What we know as Internet started as connected computers. Recently, we have experienced explosive growth of Connected Things which are not, strictly speaking, computers. How is Internet of Things (IoT) going to affect our daily lives? Smart gadgets are becoming even smarter: nowadays, they can help us communicate, travel, learn, play, run, cook, wake up, track our weight...No wonder that many conferences and meetings are organised to discuss the IoT technology and its future directions.
Recently, two IoT-related events were held: Internet of Things 2013 in Cambridge and Minibar Monthly Meetup (IoT) in London. In this article, we’re going to summarise our impressions from those events.
How to bring technology to consumers?
During the Internet of Things forum (held in Cambridge on 27th of June) lots of different topics were discussed: Smart Cities, Smart Homes, IoT in transport sector, IoT funding problems. The key topic was, however: how to make IoT solutions appealing to average person in the street? In other words, how to bring technology to consumers? This is not obvious task, because IoT mostly talks in technical terms (network, comms, connectivity) which is not very consumer-friendly.
As the representative of Xively noted, simply connecting on Internet is not enough. He shocked the audience by his suggestion that “IoT is irrelevant” - meaning the technology behind IoT is irrelevant as such for consumers. Important, in his opinion, is to create experience with broad market appeal.
The expert panel on Smart Homes and Smart Consumers touched often on the same question: how to reach consumers? Below are some of their thoughts.
Brian Vogelsang, Qualcomm suggested to solve problems for consumers that are relevant right now. Nick Hunn from Onzo noticed that we should not forget about future-proofing, backward compatibility of technology.
James Jeynes, Global Director, Strategic Planning, Nike Digital was generously given the whole 40 min session to tell the audience about the ways Nike connected its Nike Fuel wristband to a real world. This is a good example of promotion of IoT item in real world. Nike strived to make technology disappear: just 1 button, to keep it simple. “+” button on Nike wristband is the same embodiment of simplicity of use as iPhone’s single menu button.
To link digital world to reality, it was also important to create strong colour associations of green (quiet,rest) vs. red (activity). Many events were held at discos using red and green laser stage lighting for that purpose. In July 2012, Battersea Power Station Turned Green and Red when 2,000 people attended the Nike+ FuelFest - a huge party around Nike Fuel.
Viral videos helped connect device with consumers. The idea was to make device indispensable, integral part of daily life. As a result, the widespread use of wristband allows Nike to collect Big Data which in its turn leads to meaningful conclusions. For example, normally you burn 3000 cal/day, but burn 3743 cal/day if you have more than 30 friends. You would expect that, anyway, but now this fact is corroborated by real-life data.
Expert panels intermingled with startups presenting their ideas to the audience. Out of 13 startups present, the majority concentrated on infrastructure or B2B; only 5 startups could be considered consumer-oriented: Berg London (product), bleep bleeps (product), chirp.io (SW), good night lamp (product), unioncy.com (Web-based SW). Let’s mention those whose product or SW usage was demonstrated live.
Bleep bleeps is a set of products that make parenting easier. chirp.io allows data sharing between devices using high-frequency modulated sound (that resembles birds’ chirping). The idea of good night lamp, as explained by the founder Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, was born from the thought of British armed forces personnel who serve in far-away destinations like Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a family of interconnected lamps - one big and several smalls. Whenever a person lights up the big lamp, the smaller ones light up as well. This idea associates very well with the modern world of people who are dispersed over continents and time zones.
Minibar Monthly Meetup happened on 28 June in huge hall of Biscuit Building in the heart of creative Shoreditch. During the meetup, a new IoT gadget - Smart Clock - was presented among other concepts and products. The main purpose of this IoT-inspired gadget is to be an extension of a smartphone, and thus allow user to absorb information in more comfortable settings. Smart Clock can notify user about anything that happens on the web. With a help of this device, users can get email&phone alerts, facebook&twitter updates, up-to-date information about the weather and a lot more.