In the first part of our series on designing for the Internet of Things, we mentioned that it’s estimated that by the year 2020, somewhere between 50 and 100 billion devices will be connected to the “Internet of Things”—the phrase used to collectively describe all of the non-computer devices actively linked to the Internet.
In order to maximize this potential, we need to take it upon ourselves to ease the introduction of these devices into the digital infrastructure. For a designer, the most important way to ensure that you are doing your part is to constantly remind yourself who you are designing for: the Individual, the Business, or the System (government agencies). Today we focus on designing for the Business.
When designing an Internet-based device intended to be used by a Business, you need to maintain a business mindset and prioritize efficiency as the main benefit. Remember that the Business makes money when it does two things: meets its sales targets, and manages clients and employees effectively. As a product designer, you want to focus on the latter. If you can create a product that helps a company manage people, you are also helping that company make sales; it doesn’t necessarily work the other way around.
Imagine that you are designing a bar code scanner for logging product inventory. To do the job properly, you will need to weigh out your critical variables for your design so that your product will make the business more efficient from the inside out. Ask yourself questions like these:
- Is ease of use more important than security protocol? A small business shouldn’t have to sacrifice speed and battery life because your wireless scanner uses a government-strength security protocol (because you wanted to be able to market your product to the largest possible buyer group of businesses).
- Will it ultimately be worth training people to use the device, or should it have fewer features and be intuitive to use out of the box? In certain cases, training employees to use a new technology is a worthy investment—if the features will save time and money in the long run. But ask yourself: will this technology be outdated by the time employees are fully competent in using it, and how much will the company have to lose while adapting to the device?
A smart strategy for designing any product for the Business is to create a clear set of goals based upon those of the companies that you are marketing to, and design your product accordingly. One approach is to ask for a copy of a business model from a company that would consider buying your product—this will help you to tailor your design strategy to target your corporate buyer’s needs. Having knowledge of the internal departments and external stakeholders that will need to deal with data sent and received from your device can help you decide which design variables are most important. When trying to gauge the importance of your design priorities, consider the following:
- Devise a simple set of core design principles that are faithful to the goals of the Business itself. If your device complements the mission of the Business, then it will be valuable.
- Remember that the Business thrives on obtaining a maximum amount of information from the Individual and its employees, and it generally suffers when divulging information to the System. Your product should protect the interest of the Business and help it manage information, without releasing information to competitors and prying eyes.
- Aiming for longevity and upgradability are priorities—planned obsolescence is never a good thing, especially in bulk sales situations.
- Every variable in compatibility adds another layer to the complexity of devices coordinating within the Internet of Things. Remember that poor compatibility adds time. Every second counts to the Business
In our next installment, we’ll discuss the approaches design teams should consider when developing connected devices for the System.
To learn more about designing for the Internet of Things, visit our website to download our new feature article: Designing for the Internet of Things, as well as our new infographic on The Internet of Things–Past, Present and Future. You can also watch an archived webinar on the topic below.
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