Buzz words are all around us and in 2016 the Internet of Things or “IoT,” is starting to make its mark but, more importantly, become useful. We have seen an explosion in the number of things now connected online and if you are not already familiar with IoT, I like to think of it as:
the connecting of everyday items, tools products and stuff to the internet that now provides us with a new and enhanced way to interact, learn, record and use them…
This list of things being connected is endless, from the water irrigation system monitoring the health and stability of your garden to a light bulb that uses WiFi to adjust colour temperature, IoT is definitely going to be the new normal. It seeks to capture record amounts of data and it is up to us to work out what we do with it.
The role design plays will therefor be increasingly prominent in the daily lives of consumers. How do we design for this and what does this mean?
The main challenge will be the “interusability,” between multiple things that results in a cohesive and translatable experience. At the moment the sheer number of devices, manufacturers and things has seen disparate and discombobulating design patterns emerge which provide for a broken and often frustrating experience.
Wearables, in particular the Apple Watch, have started to offer an insight into how we interact with a traditional analog device that is now connected. It is also an opportunity to see how people respond in an closed environment where the language, style and design is consistent. It is an example of how IoT can offer both a standard for connectivity but also a language that flows across multiple channels.
Unfortunately for most things, they don’t enjoy a closed environment and have to interact with multiple devices, standards and patterns where subjective and compromised design decisions have been made.
What needs to be done is greater than any one product, its greater than any manufacturer and its focused on humans. At Embedded World 2016 we saw the industry moving towards an agreed upon technical standard for sensors, security and safety. This is an important step as it means we can have an agreed upon approach for things to interact with each other.
but what about the agreed upon approach for how humans interact with things?
As designers we need to take the front seat and drive design standards across the industry. We need to start an industry body specifically focused on IoT where design is providing best practice guidance, approaches, research and insights and we need to be doing it now.
Given the IoT industry is tipped to reach 1.7 Trillion by 2020 (IDC: Worldwide Internet of Things Forecast, 2015–2020) it will affect every designer over the next 5 years and we need to have a clear, concise and evidenced based position.
My intention is to have an open dialogue with the community and look at how we can establish design thinking methodologies to manufacturers, devices and things. As someone who wants the next generation of connected devices to deliver beautiful physical and emotional experiences, it is important that design has a voice and important that we drive that forward.