And it is usually only once these issues arise do we hear from the quite understandably irate consumer, wondering why their relatively new piece of kit has stopped working. Or has fallen apart. Or is on fire. Or shooting lasers.
This extended consumer stress testing is important to the entire design process, but we only hear about it when it is all too late. Hopefully the continued advent of Internet of Things ready devices will begin to stem the consumer side failures, and enable designers to plan a little better for the future.
Here at Hawkshead Designs we push ourselves to deliver products that stand the test of time, using versatile technologies and materials to keep customer devices ticking over for years. If we haven’t heard from you, we rest safe in the knowledge our device is doing its job properly.
At the same time, there is little-to-no feedback loop once the device has left our property, leaving us little indication of a product’s performance in the field. This is true for many product design companies. But the Internet of Things should put a stop to that.
As more and more devices, including products we design come online, we are much better placed to track all manner of variables, gaining invaluable data we can use to push the performance higher, make individual aspects of a design stronger, or faster, or smaller, or bigger, or generally monitor just what a device is doing.
But the IoT isn’t just about monitoring feedback at headquarters. The whole idea of the Internet of Things is for devices to understand the data available to it, and to react accordingly. In one example, we might see an irrigation system altering its flow for the following day after receiving an updated weather report, and feedback from moisture detection sensors on the ground. In another, we might see a racing bike (this already happens!) covered with sensors, analysing a cyclist’s movements, speeds, energy consumed, gear ratios, and plenty more, all being fed back to a central location for immediate analysis. The rider can then tweak their performance on the move, instead of waiting for the post-race debrief.
The Internet of Things will alter our relationships with those networked devices, turning them from one off consumable products into direct clients, feeding back information to a server, for us to tweak. It is a massive opportunity.
There is only one stark downside to networking our entire lives: security. Each device that comes online offers an attacker opportunity for malevolent activity. An irrigation system brought online could fall victim to a hack, resulting in a loss of device control, and potentially destruction of property. It is a careful line to walk.
However, even with the thought of malevolent devices, the IoT flow is a somewhat irrepressible tide that most companies, including Hawkshead Designs, want to be part of. What is key is understanding the changing requirements of the market, of the products, of the way consumers want to use those products, and where those products might end up.
Image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net.