It’s rare that UX and IoT/M2M are part of the same equation. If you work with a team on IoT solutions, the discussion will tend to focus on sensors, devices, data collection, data transmission, analytics and real time processing. But without UX in IoT, any scalable, fault-tolerant, and rugged solution will fail to drive business value. What’s the point in collecting, storing and presenting information if it cannot be understood, actioned swiftly, and produce business benefits?
The key to any successful IoT solution development and implementation is to add “experience.” While designing, we should ask customers:
- Who will be the users of this system – internally, externally, by category, role or demographics?
- What does the customer journey map look like?
- How will users access the system and for what purpose?
- Covering Data Security and privacy in terms of who has access to what data?
- What processes will be impacted?
- What are the KPI’s and SLA’s that may be impacted and/or improved by the solution?
We have seen perfectly-created and working solutions fail because users can’t efficiently or easily interact with them – or worse, are mystified by them. Often the intention of the business is lost because the information provided to users is unsuitable or not in alignment.
For example, in an equipment service management organization, the information and interaction expectations for a dashboard serving a Spare Parts Manager would be very different from those expected for a Service Manager, Service Engineer or end consumer.
A Spare Parts Manager may want to better manage a spare parts inventory and capitalize on up-sell opportunities based on real time equipment data trends. A Service Engineer would want to view real time parameters, historical data, and seamless upgrades.
A properly designed system for a Service Engineer would actually give him all the current information and historical information about the device on the field and information on how to fix it when needed. Ideally, engineers should be able to fix issues and close service tickets directly from the field, using a variety of mechanisms for interactions such as wearables, glass, gestures, or voice. A well-designed UX experience for an engineer offers these possibilities as well as the potential to positively impact downstream by reducing operational service costs and increasing customer experience and loyalty.
The UX is not just about creating better user interfaces. It covers the entire spectrum, including front end, backend, and individual devices, which should run in perfect synchronization. This is important both for devices which require user interaction and those which run autonomously. An example of an excellent UX experience would be in the area of software upgrades. End users would benefit by a faster and easier update processes, faster availability of new features, and reduced downtime. In order to achieve this, user interactions and interfaces should be simple and systems should be fault tolerant and quick. Additionally, devices which involve user interactions at the edge – for example, health monitoring devices, and energy monitoring and control devices – should be designed with usability in mind. Manufactures need to make health care monitoring devices extremely easy for less technical personnel and should consider how much information and in what format should be collected and presented.
So, to build better IoT solutions, include UX in the equation. Keep the user and the “experience” in mind and then determine the solution elements required, the kind of data which should be captured both from devices and IT-OT systems, and what kind of data analytics, data mashup and visualization to create. Building solutions with better UX leads to faster and more successful uptake by users which equals enhanced customer loyalty. UX-strong solutions are key to at least one and hopefully all levels of transformation for the customers: service, process, and business.