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User Experience in the IoT

If you follow the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas each year, you probably hear a lot about a vague, somewhat-nebulous term the “Internet of Things” or IoT. Silly name, sure, but neat concept: more and more of your everyday products, tools, and devices (both digital and analog) will be able to “communicate” with each other, working together to add value and make your life easier. At least that’s the promise. Companies like Intel, Sony, and Samsung are already betting on that promise and working to figure out how to bring it to life for their business partners and consumers.

The big questions are, how will the user experience be different for products in the IoT? Will there be a difference from their non-IoT predecessors or counterparts? How best can we communicate the advantages of these new products? A couple of things come to mind as I think about these questions, and here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

Guidelines for Enhancing the UX of the IoT

  • Simplicity is key. Douglas Horton once said “The art of simplicity is a puzzle of complexity.” It will be one of the biggest challenges as more products get added to the ecosystem, but simplicity should remain the focus. The more complicated it is to use a product, the more the user experience suffers. KISS.
  • Create seamless, intuitive interactions. Adding new products to your personal IoT ecosystem should be dead simple. Just like when newer cars unlock automatically when the key fob is within a certain distance without any necessary explicit action from the user, in the best case scenario, all the products within your IoT ecosystem would have the same level of seamless interaction.
  • Be transparent about communication. Until product ecosystems become more common and commonly accepted, there will be a question of “Convenient or Creepy?” for many users. To help lean users toward “convenient”, be upfront about what information is communicated between the various products within the ecosystem. Without that transparency, things will start to get “creepy” for users quickly.
  • Balance security with accessibility. Your phone automatically syncs with your car, then your phone gets hacked…and because they’re connected, your car is hacked too. Bad times. With each new product added to your ecosystem, you add another potential entry point for those nefarious hackers out there that want your data, or control over your devices. At the same time, if you have to use two-factor authentication for every product, depending upon how often products are added or removed, that experience could become more of a hassle than a benefit. Successful solutions will have both strong security and an intuitive, simple way to modify the ecosystem’s group members.
  • Come up with a better name than IoT. People have a hard time accepting things that they don’t understand. Few people really know how the internet works, let alone an internet of things that aren’t computers, tablets or phones. Try explaining how the internet works and watch how fast eyes glaze over. As such, the “Internet of Things” may not survive as a term for everyday people to use. Even as an acronym. IoT? Come on, we can do better. How about Smart Product ECosystem™ (SPEC™), or Smart Product Interactive Network™ (SPINet™)?

Regardless of the eventual term used to describe it, it’ll be doomed to fail if the user experience isn’t at least as good as for the individual products. If you’d like help curating the user experience for your next product or product ecosystem, contact us today.

1 Comment

  1. WilliamPent

    I really liked your article.Really looking forward to read more. Want more. Boeve