What problems does the Internet of Things actually solve in 2015? And what will connected objects be capable of in the next couple of decades?
These are the questions a group of designers and technologists have put to themselves. And the future concepts that form the answers will turn your idea of IoT upside down.
The Digital Shoreditch 2015 panel of future thinkers was made up of Daniel Fogg, founder of design consultancy Grafft; Jessi Baker, CEO of Provenance, which gathers data and stories about supply chains; Daniel Harvey, director and experience design lead at agency SapientNitro and Ross Atkin, a designer and engineer.
Together they explored the potential usefulness of connected objects and their ability to enhance our lives through the lens of the Reiss Profile, a well-known method of measuring human motivations developed by Dr. Steven Reiss in the 1990s.
"What we've done is looked at all sixteen of these basic human desires and tried to how human motivation is driven by curiosity, eating, family honour etc," said Daniel Fogg. "They might help us to understand some of the devices and some of the objects and systems which we will see in the next couple of decades. Hopefully it can give people a slightly more nuanced view of what the internet of things is aside from you know... the fridge."
Remote sensing kit for extreme sports
All illustrations by Ross Atkin
"You can imagine that if travel becomes economically expensive or too harmful to the environment, you'll see services you get today like Uber or Magic, where you can have someone do something for you.
"Thrill seekers or extreme sports enthusiasts are maybe sat at home and perhaps hire some guy to go on an adventure safari. You get not just the visual stimuli but also the physical stimuli of experiencing it. Beyond journalism and sport, you can see how this application might have a role in politics, business and education."
- Daniel Harvey on designing for the human motivations of independence and physical activity.
Wareable says: Virtual reality gets personal and this set-up is completely possible. Combine some GoPros, an Oculus Rift and haptic tech from the likes of Wearable Experiments are you're there.
"We're talking about internet of things security but we're not talking about organised hackers, we're talking about the friends who frape your Facebook profile. If someone has the password to your Nest thermostat, for instance, there could be a hamster assassination. It's a bit sad.
"If you have access to heating and ventilation you can kill a hamster. The prediction is that there will be a new class of smart security devices like a Bouncer Router. This is the device that runs round policing your smart home. Smart locks are a really obvious example of what needs monitoring."
- Ross Atkin on designing for the motivation of vengeance
Wareable says: For a Bouncer Router to really work the AI would have to be clever enough to combine multiple IDs - voice, fingerprint etc - and know your habits inside out to suss it's really you and not your most mischievous mates.
"I didn't realise there was an explicit human need to uphold the traditional human values of your ethnic group or clan. IoT and digital in general is making us all a bit more global.
"How do we keep those traditions that matter most to certain groups and clans? How do we enable them through the internet of things? The sketch is a connected dining table which has several different settings depending on the rules and regulations of your certain household. It can enable people to keep to traditions around the table such as no elbows, no swearing, that kind of vibes."
- Jessi Baker on designing for the motivation of honour
Wareable says: Smartphones and now smartwatches have a lot to answer for in terms of bad etiquette so maybe connected objects such as the Etiquette Table can help to tip the balance. With Kinect plus Amazon Echo tech and Ikea getting into smart home, this kind of furniture is a lot closer than you think.
"Ten years ago we were happy if something showed up within a week, now we can get stuff delivered from Amazon in a day. Think of this idea as Farmville meets Amazon Prime for the new era of food rationing.
"Imagine a Wall-E type device tending your allotment, a robot in your garden to fend off the food shortages caused by the great devastation that is global warming, perhaps."
- Daniel Harvey on designing for the motivation of eating
"We collectively looked at the future as something that wouldn't necessarily be bright and rosy," added Daniel Fogg. "People in the UK are not necessarily willing to work on farms so we use immigrant labour, at what point is that immigrant labour going to become too expensive or the political climate not accepting of that. That might be when it's time for a robot."
Wareable says: We trust you with feeding our bellies, tiny drone farmers of the future. It's local, it's logical and it's more than possible.
"This has always been a problem for me. I find that if you put something in a certain position, it doesn't necessarily help. There's either a super tidy world where we've all got an Amazon Kiva robot which knows where everything is. But the alternative is that if we tag everything with low power beacons then you don't ever need to put anything away. You can have a pile of stuff and basically Google your house."
- Ross Atkin on designing for the motivation of order
Wareable says: If we cross every limb hard enough and promise to abandon 90% of IoT devices will you please, please, please make this a reality? This is our kind of order.
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