UX London: The Physical Web

by May 29, 2014

In his The Physical Web presentation at UX London 2014 Scott Jenson shared his insights about the Internet of Things including smart devices and home automation. Here are my notes from his talk:

  • When we talk about the Internet of things there are two perspectives: things will just work and/or we're creating a mess.
  • Many people push for standardization but on mobile things tend to change every six years. We need to embrace that change.
  • For example, though the steering wheel seems like a standard interface, it has actually changed a lot over the years and its design is still in flux. The steering wheel began as a tiller (from boats) and now is gone (in self-driving cars). The tiller was the only technology that could drive cars in the past but ultimately it was not the best technology for the future.
  • The shape of innovation: for any new technology, we start by applying a familiar solution (to the new technology) and gradually make our way to maturity through a bumpy process of innovation. When an innovation occurs, this process repeats.
  • We will always use today's technology on yesterday's tasks.
  • When we finally reach some maturity, we cling to the solution we landed on -because it took a lot of work to get there. We stick with things that are established.
  • Our relationship with technology is one of the biggest issues holding us back. Everybody want innovation but no one wants any risk.
  • Risk-adverse people are not afraid of the future, they are just overly attached to the past.
  • The technologies of the Internet of Things are so big, they're going to change a lot of things including companies.
  • Being right 90% of the time is not good enough for product's embedded in people's lives.

The Internet of Things

  • Ninja Sphere: use a Bluetooth handset to turn on lights as you move through your house. The light switches in your house are controlled on/off. But this breaks down quickly. Lights are not switches -we have more complex relationships with them and our tasks.
  • The Internet is not a set of if/then switches. People need flexibility, we're messy.
  • We need to be building systems that enable us to be human. Not punish us because we are human.
  • We're starting to see a lot of smart devices but each come with its own native application. But apps are not the only tool we have.
  • Just in time interaction: come up to something use, and lose it. Lots of devices want to talk to you but how do we manage that? Today native apps are the only way to solve this problem bit this won't last.
  • When you loose the idea of apps, it frees you up to think about smaller things. Through a URL-based discovery system, we can.
  • Web-based discovery system: discovery, ranking, and interacting. This bridges the gap between Web and physical devices.
  • This kind of system only works if people are using it together. Everyone needs to cooperate, which takes a lot of time.
  • The Internet of Things will have exponential growth, no one company can own it all. It will change everything.
  • Through open hardware and crowd-sourced models, we can develop a system that works together.