What are the implications for the Internet of Things when the “Things” are human beings?

As was said in a recent New Yorker piece on exploring Mars, “… humans are the wrong stuff. They shouldn’t even be trying to get to another planet. Not only are they fragile, demanding, and expensive to ship; they’re a mess.”

Beyond that, we humans are unreliable; we sometimes don’t take our medicine as prescribed (a leading cause of hospital readmissions), we often don’t follow the instructions, and we don’t always take well to direction.

We play our music too loud, we stay up too late, we don’t always watch what we eat, and we keep missing our workouts.

It may be the IoT when considered from a distance in some cold, dispassionate way, but with human beings involved, it’ll most surely be an Internet of Messy Things – the IoMT.

Enter Gadi Amit, NewDealDesign (“We mix brains, bravery and magic to make people smile”), on the topic of Why the Sensor Explosion Needs Technology Design, which was the Day 2 Keynote at Sensors Expo 2015 (the 30th!) last week in Long Beach, CA.

Listen to Gadi speak and you will look at the IoT, and wearables, in a completely new way – from the humanistic values perspective.

According to Gadi, from the abstract for his talk, “Wearables, Internet of Things, Home Automation, Mobile and Cloud Computing — buzz words, yes — but the now and future of our daily life. Each is melding hardware, software and powerful cloud services into either magical or flat experiences. The difference is in the details; how can you truly understand what will create delight?”

Gadi, with a technology design resume that includes Google Project Ara, Fitbit Fitness Trackers and the Lytro camera, recognizes that applying emotional intelligence to the things in the IoT is just as important as applying rational thinking.

When’s the last time you heard that?

Gadi thinks that products made for human beings — in this case new consumer electronics products based on sensors, the Cloud, and the IoT— should be designed in their heart of hearts to amplify human values and relationships in the end, not dampen them.

According to Gadi, “In order to make sensors and wearables effective you need to think of the humanistic values.”

The reason for that is not just for the altruistic or moral-perspective principles associated with addressing humanistic values; it’s also for purely engineering-driven reasons — to ensure the data coming from the sensor / wearable are quality data on which decisive action can be taken. (Or that can be otherwise monetized – another strong incentive. Maybe the strongest.)

It turns out that well-designed products — in this case sensor-based products in the broad category of wearables — have a self-reinforcing, positive feedback aspect that encourages their correct and consistent use.

Jaguar E Type ImageThere is a beauty to these well-designed things; and seeing, and using, beautiful things elicits a sense of delight in human beings – what Gadi calls “etching the rational with the emotional.”

We keep wanting to press that delightful lever in order to receive our reward.

There’s a balance that has to be maintained in consumer product design; a high emotional quotient needs to accompany the intelligence quotient, and products designed from that perspective will almost naturally be used consistently and correctly and with pleasure, which has the ultimate response of both satisfying the user and ensuring a quality data stream.Apple Watch Image

There’s a real sense of that in the Apple Watch, for example, as there is in other Apple products.  (It comes as no surprise that Apple’s design guru Jony Ive is now Sir Jonathan Ive.)

Who knew achieving success in the sensor-based wearable segment of the IoT is mostly going to be a matter of successfully taming the messy beast in us.

Or, when Gadi has his way, of being a source of such delight.

MIG Award(By the way, our friends over at MEMS Industry Group, along with their partner Freescale Semiconductor, received an award at Sensors 2015 for Innovation as a result of  their ACCELERATED INNOVATION COMMUNITY project – congratulations MIG, congratulations Freescale!)

From Pittsburgh, PA, thanks for reading.  ~PFW

Paul Werbaneth

Paul Werbaneth is a long-time Contributing Editor at 3D InCites. Since entering the semiconductor industry…

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