Are you tired of hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT)? Are you asking yourself, why should you care?

Most tech developers, designers and engineers will tell you that IoT is very important, and that paying attention to UX/UI (User Experience/User Interaction) design standards during its implementation will make a big difference for the better in the daily lives of businesses and consumers.

Today, we are experiencing the “Perfect Storm” of IoT. The technology has become prevalent and pervasive because:

  • Sensor technology has become much cheaper recently – down more than 50% in the last 10 years. Sensors are the key to connecting  “dumb” things (or previously unconnected things) to the internet.
  • IoT relies heavily on widely available bandwidth – which has come down in price by 40 times in the past 10 years.
  • The price of microprocessors is down by 50 times over the same 10 years.
  • There’s wireless infrastructure everywhere – even though it may not always seem that way.
  • Displays are smart and interactive.
  • Big Data algorithms are maturing and data storage costs are decreasing.

This is truly the perfect convergence for IoT growth. And without best “Experience” and “Interface” design practices in IoT products, businesses and consumers alike will drown in the sea of TMI, or too much information, or be set adrift on incorrect and misleading information.

In the IoT workflow, every ”thing” and every person is talking. At the sensor level, things are talking to things, so machines themselves are the users.

Things are talking to online services, meaning applications are also users. And both things and services are talking to people, the most important end-user of information delivered via IoT. The communications paradigm is shifting.

What impact does UX/UI design truly have in this altered landscape? Large-scale use of IoT technology will rely heavily on brand-new ways of working. Fluid and secure flow of data between sensors, devices, applications and people is essential to success.

A key aspect of this flow will be major and unprecedented collaboration between software developers (at both the application and embedded levels) and interface designers, which will be a hallmark of IoT.  

Successful collaborations will result in simplest possible designs with no waste or inefficiencies. Increased machine learning will deliver surprise correlations from sensors. Customized dashboards, or dashboard apps that can be customized by the consumer, will be more important than ever. Data Service Exchanges will rule the day.

Big Challenges Lie Ahead for IoT

Cybersecurity and privacy issues within both the IoT infrastructure and connected “things” are of premium importance – and in some cases may drive UX/UI. Efforts to harmonize competing telecoms and wireless standards may also dictate some aspects of the design.

The information delivered by IoT will also be tailored to end-users, and there are widely divergent problems to be solved. Think about how extensively the information needed by a homeowner will differ from what’s needed by a manufacturer of heavy equipment. Or a software developer.

Great UX/UI will make all the difference in tailoring smart ways of addressing tough problems. Another nut to crack:Internet of Things technology has a lot of moving parts to be implemented. Elegantly designed solutions for specific, custom needs are the key for speed to market and meaningful use of IoT.

Understanding the Benefits of IoT

Faster-than-ever information delivery can positively impact everything from health care to manufacturing, as it becomes easier to find and implement solutions to big problems.

User priorities will be of paramount importance and honored through customization --we will have only the information we want.

There are also myriad opportunities for new business models – consider the example of our client, Adheretech, a company producing a smart pill bottle that will be released to specialty pharmacies this year.

The bottle itself has been designed for efficiency, featuring audible and visual alerts to remind patients to take their medications and notifications to health care professionals, when this does not occur.

Its user interface is as simple as possible for the patient, who simply takes the bottle home from the pharmacy already set up for use. The battery lasts as long as the prescription, so there is no need to replace it. 

When the prescription runs out, the bottle can be returned to the pharmacy for re-use or recycling of components.

In addition to addressing the serious health and economic problems caused by non-adherence to medications, the company has a whole new business model around collected data for medication adherence.

After sensitive private information has been protected or deleted, the data can be analyzed and sold to entities with interest in mining and analyzing it, such as pharmacies, drug companies, large hospital groups, etc.

The resulting analysis from multiple connected pill bottles can also contribute to a decrease in medication in adherence, currently a very costly health care issue.

Another great example of the importance of excellence in user interface and experience design is a voice-driven software product called Entervise.

Originally developed as a remote collaboration solution for field technicians and run on a rugged, head-worn computer with an under-eye display, the UI and graphic elements (colors, shapes) were created to be comfortably near the eye.

The result is a an experience which enables the techs to connect with experts via the internet, have conversations and share bi-directional video and data streams – all with their hands free to work on the task at hand.

Elegantly conceived UX/UI design is critical to the success of Internet of Things technology – for ease of use, analysis and review, and for both machines and humans to “see” and use data in purposeful ways. 

The best UX/UI designers are doing just that: designing the entire experience for fluidity, clarity and meaning. Otherwise, it’s all just a perfect storm of too much useless information.

President & Co-Founder, Intelligent Product Solutions