ functioning leading to increased risks of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and even cancer . For these reasons, several studies revealed that sitting has joined smoking and obesity as an important risk factor for the development of chronic diseases. This is why there are specific programmes and legal frameworks at national, European and international level (e.g. EU Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Strategic Framework 2014-2020) aimed at implementing specific measures to prevent occupational health risks, including risks of long-term sitting. Under this legal framework, many companies are forced to offer health prevention courses to their employees, which for office jobs include training for a correct posture when seated at the desk in front of the computer. However, sitting correctly and specially keeping a good sitting posture during prolonged periods is far from being an easy task. While we (fitbase) are offering such online courses since years, we now can - thanks to SitSmart - provide immediate feedback for the user based on the real time measurement of the integrated sensors. For current solutions like ergonomic chairs or wearables, such a feedback and analysis is not possible.

With our solution it will be possible - for the first time - to capture, monitor, detect and analyse sitting posture as well as sitting behavior. Ergonomical experts are often talking about ""active sitting"" as the one and only healthy solution for long-term sitting. With SitSmart we can calculate an active-sitting-score by analyzing the frequency of posture changes during the day. As soon as SitSmart is available on the market we expect it to be a succesfull, easy-to-apply companion technology that fights back pain and tensions due to long-term sitting effectively. We expect that our customers learn to sit in a more healthy way and to overcome back pain in the mid-term. Without the occurance of such health impairments the users will report better well-being and higher satisfaction, happiness and productivity at their office workplaces.

Besides the socio-economic impact of SitSmart we expect substantial growth for our SME. We already hired the Innovation Associate responsible for the SitSmart project with an unlimited full time contract and we plan to hire an additional sales person. We expect to convince Venture capitalist or Business Angels to invest in this solution within 6 months after project end.