Experience Design Innovation: Why IoT Is The New Frontier

Algert Sula
Feb 16, 2016 · 5 min read
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Experience Design (XD), a broad term that is used by many and often associated with human-computer interaction. When asking someone about their definition of XD, you will get very different answers.

But, perhaps the day Experience Design becomes a better defined term is not far. How so? Well, there is a new player in town, called IoT and it’s about to fundamentally change the way we design experiences. Read on.

Rise Of The Devices (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) was “born” between 2008 and 2009, a time when the number of connected devices surpassed that of the worlds population. It is predicted that by year 2020 the total number of connected devices will be north of 50 billion.

Infographic based on Cisco data

These devices or “things” include anything from the ones able to connect to the internet, like our phones, smart watches, smart TVs, Philips Hue etc,. to others types like iBeacons and RFID that can communicate with other devices. What makes things really interesting is that many of these devices have been getting better and better over the years and are now starting to make appearances.

Estimote iBeacons

iBeacons in particular, the small wireless sensors that transmit data to your phone using BLE are becoming more popular (especially in the retail space) due to their ease of deployment in any physical space and their long battery life. Estimote, one of the industry leaders recently raised $10.7 million in Series A funding, adding fuel to the idea that iBeacons are here to stay.

Why is this important and how will it affect XD?

Until now the primary focus of XD has been the human-computer interaction. The main responsibilities of UX designers today revolve around that experience. However, that is about to change!

IoT brings into the equation an important component, that until now has been missing — real-world context, and that is HUGE! It opens the door to a whole new set of possibilities and explorations in the XD world.

Explorations that will require factoring in the physical world when designing experiences and that will eventually lead to new standards and innovations — ultimately shaping the future of Experience Design and further consolidating the meaning to the term.

My First IoT Experience

Since I really wanted to test the IoT waters and motivated by a personal pain point in retail stores, I decided to create an IoT solution named Instassociate.

Every time I visit a Best Buy or Home Depot store, it takes me a while to get a hold of an associate, mainly due to the massive size of their stores. There are existing solutions that allow you to press a button to request assistance. The feedback mechanism however, in most of them is nonexistent, others employ a beeping sound which becomes faster as an associate approaches your location, often capturing the attention of nearby customers and resulting in ackward looks 😳

Existing solutions as seen at TJ Max, Home Goods and Target stores

Instassociate solves that problem by allowing customers to get on demand help in a convenient and unobtrusive way and it helps stores generate useful analytics data to identify their popular store sections, average response time and most active associates, allowing them to optimize their floor operations and provide a better in-store customer experience. As we know happy customers = more sales 👍

The application consists of the following components:

  1. A mobile app
  2. A stationary touch screen kiosk that also serves as an iBeacon
  3. Estimote iBeacons to help track more accurately an associate’s location in the store

Here is how it works:

  1. Customer presses the kiosk button to request assistance

2. Store associates in proximity to that kiosk receive a push notification on their devices

3. The store associate who accepts the request is shown the physical location of the customer

4. Customer is then informed that someone is on their way to help them and see them as they approach (via iBeacon triangulation)

Instassociate was featured in January at the NRF Big Show in NY and ISE 2016 in Amsterdam last week.

It was both exciting and motivating to have the application featured in two big shows and getting feedback from users interacting with it.

Wrap up

I LOVE technology as much as I love design! I love it primarily because it changes so rapidly and with those changes comes the need for new design approaches and ideas.

Given the recent buzz out there, it is evident that IoT is finally on the map. It is still in it’s early stages but I’m a firm believer that it is the next frontier for innovation in the field of design and that it will fundamentally change the way we think about experience design.

Thank you for reading.

I write about Product Design, Interaction Design and IoT. Follow me for future posts related to these topics.

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