Macadamian Blog

Building your own IoT product: Design. It’s not just a 2D screen.

Geoffrey Parker

Let’s call this holistic approach: designing for the context of daily use.

Building Internet of Things Product

Alright… Where did I leave off?  Oh yeah, you’ve picked your radio and you’ve chosen your technical team. Now, you need to sort out the design. Wait. You picked your radio already?  Darn. The design, the radio, and the team are all interrelated to the overall design. That makes this not a linear process (aka difficult). As I mentioned in a previous blog, the radio will drastically impact the context of use of the device. So, let’s just assume you are thinking about which radios make sense, but the decision still isn’t finalized.

To frame this problem, the most obvious challenge is that companies are either migrating into or away from software. So, this is really about existing in a new space that is not in the comfort zone of many organizations.

IoT

What is design? Well, I’m not an expert, but I’ve been lucky to have worked among them long enough to understand the parts of design that really impact a product’s success. You need to be able to stop only thinking about features and requirements. More importantly, this is a multi-disciplinary activity. You’ll need to include experts in industrial design, electrical circuit design, mechanical engineering, and software, and, of course, user experience designers.

You need to think about and design for the entire customer journey. One of the key techniques we use at Macadamian is customer journey mapping. From these journey maps, we can make rapid prototypes, prioritize and validate features and effort, and create a solid project plan. They are not the only tool our team uses, but it’s one that resonates with me as an engineer.

I introduce the idea of a journey map because regardless of your background, IoT will add a degree or two of complexity to your organization. Either you are a conventional product company that is already comfortable building 3D products with industrial design that evokes your branding, or you are comfortable with 2D (software) products that run as bits & bytes on computing devices (mobile, desktop, server, etc.) In both of these worlds, designing holistically means that suddenly your user is interacting with your product in a whole new way that sets new expectations for them.

IoT

Let’s call this holistic approach: designing for the context of daily use. This is a daily use pattern on how a customer interacts (and vice versa), and how your product interacts with your customer needs to be thoughtfully designed. Some key questions you need to ask yourself during the design phase are:

  • How does your product re-engage the customer?
  • How does your product add value in their life?
  • What will be the situations that the customer/user will be able to interact with or be touched by/with your product?

Today’s users expect a multi-screen, multi-contextual, and elegant solution. They expect their product to simply work and be interactive from near, far, and on whatever device screen their eyes are currently staring at. Don’t underestimate this challenge.

Start with the entire journey. And, dive into each software and hardware interaction to build your design through the lens of your end user.

So, let me summarize. Likely, if this is your first foray into the Internet of Things, you’ll be facing new challenges and a lot of things you never even knew about. Some of those things can be de-risked with the holistic design thinking of a multi-disciplinary team.


Creating an IoT product

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Author Overview

Geoffrey Parker

Geoff is Macadamian’s Director of Healthcare Software Development specializing in healthcare software and is responsible for technical leadership, technology partnerships, and sales engineering. Geoff thrives on working with clients to identify and deliver the right solution for their individual needs. His career as a software professional has focused on delivering highly complex mobile and server side technology solutions. Geoff is happiest when pushing the technology envelope by doing things that haven't been done before. He has a Bachelor of Information Technology with Honours from the University of Queensland, Australia. When he’s not coding, you can find Geoff on the backpacking trails.