IoT – Users want experience not technology platforms

IoT – Users want experience not technology platforms

Technology companies in IoT tend to work in a silo. I recently met the CEO of an IoT focused technology company and took more than an hour to prove our point - ‘nobody cares about your hyped-up IoT platform and its amazing cross protocol integration with various robotic devices. What people care about is their experience when interacting with your awesome technology.’ The demo and the discussion kept reminding me of Don Norman’s example of the complicated dashboard of a nuclear power plant, full of strange knobs and controls, all of them potential error points.

The user experience in Internet of Things is based on a few simple paradigms

1. The devices that collect data – These are the sensors and devices that collect loads of data from different ‘dumb’ devices. Users wants to have sleek, beautiful looking devices (think nest) to attach to their existing appliances or in front of their houses.

2. Controls and Alerts to users on personal devices – The user demands control of the connected devices and needs to get alerts of any change or additional data points from the sensors on his personal device.

3. Making sense of the large data collected – Collecting individual points of data around the user and giving him meaningful information that mirrors his needs and behaviours.

In addition to these three paradigms the user does not really care about any other platform or how advanced is your technology.

So, think of the Internet of Things as an Internet of Experience for actual users. The Internet of Things needs to be looked at from the end users’ perspective. It is a web of information around the user, helping him make valuable decisions based on this information and then ‘act’ through the control on his devices. For home automation, this includes controlling rising energy bills – Controlling the electric points and shutting them off when nobody is at home. In a more complicated scenario, a factory can use the information gathered by various sensors for reducing operating costs and boosting efficiency.

Now imagine the scenario where the processes of actually using all these functions is frustrating. How long will you keep using the product?

The winners and losers in this industry will not only be defined by the technology they create but also by the experience journey that they design for users. The companies that successfully capture user needs, expectations and pain points and bridge the gap with comprehensive user-centric solutions, will make history.

Managing user expectations through UX

I am covering the user expectations that were captured from a recently held user survey done by Fortune Cookie UX Design. Our goal was to understand what common people in India expect from home automation (not publishing exact numbers due to confidentiality) -

1. Users need easy control on mobile devices – Most users are excited about the prospect of being able to monitor and control their home appliances from anywhere, anytime. IoT is today what mobility was five years ago. Think of the thrill you felt when you first booked a ticket on Bookmyshow or took your first Uber ride.

2. Users are expecting common household items to become smart – Some great ideas were collected including smart showers, smart coffee table, smart locks, smart doors, windows that could display weather details and level of pollution in the air outside etc.

3. Users are ready to embrace Augmented Reality – Pokémon Go has changed user behavior. Now users are expecting their homes to be virtually augmented.

4. Users are scared of security failures – Although most users were excited about the working of a smart home, they were bothered about the security of the data collected, available on large social networks and hackers tapping into the video stream of their houses. Mark Zuckerberg’s photo released on the internet with his camera covered with a tape did not help.

5. Users want their homes to interact seamlessly with all the devices that they own – They want their televisions to interact with their refrigerator, their car to sync up with their music collection on the audio system, and the mirror displaying ‘favorite’ images from their Pinterest albums.

What all of this means is that people have adapted to accepting technology as an integral part of daily routine life. Whatsapp keeps my mom connected with friends, family and long lost friends and she would now be quite accepting of technology for locking and unlocking her wardrobe from her phone as well. So, to be successful, product owners will have to focus on user expectations, behaviors and needs. Design the Internet of Experiences and not just Internet of Things.