“Enchanted Objects” — adding delight to the IoT formula

Posted on 21st January 2015 in design, Essential Truths, Internet of Things, marketing, smart home

For good reason, most discussions of opportunities with the Internet of Things focus on the potential to improve businesses’ operating efficiency or creating new revenue streams.

But what if the IoT could also bring out the hidden 6-yr. old in each of us? What if it could allow us to invent — enchanted objects?

That’s the premise of IoT polymath David Rose’s Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things.

Enchanted Objects: Design, Human Desire, and the Internet of Things

Rose is both a stalwart of the MIT Media Lab and a pioneering, serial IoT entrepreneur. Oh, and he’s got an impish grin that shows you he is still as delighted at tinkering with things as he was as a little boy in his grandfather’s workshop:

“Grandfather’s tools were constructed and used with a respect for human capabilities and preferences. They fit human bodies and minds. They were a pleasure to work with and to display. They made us feel powerful, more skilled and capable than we were without them. They hung or nestled quietly, each in its place, and never made us feel stupid or overwhelmed. They were, in a word, enchanting.”

Rose fears that’s not the path we’re heading down with most current techno-products, dismissing them as “cold, black slabs … [resulting in a ] colder, more isolated, less humane world. Perhaps it is more efficient, but we are less happy.”  Yea!

By contrast, enchanted objects resonate with our deepest desires:

“The experiences that do enchant us reach into our hearts and souls. They come from the exotic place of  ‘once upon a time.’ They help us realize fundamental human desires. The fantastic technologies we have invented over the centuries , the ones of ancient tales and science fiction, enable us to do things that human beings earnestly want to do but cannot do without a little (or a lot) of help from technology. They make it possible to fly, communicate without words, be invisible, live forever, withstand powerful forces, protect ourselves from any harm, see farther and travel faster than the greatest athletes. They are tools that make us incredible, supercapable versions of ourselves. These are the visions and stories of our most beloved authors of fiction and fantasy — Tolkien and C. S. Lewis and J. K. Rowling and the Grimms — and the realities of fantastic characters such as Cinderella, Dick Tracy, James Bond, Superman, and Wonder Woman. The designers creating enchanted objects must, therefore, think of themselves as something more than manipulators of materials and masters of form. They must think beyond pixels, connectivity, miniaturization , and the cloud. Our training may be as engineers and scientists, but we must also see ourselves as wizards and artists, enchanters and storytellers, psychologists and behaviorists.”(my emphasis).

Rose discusses a number of the products he’s designed, such as the Ambient Orb, which can be hacked to unobtrusively (the physiological phenomenon that makes them work is called “pre-attentive processing” in case you’re looking for a term to throw around at a cocktail party…) display all sorts of information, from stock market trends to energy consumption and the Ambient Umbrella, whose handle glows if rain is predicted (that one hasn’t been a big success, which I predicted — it’s as easy to lose an expensive, “smart” umbrella as a $10 one. I prefer the IFTTT recipe that has your HUE lights blink blue if rain is predicted, reminding you to take your utterly conventional, cheap umbrella…), as well as one of my favorites, the Vitality Glow Cap, which can reduce the billions in wasted medical spending attributable to people not taking their prescriptions.

Skype Cabinet

And then there’s one that every child or grandparent will love, the Skype Cabinet, a square that sits in your living room, and, when the door is opened, shazaam, there is your grandchild or grandparent, instantly connected with you via Skype. Enchantment indeed!

However, the real meat of the book is his methodology for those of us to whom enchantment doesn’t come as naturally. First, Rose lists seven basic human drives that designers should try to satisfy: omniscience, telepathy (human-to-human communication), safekeeping, immortality, teleportation (that’s high on my personal list after my recent up-close-and-personal encounters with rogue deer.), and expression.

Then Rose explains how technology, especially sensors, will allow meeting these desires through products that sense their surroundings and can interact with us.  In terms of my IoT “Essential Truths,” I’d classify enchanted objects as exemplifying “What Can You Do Now That You Couldn’t Do Before,” because we really couldn’t interact with products in the past.  Other examples in this category that I’ve cited before range from the WeMo switches that helped me make peace with my wife and the life-saving Tell-Spec that lets you find food allergies.

Other thought-provoking sections of the book include “Seven Abilities of Enchantment,  “Five Steps on the Ladder of Enchantment,” and “Six Future Fantasies,” the latter of which is must reading for product designers and would-be entrepreneurs who want to come up with fundamentally new products that will exploit the IoT’s full potential for transformation.

The other day I finally met with Mahira Kalim, the SAP IoT marketing director who whipped my thinking into shape for the “Managing the Internet of Things Revolution” i-guide.  She asked me for examples of the kind of radical transformation through the IoT that are already in existence.  I suspect that some of Rose’s inventions fall into that category, but, more important, Enchanted Objects provides the roadmap and checklist for those who want to create the next ones!  Get it, devour it, and profit from it!

CK Kerley brings pizzazz to IoT marketing!

Posted on 7th January 2014 in Internet of Things, M2M, marketing

I’ve been away, really celebrating the holidays with my family and working on revisions to my e-book on managing the IoT for mainstream companies.  What better way to return than with a new publication that really gives some oomph to marketing the IoT?

The Smart Revolution

I met CK Kerley when she made some nice comments about my SmartStuff e-book intro to the IoT, and have been impressed by the energy and pizzazz that she brings to the marketing aspect of the IoT — elegant tech can only take you so far, and then you need to sell the stuff!

Now CK has a free e-book on marketing the IoT, The Smart Revolution, and it’s a great jumping off point for planning your own IoT marketing strategy. You can quickly finish it one one sitting — then come back to it again and again for future inspiration.

What comes through time and time again throughout the brief tome is something I hope also comes through in this blog and in my forthcoming e-book: the IoT won’t just make current things (literally and figuratively) better: if we fully exploit its potential, it will result in fundamental transformation!

Kerley emphasizes that marketers don’t have any choice about whether to embrace smart devices: consumers will force them to do so:

“The benefits of smart capabilities will have profound implications upon tomorrow’s customers who will be much more demanding, much more impatient, and much more savvy, with much higher standards.

“Mark my words, marketers: Dumb things won’t merely be an inconvenience to your customers; they will be all but intolerable to them—and wholly irrelevant in the 21st century marketplace. While smart brands give marketers a competitive advantage today, that advantage will rapidly transform into tomorrow’s cost of entry.”

Kerley also emphasizes that this transformation will be more than bells-and-whistles for consumers: it will have a profound, positive impact on their quality of life:

“Now marketers can move from developing individual dumb products for customers to engineering fuller, smart solutions that truly change customers’ lives. You are enabled to remove the mystery that has shrouded entire areas of your audiences’ lives and infuse it with transparency—empowering them to make better decisions that lead to better outcomes.

“Marketers can eliminate the overwhelming complexity that has plagued their customers’ lives and, through their smart brands, replace it with sheer simplicity. And you can expand the roles your brands play in customers’ activities—a move that your markets will welcome because it will transform static components into dynamic experiences for them.

“Finally, in a sea change for companies, we can migrate from mass- producing products shipped from our factories to micro-personalizing offerings that are only truly complete when they are in the hands of our customers.”

She’s taken the tack of organizing IoT marketing in terms of 5 basic principles, with several brand examples for each to show that the IoT is a current reality, not a laboratory dream. Think of those examples as ammunition to convince skeptical executives that the IoT is a reality and the time to develop a strategy is now!

Here they are:

  1. Value: “smart brands expand value by transforming single, dumb products into fuller, smart solutions.”  Examples:
    1. Asthmapolis Smart Inhaler: “transforming a product that manages asthma attacks into a solution that works to prevent asthmatic episodes” (because it’s location aware) (see my post about the TellSpec food analyzer)
    2. Nike+ Smart Basketball Shoes: “Transforming a sporting accessory into a fitness partner that tracks players’ progress in real time”
  2. Empowerment: “smart brands empower customers through new insights that drive better outcomes,” such as self-monitoring Quantified Self devices’ that empower patients to be full partners in their health care. Examples:
    1. MC10’s Smart BioStamp: “24/7 Monitoring of vital statistics takes the mystery out of health and arms patients and physicians with the data to provide better care.”
    2. Jawbone UP: My fav Xmas present? Other than the totally-outside-the-box, totally-unexpected MacBook Pro, I love my new Jawbone UP, and the ability it gives me to track my fitness activities!
  3. Simplicity: “smart brands remove complexity — and replace it with simplicity.”
    1. GlowCaps Smart Pill Bottles: “Removing the complexity of remembering to take medication by turning the simple pill bottle into a smart reminder.” Still one of my fav IoT pioneers!
    2. IntelligentM SmartBand“replacing the complexity of hand-hygiene compliance by turning healthcare workers’ wristbands into personal, real-time reminders.” This is my fav of Kerley’s examples: one of of my cousins got very, very sick at America’s finest hospital (it may or may not be in Baltimore…) from a Hospital-Acquired Infection — which usually occur because personnel forget to wash their hands! “Through RFID technology, the SmartBand works by communicating with other objects (such as IV bags) that reminds workers to sanitize their hands by buzzing three times. Then, once workers have thoroughly washed all areas of their hands for the correct amount of time, the wristband buzzes once, signaling workers that they can proceed with their treatments.”  How cool is that???
    3. Tagg Smart Pet Tracker: “Eliminating the complexity of keeping dogs in the yard by simply turning their collar into a smart pet tracker.”
  4. Experience: “Smart brands turn static elements into dynamic experiences.” Examples:

    1. Vail Resorts Smart Ski Pass: “turning the dumb ski pass into a dynamic device unleashes an entirely new skiing experience.” I got a little preview of this transformation skiing in the Berkshires last year: the lift ticket was a glorified RFID tag. However, this goes far beyond!”When visitors get to each lift, their tickets—enabled with RFID technology—are scanned and automatically record each skier’s lift rides, calculate their vertical skiing feet and tally their ski days.”To review progress, users simply need to access the online site or mobile app replete with stats, maps and achievements that tell the story of the customers’ “epic” days or “epic” seasons—with Vail featuring a separate kids’ site for children under 13. The site, app and smart ski ticket do more than just record data, they award skiers with special pins commemorating hundreds of milestones, special adventures and unique accomplishments for each day—and each season—at each of Vail’s collection of ski resorts.” Neat!
    2. GolfSense Smart Golf Sensor: “a smart globe becomes a new virtual participant — and a golfer’s secret weapon — in the game experience.” OK, this one hurts: for a short while this Fall, before I did a competitive products search, I thought I had the KILLER IoT golfing app. Alas, while it did have some unique elements, this and some other apps do a good enough job that there was no reason to develop mine. Fame and fortune remain around the bend (or on the next tee).
  5. Personalization: “smart brands are micro-personalized by customers, not mass-produced by companies.” Examples:
    1. The Nest themostat: everyone’s IoT poster child. Its sensors even observe if the house is vacant (although I’ve always worried that you might just be absorbed in a book for hours on end, not moving, so the Nest would decide to put you on chill. What’s your actual experience with it??)
    2. Target’s Smart Shopping Experience: (in the design phase) “An idea that turns a big-box store full of products into a personalized store tailored to your specific needs.” I will ignore the opportunity of a bad joke at Target’s expense…

So check it out, and, if you’re a corporate marketer, add your voice to our chorus to get your C-level execs fired up about the IoT’s revolutionary potential. Thanks, CK!