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The Internet of Things

Strategic Design for Connected Living
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Jaime Biencinto

Senior Qualitative Researcher
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Internet of Things: Strategic Design for Connected Living


It would be strange if an entire week went by without hearing someone speak about the Internet of Things (IoT). It is in the immediate future and worth knowing more about it. The term IoT was coined in 1999 by Kevin Ashton, a researcher at MIT, and refers to the interconnection of everyday objects that converts them in to being “Smart” and amplifies their functionalities.


What do the lastest statistics say about IoT?


According to Gartner, between 2016 and 2017, IoT enabled devices increased 31% and reached 8.4 billion objects, which in turn represents trillion in sales last year. Additionally, this figure is expected to climb to over 20 billion connected devices by 2020. It is important to know that IoT is, at the moment, concentrated in some of the world’s most important economies. In 2017, 67% of connected objects were found in North America, China and Western Europe.


In what areas of consumers" lives will IoT be present?


Gartner estimates that in 2017, 63% of IoT devices will be consumer devices, rather than commercial ones. In fact, Frost and Sullivan calculates that in 2020 each person will have an average of 5.1 connected devices, but “in what areas of our lives?” Specialists affirm that the concentration will be in four areas: cities trying to optimize the lives of their residents and visitors (SmartCities); automobiles to reinforce their connectivity and increase comfort and security; the health sector to improve quality of life; and the home.


The connected home is already a reality


All forecasts indicate that the home will be one of the areas in which IoT will be more developed. According to Business Insider Intelligence, in 2019 companies will sell 1.9 million connected home devices. But “why have we opened our doors to IoT?” and “what needs do connected devices satisfy?”  


With IoT, users can search for savings on costs associated with electricity and water, and various studies signal that IoT can meet those needs, for example reducing monthly energy costs by around 20%. Users can also rely on IoT to increase the feeling of security when they are or aren’t home. For example IoT devices could connect intruder detection systems with other devices that permit us to see our homes when we are away. IoT in the home could also help us to have a simpler life thanks to devices that allow us to air condition and heat our homes or shut the gas or water off at any time, from any place. Lastly, users are opening the doors to their homes to IoT because they consider connected devices can offer them relevant information about specific aspects of their homes by analyzing problems in real time.


What barriers and challenges will IoT face in the home?


For IoT to achieve what forecasts say, it will not have an easy path. IoT will need to overcome significant barriers that could complicate its adoption and integration in to our homes.


According to the experts, the rise of the IoT will depend on the way three technological challenges are resolved. Firstly, processors will need to become smaller and more powerful. Secondly, new types of sensors must be developed to collect more information. Lastly, reduce consumption linked to the communication of the data.


When focusing on the home, studies indicate that the principal barrier to entry is related to security. Our homes are the space where we feel most protected, and where the important people and things we have in our lives are located. For this reason, IoT has to be an ecosystem of devices with very high security standards to gain a place in our homes. The study Things Matter states that the second barrier to adoption is unawareness that IoT exists or lack of understanding of what it is. In 2018, there is a large percentage of users (48% in Spain) that hardly know anything about connected devices. Because of this, it is important that promoters of IoT make a very concerted effort to explain what it is and do so in a way consumers will easily understand. Above all, the benefits of IoT in the home must be communicated to consumers. In Spain, 32% of consumers do not have a clear comprehension of what use connected devices have in the home. To overcome this barrier to entry it is essential that the advantages of IoT are visible and easily understood.


How can design help to overcome the challenges IoT faces?


According to Bankinter, providers of connections, the large hardware manufacturers and technology service companies will be the industries that will benefit the most from the integration of the IoT in our homes, but they will need design to help them overcome the challenges the future holds. What guidelines will they have?


Consumers do not have much interest in knowing what technologies are behind the devices as much as they want to understand the specific benefits they offer in their lives. In this sense, design could contribute by making the advantages of devices clearly “visible”, as well as creating seamless and intuitive device interfaces. Consumers prefer to have relationships with people, not machines. We are social animals that live in communities and appreciate the warmth of personal ties. Design could add value to IoT by making it more “human”. For example, design could associate device use cases, different consumer lifestyles and specific services, as well as personalized experiences. However, consumers don’t want a strictly rational relationship with objects. They also search for ties that appeal to their emotions and design can assist IoT by creating products and services through storytelling. Design can contribute to the development of a more emotional relationship with devices, for example, making each object tell its own history by speaking about its past (where it is made of, what its purpose is, etc.), its present (its location, its uses) and its future (how to take care of it, how to recycle it, etc.).


Conclusion


In summary, we finish this article with a couple of questions…“are we witnessing hype or an IT bubble?” and “are we being overly optimistic, imagining a massive adoption of IoT?” From our point of view, if IoT wants to be something more than just a fad and reach beyond early adopters, the key will be to identify and respond to consumers’ most profound motivations.


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