When talking about the Internet of things (or IoT), I frequently bring up a Smart Toaster as it is such a lightning rod. People just love to make fun of it. My favorite was the tweet, “I don’t think my smart toaster needs apps” which off course was retweeted into the stratosphere.
When I read things like this, I just shake my head. You can’t evaluate tomorrow’s concepts by yesterday’s tasks! Of course a smart toaster doesn’t need apps. A horse doesn’t need wheels either. We just need to look at what smart means in a more nuanced way. The goal of this post is to convince you that the SmartToaster™ actually is a bold new vision of the future. If I can unpack what it means to be smart, so that even a lowly toaster starts to make sense, we’ll be thinking about the IoT in a much broader context. Continue reading
The building hype…
The hype surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) is building. People are getting excited, almost too excited really, about its potential. We’re oscillating between smart lightbulbs and smart dog collars, not really clear what this all means, yet we’re convinced that something transformative is coming. The Gartner hype cycle charts the rise and inevitable dip of any new technology over time: Continue reading
Over the last year, my writing and speaking has focused on a fairly straight forward thesis:
- Cheap computation/networking will make nearly any device ‘smart’
- There will be lots of these things
- Using ‘an app’ to control each one (what we currently do) just won’t scale
- Smart phones will be joined by smart TVs, smart glasses, and smart tabletops
- All the ‘smart devices’ will want to play with all the ‘smart displays’
- We need to make this happen through open source solutions
I’ve given this talk to thousands of people and it’s so gratifying to get such enthusiastic endorsement. But whenever it comes down to concrete next steps someone almost always says “you really need to sketch out how a company can actually make money doing this”. The intent is good; they are clearly trying to be supportive, but this is exactly the wrong approach.
The Internet of Things (or IoT) is finally going mainstream. Not only do I read about it frequently online, but I’m now talking about it with clients at frog. Unfortunately, as it has become popular, it has also grown to the point where it can span everything from home Wi-Fi networks to smart cities. Much like the story of the three blind men describing an elephant, the essence of IoT depends on your point of view.
Smart devices require a significant shift in thinking
This blog explores how to design smart devices. But these new devices are just so new and require such new insights, that our quaint, old school notions of UX design are completely blinding us. We are stuck between the classic paradigm of desktop computers, and the futuristic fantasy of smart dust. The world is either fastidious or fantastic. The path ahead is hard to see. Alan Kay said the best way to predict the future is to invent it… but what if we don’t know what we want? Continue reading
I’ve written previously that the history of mobile has been a long, painful process of copying desktop computers and then sheepishly realizing that it just doesn’t quite work right. This is actually the way of all progress, not just in technology. Art and music follow a similar pattern of copy, extend, and finally, discovery of a new form. It takes a while to shed old paradigms. Continue reading
Some innovations transcend short term competitive advantage
Since capitalism and design are, for the most part, governed by market forces, there’s symmetry between them. Capitalism tends to be most effective at its lowest levels, meeting demand through efficient supply. Companies that do that well succeed and those that don’t fail. The same is true for design: At its “lowest levels,” a clean look, a simple flow, and an elegant layout are fairly well understood and valued. Products that reflect these low levels succeed and those that don’t fail. Continue reading
Moving beyond the desktop towards just-in-time interaction
So often what passes for vision is usually nothing more than tiny extensions of what is already known and safe. Of course, it’s only natural as people tend to think within what is most comfortable. I call this “Default Thinking” and have already discussed this in my first post, (it was initially discussed as far back as 1962 by Thomas Kuhn). Continue reading
In my previous article, The Coming Zombie Apocalypse, I discussed how small, cheap, web-connected devices are overturning our old-school assumptions about devices and applications. It was a general introduction to the trend, and I’d like to drill deeper in this article by focusing on a core building block of this new order: the ability to store user data in “the cloud.” Continue reading
Small, cheap devices will disrupt our old-school UX assumptions.
Recently, Verizon and T-Mobile announced they would be shipping $50 Android phones quite soon. Technology pros know about Moore’s Law but often forget a critical aspect: it’s not just about increasing power, it’s also about decreasing cost. Continue reading