Internet of Things and designing things
In 2020 there will be 50,000,000 interconnected objects, but the Internet of Things has already been overcome and renamed as the Internet of Everything because it connects objects and people in all directions with thousands of possible applications.
Many analysts believe that this change is a logical consequence of the incorporation of new technologies into everyday life but, in my opinion, it will be a revolution and a great opportunity for all kind of designers.
Those who understand Design as a communication language to tell stories are facing a turning point in the profession because this changes the story of objects, or at least the way to tell it. The time has come now for designers to capitalise our design capacity. Now our challenge as communicators is focused on making the new generation of objects transmit their features and connectivity without altering the codes society has set up to understand them.
This is already happening as we can see from the latest technological innovation of connected products that rely on recognisable, stable and durable semantic codes. Some examples are Google Glasses, applied to traditional glasses; Apple’s iWatch, with the image of an analog watch; Nike+FuelBand, the device that reads our vital signs during physical activity and uploads them to a bracelet; or Nest’s home automation device, with dozens of data translated into a wall clock; and we could go on with a long list of objects endowed with connectivity: cars, buses, bicycles, light bulbs, sports shoes, t-shirts, ovens, microwaves, coffee machines, fridges, toasters, etc., but that maintain their morphology prior to connectivity and it is for that reason that we recognise them as such.
One reason for this phenomenon is that the capacity we have as a society to take in so many innovations is limited; this is why new products must rely on widely known key reference products where communication bounces back onto informative redundancy bands to be understood. As Umberto Eco explained in his The Absent Structure, design keeps a delicate balance between primary functions, those that denote utility functions and secondary functions, those that connote symbolic functions. Now with the Internet embedded in millions of objects, design as a discipline requires a thorough review from a semiotic perspective because all the communicative functions of objects are being altered and, in addition, we must help to translate those billions of data that will be generated in products that will improve the quality of our lives.
Another problem we face as designers occurs when a new type of products that have no previous references to support them is created and this is why we find lots of technology products lately of an enigmatic, cold and unfriendly nature that fail because they are not understood by consumers.
It is obvious that if Design and the Internet of Thinks join forces, the functionality and empathy of objects with users will increase exponentially. This is why we, as designers, now have a unique opportunity that should be seized to be architects of this change –right from the beginning of the development of new products – if we want to go far beyond merely designing attractive casings.
If Dave Evans’ forecasts are being fulfilled as it seems: The Internet of Everything will change everything and, fortunately, this time it will not take us so many years to see it; it will be in around 2020. (Design Project). Now we must work in this direction to receive our share of this big business and we must do it fast, because we have little time to understand, imagine and design the connectivity of fifty thousand million products.
Evans, Dave. Beyond Things: The Internet of Everything, Explained In Four Dimensions. Article published in Huffington Post el 24.09.2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dave-evans/cisco-beyond-things-the-interne_b_3976104.html