Design and IoT: Giving Form and Meaning to Data (2/3)
The IoT revolution requires new design paradigms. Each week, we will present attoma’s perspective on the need to think connected objects and systems according to their utility to facilitate user appropriation — in everyday life as well as in the industrial sector.
The good use of data
So what is the use of these terabytes of data, generated by IoT? This data is rendered into interfaces that allow a certain group of individuals, in charge of supervising situations, a global vision to analyze events and to decide to initiate actions if required on the ground. But how can we ensure that this ability to capture data brings real value to users and economic players? This is where design comes in, enabling us to determine usage values and to define a service promise.
Take the example of sensors in domestic space. As soon as we are able to collect data on what is happening in a building or apartment, certain companies working in security, telecommunications, home automation, or in the water or energy sectors claim the legitimacy of using this resource to create new services. We carried out a prospective project for a service provider who was able to collect information on possible behavioural deviations of an elderly person living alone at home, permitting to identify risk factors in relation to a loss of autonomy for example.
Mind the user!
This is an opportunity to recall the methodology of service design that we apply at attoma. We begin by observing and listening, beyond beliefs and prejudices, to the individuals concerned, in this case the elderly, families, doctors, caretakers, and staff of the various social services for the elderly. Once the needs and uses have been mapped, we define the axes of coherence with the company’s objectives. Then, we enter a co-design phase with experts and users, to finally create a low definition prototype used to test and validate the identified opportunities.
In this particular case, we had arrived at an application prototype corresponding to a use scenario in which the system, after identifying and configuring the life patterns and habits of a specific elderly person, rendered discrepancies and alerted a certain number of actors — for example when the person did not take a shower or did not go out regularly.
This methodology makes it possible to clarify the project, to understand if it makes sense and sometimes, simply, to revise the initial assumptions before making more substantial investments. It turns out that in this case, the vision that the company had built did not correspond to the value of the service that we had identified, which found its meaning rather in an integration with the public medical and social monitoring systems. However, by turning into this direction, it soon became apparent that the service’s business model was not assured.
To do something with the data generated by these “things with sensors inside”, it must also be usable, comprehensible, legible and available when needed. When we looked at the critical systems of a company such as ArcelorMittal, for example, which asked us to design a new generation of supervision interfaces for blast furnaces, we found an accumulation of systems, each with its own interface and software bricks created over time, which led to a particularly complex usage situation for operators. This is why we have organized collaborative work sessions with them, to design interfaces as close as possible to their needs in a very specific use context.