We are getting closer to the futuristic world that seemed so far away in the science fiction movies, where objects interact with the real world without the need for the humans to be present.
These devices, which interact with networks and the real world without human interaction, are what we currently call “connected devices.” Gartner, in its annual report, forecasts that 8.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide in 2017, 31% more than in 2016, and this figure will grow up to 20.4 billion by 2020.
Almost everything surrounding us is increasingly having more and more intelligence. Designing for IoT can be one of the biggest challenges that a creator or designer faces today. The new connected devices have a new variety of gestures, interactions, and interfaces that are quite different from how people traditionally use common devices, such as computers, mobile phones or even Smart TVs that are increasingly present in our homes. We are talking about dealing with intelligent domotics technology, connected cars, urban systems … even surveillance systems in agriculture and farming, the possibilities are endless.
Before working on a new project, it will be essential to do a good research job on the users, some governments are already working on this, as is in the case of the British Government, which is dedicating public funds to develop different studies, like this one about usability on the Intelligent thermostats.
At TipTap Labs we work with the technology of connected devices, but we also believe that the user experience (UX) in them is fundamental to their success. These are some of the challenges that IoT presents regarding the user experience:
- Connectivity problems – unlike what happens when we search on a mobile phone (we can wait a few seconds before getting frustrated), in IoT, we hope things happen the moment we are running them.
- Problems with multiple interfaces – another important problem that we can find, is the variety of intelligent devices that are not only individually connected but also connected to each other, like a “team”. We are talking about dealing with multiple interfaces at the same time, which will break the user experience and, therefore complicate the life of the users’ lives. AllSeen Alliance and the Open Interconnect Consortium (IoT in general) are moving forward in standardization to solve these interoperability issues between IoT devices.
- Problems with usability – users are going to have to learn new gestures, icons, and interfaces, our knowledge will not be applicable to new interaction’s forms in IoT. It will be the designers’ responsibility to investigate the UX on these new devices and find the best path for the users. A bad user experience in a web can be frustrating, but a bad UX in a thermostat can mean running out of heating on one of the coolest days of the year.
IoT products will only succeed if they solve real problems and make users’ lives easier. One of the things that Nest made (https://nest.com/es/) one of the most revolutionary IoT products, was related to its user experience. Imagine having to put Nest into operation, with all the implications it entails: unplugging the power, cables, holes in the wall, installation … Nest, achieved a good user experience, from the packaging design, the unboxing, to the whole installation experience. Everything was carefully designed so that the user was guided at all times.
Nest was born due to the need to improve something we interact with every day, at a functional, aesthetic and also user experience level. Now it is more than a simple device to control the temperature, it has become an ecosystem that includes closed-circuit cameras and smoke detectors, which can be connected to multiple devices such as Philips Hue bulbs or Wemo switches.
We are moving towards a world where devices learn and understand more than we do. In this paradigm, the interaction between devices and humans is going to change radically and there remains very broad and interesting work to be done in changing the user experience in IoT.
Article written by Ana Rosa González, User Experience Manager at Barbara IoT.