Internet-of-Things-Nest-Thermostat

The Internet of Things is a hot topic right now, with it meaning many things to many people. From a design perspective, the IoT means creating a seamless smooth experience, where products don’t live in bubbles but as part of a connected framework that creates the customer journey. Simple (or binary) examples include Nest, Easybulb and the Apple Watch. More complex examples include Build-a-Bear (where the user builds their online profile as they go from stage to stage; you can find a walkthrough here). It’s the more complex interactions and digital touchpoints in IoT that allow a brand to extend its customer reach.

Audi London is a great example of using IoT to disrupt the car dealership experience.

But these are experiences that need to be thought through and designed – these actually create digital touchpoints within a customer journey – that is, brands now have more control of how customers connect to them. This is why when designing the experience you must consider the following:

The devices – not just the ones you want people to use, but expect the unexpected. A user who can’t engage with you because they use the wrong kind of phone is not their problem, it’s your business problem.

Force-feeding the experience – process design, especially with IoT, is a user experience that needs design. A simple example is easybulb, a WYSIWYG simple UX on the phone that changes the color of the lights, the ability to time mood lighting, etc. All create a simple (consistent) experience. Do not try to wedge your user into an experience because of the limitations of the hardware.

Expose your data to the user –  Your data is part of your IoT design. Nest does a great job of this by allowing users to access on their iPad their energy usage and provide recommendations on saving on their energy bill. Too often, enterprises design a system of IoT with a misguided concept that the collected data is only for their eyes, but it’s the data collection that differentiates these objects to your customer. Provide use cases for them that leverages what the smart objects collect.

It’s not just digital – Don’t forget the physical part of the interaction – face to face customer interaction such as a guided walkthrough of a kiosk is just as important as the kiosk itself. The spaces between your objects in an IoT experience are where most of your problems can arise, because you cannot predict human behavior. Work on narrowing those gaps for a truly seamless journey.

We have some great talks coming up on the Internet of Things in both Boston and New York. Check them out over the coming weeks.