Design thinking

The Maturing of the Internet of Things

Lennart Andersson

A lot has happened over the last year in the land of experience design. 2013 was the year when the Internet of Things became grown up and mature. I will give you a few elegant examples and some things to keep in mind.

Technology is now tiny, affordable, energy efficient, smart and easy to build. On top of this, crowd funding services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have made life easier for entrepreneurs to test promising ideas and find funding to bring them to market. Still we see too many startups failing where they could have succeeded, why is that so?

One interesting phenomenon that increased last year was the Quantified Self movement.  A rapidly growing number of services offer you ways to track your own data; biological, physical activities and other more or less interesting data on your life. The Nike+ Fuelband, Jawbone UP, Fitbit and the like are now launching their next generation devices and services, striving to be unique yet getting closer to each other in terms of what they do. Promising features for 2014 should include more biosensors, such as small advanced pulse meters.

The e-payment battle is also continuing. Coin consolidates the various plastic cards in your wallet into one single device, no thicker than the cards it replaces.

Coin is entering a fiercely competitive market with many e-payment solutions, but boasts an elegant physical design that no pixel-based solution can match, enabling it to build a stronger emotional bond with the user. Although its first version addresses a problem that may well have disappeared in a few years anyway, with the hopeful demise of plastic cards, Coin claims to have other aces up its sleeve.

Coin replaces your credit cards

Indoor Navigation

What I believe will be one of the most exciting things in 2014 is the evolution of indoor navigation, that can totally change the way we interact with things around us. It will add a whole new dimension of contextual and personalised information on everything from car settings to gaming and shopping experiences. Apple, the masters in making advanced technology accessible, discreetly announced iBeacon that is already integrated in millions of mobiles.

Others like IndoorAltas and Bytelight also want their share of the market and we have barely scratched the surface of this. Connectivity and the identification of objects are at the heart of the Internet of Things. We are still in the early days of interacting digitally with the things we have around us, and I’m really eager to see what will be coming out of research and onto the market in the next few years.

Tile keeping track of your keys and wallet

Tile is an elegant positioning solution, planned to reach its first customers this year. It offers a simple solution to a problem as old as humanity; lost possessions. You simply attach their tiny white tiles to objects you want to trace, such as wallets and keys. Which means you no longer have to run around looking for misplaced keys, you simply locate them with your smartphone. However, the really smart thing about Tile is not only can you find things at home, but also items that are really lost, such as a stolen bike. This will require a large community of Tile users to work properly, which will be a challenge in itself. But Tile’s highly successful crowd funding campaign tells us something about its potential.

Always begin by asking “why”

Even if you do have the technology know-how, let’s say to measure something, make it small and connect it to the Internet, it’s not automatically a good idea to bring it to the market. We have all seen the recent smart watches from Samsung, Sony and others; wearable gadgets for early adopters that want to show off, but that do not really make any major difference to the way we live. Showing off technology can be perfectly fine, but I doubt this was the intention behind this second wave of smart watches. I think the most important question was never seriously considered; “Why, really, should people use it?”

The Nest is both elegant and smart.

Personally I love these early gadgets because they show what’s possible, but as a company or an entrepreneur you have to understand why you develop a product and be transparent about it. Google launched their glasses in an Explorer Program, inviting people to be part of shaping the future of Glass. An experimental and smart approach, should they have launched them as a product they would have failed miserably.

One company that understands how to turn genuine needs into smart and elegant solutions is Nest, that produces seemingly mundane products like thermostats and smoke detectors for our homes. They have been rewarded for a job well done by being acquired by Google for $3.2 Billion.

Unless you take the time and effort to find out real needs, drivers and motivators of your future customers, you are likely to fail. Technology can provide us with radical new ways to solve problems, but understanding the everyday lives of real people will give you the reasons why you should do it. Our designers at Veryday ask this why question every day, which means we can continuously help our clients gain long-term market success. This can be helping a small start-up company like Hörnell/Speedglass to develop unique products and being acquired by 3M, it can be changing a market completely with Maquet’s ventilators, evolving the social aspects of Spotify, or rethinking the basic cooking stove for developing countries with EzyStove.

The Internet of Things

is the most important revolution since the dawn of the Internet and will completely change the way we interact with things and people around us. We will see amazing new services using Big Data, Cloud Services, Connected Devices and what have you. The successful ones, simple or complex, will address actual needs and desires, crafting magical experiences for users.