IoT and Value. A dangerous game.

By Dries de Roeck

The ThingsCon report The State of Responsible IoT is an annual collection of essays by experts from the ThingsCon community. With the Riot Report 2018 we want to investigate the current state of responsible IoT. In this report we explore observations, questions, concerns and hopes from practitioners and researchers alike. The authors share the challenges and opportunities they perceive right now for the development of an IoT that serves us all, based on their experiences in the field. The report presents a variety of differing opinions and experiences across the technological, regional, social, philosophical domains the IoT touches upon. You can read all essays as a Medium publication and learn more at

“It’s a sin with no name Like a hand in a flame And our senses proclaim It’s a dangerous game.” — Jekyll and Hyde.

As part of last year’s thingscon RIOT report, I wrote about IoT design processes¹. The central conclusion made was the lack of (conscious) human centred design approaches in IoT startups, where a technology-first approach is still very dominant. This year, I would like to dig a little deeper and touch upon the somewhat ambiguous term ‘value’, which is — in its many forms and nuanced appearances — always part of a design process at some point. I believe thinking about value can help a lot in becoming more conscious about how a more humane internet of things can be framed and understood.

Your value isn’t mine

Image adapted from Aneeque Ahmed — the noun project

Human values

To illustrate this with an example, PLEQ is an internet connected sensor used for predictive maintenance systems. PLEQ allows ‘upgrading’ older machinery by adding a sensor box to it which monitors anomalies in machine behaviours (primarily using vibration detection). It is the type of hardware that is hidden and is monitored mainly via software systems. However, once these sensors were introduced to the market, the users asked for more visible sensor boxes (brightly coloured, perhaps not in ‘just’ a square box). The reason behind this was that the companies using the product wanted to be able to show to their clients visiting their warehouses or production halls that their machines were being monitored by this IoT system. However blunt, this example does show that user value should be taken seriously from the start.

Societal value

Company value

Value interplay

While there is nothing really new to this thinking, technology is making it more difficult for people in design and development to be fully aware of the impact design choices have on the ‘invisible’, technological, parts of a product or service.

Impacting value through IoT

Identifying opportunities

Digital connectivity

Future implications


Work in progress: a visual consolidation of this value framework for IoT.

tl;dr: Be explicit

  • Which people interact with objects, which objects interact with other objects
  • What type(s) of interaction are used? Are they hardware based, or do they solely rely on data?
  • Are there objects that interact between each other by sharing data or aggregating data from linked sources?
  • In which context or environment does all of this take place, what is the role of this environment?

Getting insight into this interlinked, underlying system of interactions was the spark that led up to creating the IoT ideation card deck. It helps in structuring and communicating about network connected product service systems by offering a personalisable deck of cards to build system maps. This tool is for sure not the holy grail, but it does support diverse design and development teams in taking more conscious design decisions.

A reaction often encountered when presenting a tool like the IoT ideation cards is that it takes long and merely states the obvious. The case I would argue for is that taking the time and stating the obvious might as well be what our industry needs in order to consciously design the responsible IoT we’re all trying to contribute to.


(1) Dries De Roeck, (2017), On IoT Design Processes, Thingscon RIOT report

(2) Irene CL Ng, Laura A Smith, Stephen L Vargo, (2012), An integrative framework of value

(3) Susan E. Reid and Ulrike de Brentani, (2004), The Fuzzy Front End of New Product Development for Discontinuous Innovations: A Theoretical Model.

Dries de Roeck

Dries is a designer, researcher and leads all things research at the creative agency Studio Dott (Belgium). In his research work, he questions how design processes change when digital and physical products become increasingly intertwined. He is the creator of the IOT ideation cards and sporadically hosts local Thingscon events.

ThingsCon is a global community & event platform for IoT practitioners. Our mission is to foster the creation of a human-centric & responsible Internet of Things (IoT). With our events, research, publications and other initiatives — like the Trustable Tech mark for IoT — we aim to provide practitioners with an open environment for reflection & collaborative action. Learn more at

This text is licensed under Creative Commons (attribution/non-commercial/share-alike: CC BY-NC-SA). Images are provided by the author and used with permission. Please reference the author’s or the authors’ name(s).

The State of Responsible IoT 2018

Experts from the ThingsCon community explore current challenges and opportunities of responsible Internet of Things. Learn more at


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ThingsCon explores and promotes the development of fair, responsible, and human-centric technologies for IoT and beyond.

The State of Responsible IoT 2018

Experts from the ThingsCon community explore current challenges and opportunities of responsible Internet of Things. Learn more at