Since it opened up shop in July, Opendesk has been busy making open-sourced furniture whose designs can be downloaded, tweaked and then produced locally, anywhere in the world. Last month, they kitted out the entire offices for the self-built computer brand Kano. Now they’re turning their attention to developing a range of smart products that integrates technology into their furniture–starting with the humble wooden desk.
That would be Buro, an Internet-connected “data desk” that has a computer baked into its design. Fitted snugly inside of a small desk shelf, the computer connects with portable devices and to the cloud, essentially functioning as a secure depository for sensitive information. “Buro acts like a personal Dropbox, providing sync, backup and encrypted peer-to-peer file sharing,” Opensource designer Paul Harter writes on their site.
Without a proper monitor or display screen, the desk doesn’t actually serve as a replacement for your computer. You still need to bring your laptop or smartphone to get any work done. Rather, the desk’s key function is to securely store and transfer electronic files or information. A unique key cryptography requires users to login with a personal password, keeping personal information secure while allowing users to share other information with colleagues or, potentially, to other data desks.
As Harter notes, this might make it especially useful to lawyers or other professionals that deal with sensitive information. “Such a desk could hold data that several people could access, but none of them have access to all the data nor know the desks private key,” Harter writes. “It is quite technically possible for data to be under the control of an inanimate piece of furniture with a digital identity.”
If that makes it sound like the data desks are coming for your job, I wouldn’t worry just yet. Besides the security system, the desk doesn’t provide much that your laptop doesn’t. Motion sensors allow for the desk to mimic certain features of a computer or iPad, like going to sleep during periods of inactivity or vibrating with email notifications. It can also alert colleagues to hold your calls and can automatically become a standing desk when you’ve been sitting too long–which sounds fun in a robot secretary way, if a little nanny-ish. Like wearable jewelry that merely alerts you of your smartphone activity, the data desk’s “smart” functions will have to prove they are more than just an extra step between you and your laptop.
As of right now, Buro only exists in prototype, but once it launches–its expected to go to market by the end of 2016–the “data desk” functionality will work with an Opendesk design. The company plans to hold a series of events this year to find “designers and hackers” to help build more model prototypes. They predict that it will be priced at around £300.