Published on July 11th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
What I Learned Connecting One Million Objects to the Internet
In the Internet of Things, some of the “things” are you and me: people. And when there are people involved in digital interactions, user experience happens. Luca Lamera at iotforall.com shares some of his UX expertise when people interact with machines, devices and sensors and, not surprisingly, the UX is key to a successful solution. Understanding the user’s needs, goals and behaviors goes a long way to easily functional and oftentimes seamless interactions in IoT.
The Internet of Things has changed the way people interact with products and has started a complete rethinking of business logic. Companies need to embrace change and rethink products and processes to thrive.
Twenty years ago, PCs and laptops were the only connected objects; for a long time, there were no other devices with the capacity to send and receive information over a network. In a matter of years, everything changed and thousands of devices became connected. From smartphones to wearable technology and smart home appliances we have seen the rise of the Internet of Things.
Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things” in 1999 to describe a system where the Internet is connected to the physical world via ubiquitous sensors. Today, the number of connected objects exceeds 17 billion and is expected to grow to 35 billion by 2025.
I had the opportunity to work with many brands discovering the potential of IoT in several fields such as home automation, automotive, health and fitness. When doing retrospective meetings I always try to keep a note of lessons learned and insights about user experience, operations, big data, marketing, and business.
Redefine Everything You Know
When objects like cars, ovens, washers and audio speakers become connected they acquire some “super-powers”, where they can sense the world and communicate with each other. This power has changed the way people interact with them and has started a complete rethinking of business logic; logic that led us to one of my favorite definitions of IoT by John Rossman author of The Amazon Way on IoT:
“IoT is the digital awareness in the physical world”
From the very first project, I discovered “awareness” was a critical factor. Awareness implies a complete rethinking of product development, tools and procedures; designers and developers need to transition fast from theory to practice because IoT introduced new rules and is constantly pushing them to explore new boundaries of interaction forcing them to continuously work outside their comfort zone.
UX for IoT
Human-computer interaction in the IoT world is much more than designing an interface. A lot of interactions between users and connected devices aren’t made using screens but instead with gestures, voice, sensors and sometimes without any action at all. A smart thermostat can recognize the presence of somebody inside a room and learn a user’s habits, and, without any user action, the system can adapt and set the correct temperature.
This is a common scenario in IoT where data collected by sensors and processed by algorithms allow a status change. Designing a system that can adjust without user control is a big goal. Moving from complex interfaces to no interface reduces every pain-point, as was excellently stated in Golden Krishna’s book The Best Interface Is No Interface:
“After all, as Edward Tufte once said, “Overload, clutter, and confusion are not attributes of information, they are failures of design.”
Designing an interface is the easy part of these kinds of projects. Challenges are much more likely to be related to other factors like context, mental-models, inter-usability and coherence.