Designing for the Internet of Things—Focusing on the Individual

SolidWorks Internet of ThingsIn 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 Individual.

While the Internet might have been developed as a government network, it is really the Individual who made it a versatile tool for work and play. When you are designing an Internet-based device for the Individual, it is imperative to capitalize on his or her creativity:

  • Create objects that are compatible with a broad range of lifestyles and technical aptitudes.
  • Don’t add features that you think some people might use, or might learn to use in time.
  • If you’re torn because you want to add a feature that you know is complicated, leave it on the back burner for a future iteration, optional downloadable content, or a future “deluxe” model.

Current IOT Tech

Any first release model needs to be basic so that the Individual can master it quickly and know that he or she is in complete control. Few people want or need 100 percent control of any given device, but they do want the ability to change proprietary settings and close unnecessary programs. The Individual is more comfortable with technology when he or she  knows what a device is doing and has control over it. To this end,

  • design devices that offer a clean slate of content so that the Individual can be creative and make it his or her own;
  • start simple and give the user the ability to customize a device in a way that conforms to his or her unique lifestyle;
  • do not overwhelm the user with a list of things that you think are good for him or her.

Your device will be more successful if it has fewer features than if it has too many, because the Individual will know what he or she is getting and what he or she will need to learn at the time of purchase. Remember, it is not the Individual’s job to learn how to use a device, and he or she will stop using it (or refrain from buying it altogether) if he or she thinks the learning curve is too steep. To help make your device a success, consider these factors:

  • Design logical devices that are easy to operate and demonstrate very obvious potential for reward.
  • The Individual must see the device as an upgrade over something already owned, or improvement to his or her quality of life without adding any hassle. The value add must be real and marketable.
  • The device must be compatible with the most disparate set of networked devices possible.
  • If the device is too proprietary and doesn’t work well with others in an ecosystem, it’s likely to gain a bad reputation quickly

In our next installment, we’ll discuss the approaches design teams should consider when developing connected devices for the Business.

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.

Internet of Things Blog Infographic

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Matthew West

SolidWorks alumnus. I like plate reverb, Rat pedals, Thai curry, New Weird fiction, my kids, Vespas, Jazzmasters, my wife & Raiders of the Lost Ark. Not necessarily in that order.