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A new year gets me thinking about things to come. One of the most exciting things coming our way will be a Renaissance of sorts, a revolution in connectivity.
The “Internet of Things” is about to become increasingly important to the User Experience Designer. Although you may have heard about the Internet of Things before now, it probably seemed like something far off in the distant future. Yet, as Internet connected mobile devices have become so commonplace, so have the network of everyday things from lamps and dryers to doorknobs and window shades.
In 2008, the number of devices connected to the Internet exceeded the number of people. (Source: Infographic) What will 2013 bring?
There is a talented subculture out there, thrashing about and smashing open their smartphones to unleash new and exciting possibilities. Breaking the boundaries of design and accessing those tiny smartphone sensors, these visionaries are creating a movement to make everyday things smart.
Until recently, this has received little attention. But all of a sudden there seems to be an onslaught of development projects of software, hardware, and sensors that will connect an endless number of everyday items. A few particularly impressive ones:
Not only is there a movement to connect objects to each other and to the internet, but we are moving towards connecting our bodies as well. In the past couple years there has been a flurry of innovation in personal health management, showcased by the rise of activity and fitness tracking devices such as the Fitbit, Withings Scale, and the Garmin Watch Series. These devices, when partnered with a web or mobile app, give a person all the data they’d dream of and possibly some new insights to get motivated, stay fit and share their progress with friends and family. Taking it a step even farther, one device caught me by the seat of my pants – an Intelligence Toilet by Toto. It measures weight, temperature, blood sugar levels and more to monitor your health and serve almost as a doctor in your own house!
Many companies don’t know it yet, but the use of small, interconnected sensors will start to change the way businesses are run on a scale equivalent to the way the modern PC has reinvented the workday. There are still people alive today that can remember when the television became mainstream – and now, there are kids being born that won’t ever know what a television was. To them, it’s irrelevant unless it’s as big as a window or you can touch it.
User Experience Design is going to be disrupted by this turning point, but so will the whole of industry and every world market, and with that, there will be a thing or two to do.