User Experience

Designing a Family Internet of Things (FIoT)

I recently attended the O’Reilly Solid Conference in San Francisco, a fascinating few days examining hardware, software and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Among the 1,800 attendees, there was an invigorating mix of professionals, entrepreneurs, startups and the big dogs in technology like Microsoft and Cisco.

The developments in biological engineering were fascinating, if more than a little above the head of a solid B-student in high school chemistry. Not surprisingly, it was the user and sociological challenges of the IoT that resonated the most profoundly with me.

As I have been learning and writing about the IoT, there’s been a nagging issue on my mind that rarely gets discussed. Fact is, the IoT is too focused on individuals. Having an environment that responds to my preferences and mood sounds fantastic. However, I don’t live alone. So if I prefer the house to be 70 degrees and my husband is a bit of a polar bear, who does the Nest listen to?

Consultants Anna Shaw and Morgan Freelan’s talk at Solid, “Connecting home: Designing for the systems of the whole family,” was a thought-provoking discussion of this issue. To me, this seems like the elephant in the “smart” room. More than 63 percent of U.S. households are comprised of two or more people while many connected products/services largely work through a “master operator” framework. That means one person has ultimate control of the smart features of the house.

Sounds great, but for most of us it’s not reality.

Individual control isn't always realistic. Designing connected devices that work for families is the elephant in the “smart” room.

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