August 07, 2012
Speaking Engagements in 2012
I’m excited to announce a three new speaking engagements scheduled for me over the remainder of 2012, in London, Chicago and Delhi, respectively.
First off, I’ll be be speaking in London at the August ProductTank meetup on Wednesday, August 15. ProductTank is a group which produces a global series of collaborative, user organized “unconferences”, focused on Product Management and Marketing topics. London was the first and is the largest currently active group.
The topic for the night is Strategic UX, featuring me and two other speakers. Mike Atherton, Head of UX at Huddle, will talk about branding for start-ups from a strategic and UX perspective. Leisa Reichelt, UX Consultant, coordinates the London UX Bookclub, UX Bootcamp and UX Tuesday (accessible UX expertise for startups) will talk about Strategic User Experience. I am considering a redux of my 3 Myths of Customer Experience talk given I’ve had a load of positive feedback on it. Alternatively, I may share some thoughts on how Strategic UX relates to product portfolio planning. I’ll finalize this over this weekend. There will then be a short panel discussion and Q&A with all three speakers. If you haven’t signed up yet, it would seem you’re out of luck as all 120 spots are taken with a wait list of 148.
Then-student David Kodinsky, modeling
Second, I’ve agreed to travel back to Chicago to teach Rapid Experience Modeling at the IIT Institute of Design this October as a one week intercession course. I’ve taught the class the past two years and my students’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Rapid XMOD is an immersion course focused on “Experience Modeling”. This critical part of the practice at the Institute of Design differentiates the school and is core to design-led innovation. The course is “Rapid” because there is an emphasis placed on developing a comfort with quickly creating different experience models–both heuristic and generative–to describe the world, problems and opportunities. Models are created each day on a particular “Aspect of the Experience” with heavy critique and discussion in class and in smaller group sessions. The ultimate goal is to push students to be more confident in describing and illustrating the “Experience” from all critical perspectives. To teach the course, I will be in Chicago for the week of October 15 - 19. Ping me if you’re in Chicago and are interested in meeting up.
Fellow IIT Institute of Design ProfessorAnijo Mathew speaking at CII-NID 2011
Finally, I will be keynoting India’s largest design conference, the 12th annual CII-NID Design Summit scheduled on December 13 & 14 December 2012 in New Delhi. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has been organizing the CII-NID Design Summit for the past 11 years with National Institute of Design (NID). It is a powerful platform that attracts participation from design houses, design institutes, policy makers, media, and industry from India and internationally. It looks to be an inspiring and stimulating global forum set in the Indian context. “Design Doing” is the central theme of the 2012 Summit. I plan on bridging the “Thinking” and “Doing” gap with a discussion of how different approaches, including Hybrid Agile, Test & Pilot and Lean Start-up can all be effective in managing risk and producing ground breaking results.
While in India, I am also excited to be a juror for the 2012 CII Indian Design Excellence Awards. It is only the second year of what will surely become an important recognition of design talent in the second most populous nation on planet Earth. Check out last year’s winners .
August 05, 2012
The Appification of Things: Smart Attributes
Last post, I outlined a series of product-app combinations introducing ubiquitous computing to our world: The Appification of Things. Further in the future, we can hope for embedded intelligence in environments or objects to be quiet, helping us along through subtle interactions. In the short term though, apps like those we now use everyday will mediate the fuzzy data and intelligence behind products.
There are two primary reasons apps are helpful in regards to our use of smart things. First, we just “get” apps. In fact, we’re so enamored with them on our phones and tablets that it was recently announced that 30 billion apps were downloaded through the Apple iTunes appstore alone. This works out to a remarkable 5 apps downloaded per person in the entire world, if everyone owned an iOS device. This doesn’t count the explosions of app downloads across the Android, Amazon and Windows mobile platforms. I don’t believe there is anyone who could argue that trends support more, not less, apps are coming.
Second, apps allow us introduce a set of “smart attributes” which help humans interact more successfully with products. These are the ways in which apps extend a smart product or, in the words of Mike Kunaviasky, provide “services” to “avatars”. When creating smart products and companion apps, be sure to consider and embed these five smart attributes.
Five Smart Attributes:
Measurement - Apps reveal Measurement of human behavior and activity tracked by smart objects. An example is how Nike’s FuelBand uses a series of accelerometers to measure movements which are then translated through “oxygen kinetics” to a variety of data. These include steps, calories and Fuel on the band itself but the band, as often with smart objects, has a limited display. A much larger and longitudinal data set is communicated through Nike’s various iOS and web apps than the device itself.
Visualization - Visualization is key to making the measurement of data really useful. The Nest Learning Thermostat’s iOS and Android apps are visual and informative, delivering energy use in a format that can make anyone a conservationist.
Optimization - Building on both Measurement and Visualization, apps should help us modify behavior and activity. By setting goals in context of longitudinal data, our app-enabled smart products help us Optimize outcomes and results. The VitaDock app and related smart object product line by Medisana is an especially interesting example as it rolls Measurement and Visualization of a suite of health measures into a single interface. These currently include blood pressure, weight, blood sugar and temperature monitoring with goal tracking a part of most. As Medisana says on their website, “By setting your own target values, (you’ll) receive helpful feedback with each measurement.”
Communication - Given the need for display of Measurement beyond limited displays, Visualization and assistance with Optimization, it should be apparent that it’s irrelevant to deliver “smarts” to an object without Communication. The reality is that we need our objects to send and receive messages. Apps can help us facilitate this communication. Twine is a fantastic example as the device itself has no display and isn’t automatically connected to anything. Instead, it achieves Communication through a web app called Spool, which allows you to put together rules to trigger messages with a palette of available conditions and actions. Sensors enable a range of Measurement while Communication is delivered through a suite of pre-built actions, firing off messages via:
- Pebble E-Paper Watch
- Text messaging
- Configurable HTTP Request
Distribution - Delivering Connection as an api with a single web app, as Twine does, might be enough for tinkerers. In reality though, the general population is looking for more fully developed offerings. Given customers and users own a wide variety of devices, this justifies Distribution of an app across a range of platforms. Withings Body Scale just does that as it monitors your entire family’s weight and then distributes the data across iOS and Android devices as well as the web.
These examples of smart objects and their related apps are by no means the final word in ubiquitous computing, but they do represent its first wave delivered at scale. Smart objects on their own are just too obscure and too opaque. Providing companion apps embedded with Smart Attributes helps mediate the fuzziness of the intelligence in things.
April 10, 2012
First Thought: The Appification of Things
There has been a ton written and talked about ubiquitous and pervasive computing. Most notably, Mike Kuniavsky’s thoughtful series of talks, blog posts and his book Smart Things provide the most complete overview of where the smart object world is headed. At its heart, our world of things is becoming more connected as the things themselves gain sense and intelligence. At this point, it’s a matter of “how and when” rather than “if” this will happen.
Recently, we’ve also seen a wellspring of articles from main street publications like Wall Street Journal to tech rags like Tech Crunch discussing the rise of “Appification”, eg. to modify a service to make an “app” of it. Apple recently gave away a $10,000 iTunes (App store) gift card to Chunli Fu of Qingdao, China to celebrate its 25 billionth! app download. Revenue for all mobile app stores in 2011 was pegged at $3.8 billion. Looking forward, research firm IDC projects total annual mobile app downloads–Apple’s combined with those from Microsoft, Google, Amazon and other app stores–to jump to over 182 billion by 2015. Just yesterday, the Instagram social mobile photo app was acquired for $1 billion by Facebook. Let’s face it: apps are successful by any measure.
In fact, it’s becoming clear to me that the “Appification of Things” will be the first wave of truly ubiquitous computing. People’s comfort and engagement with apps takes the fuzzy, intangible notions of pervasive computing or smart objects and makes them gettable, tangible and personal. It’s a natural, incremental step in a larger shift. Let’s look at a few product announcements from the last several months to illustrate.
Nike led the charge back in 2006 with its introduction of Nike+ sensor and iPod kit. We didn’t realize at the time that this was just the tip of the “Appification of Things” iceberg. 2012 has revealed the extent to which Nike is looking to pervade our lives with Nike+ Fuel (band), Nike+ Training and Nike+ Basketball. Nike’s Fuel measure and wristband product looks to make the measurement of daily general activity while its Training and Basketball speciality offerings look to make activity measurement smarter and more effective for specific sports. Having just spent my first week as a proud owner of a Nike Fuel band, my own behavior is a prime example of how smart objects help us change behavior: I haven’t taken the elevator at work since wearing the band; I make a conscious decision to walk home on occasion. We could expect Nike to continue releasing products with built in measurement integrated with apps which enable owners to talk to their sporting equipment, and by proxy, their bodies–the appification of sport products.
In October of last year, there was a huge announcement in the world of thermostats, which is a bit bizarre given it’s the world of thermostats. The reason? It was reported that famed iPod creator Tony Fadell wanted to reinvent the HVAC industry with the introduction of the Nest Learning Thermostat. A smart app-connected home-heating controller, Nest learns the tendencies of its owners, programs itself and, ultimately, helps owners save energy. While Nest is a beautiful object and can be used solely by itself, it becomes more capable and more aware when accessed through its suite of Web, iOS and Android apps. As the company itself says, “its apps now give you more control, more info and easier access.” It’s the appification of home HVAC products.
A month later, in November, two MIT grads1 behind a company called Supermechanical announced a Kickstarter project dubbed “Twine: Listen to your world, talk to the Internet.” With a small, rubbery piece of hardware connected to a variety of sensors–temperature, moisture, movement, etc.–and a related “Spool” web app, Twine makes it super easy for the marginally geeky to connect our everyday objects to the Internet. Initially looking for a goal of $35,000 in funding to get their project off the ground, the inventors were astounded when they took in more than $556,500–the third highest Kickstarter total ever at the time. This type of demand for an offering which is explicitly created to connect basic physical products or aspects of our home, shows how much appetite exists in the appification of things.
German Medisana launched their first appified products last year but were only covered widely in the English-speaking press in the last month or so. Their VitaDock family of offerings “visualizes your health.” Specifically, they offer blood pressure monitors, body scales, blood sugar monitors and thermometers. Each product connects to a free associated VitaDock iOS app which aggregates data across these various measurement devices across days, weeks and months. While there are programs to help keep track of these details manually, appifying the products themselves allows us to do it fluidly with little effort. Rather than focus on measurement and cataloguing, we can put it where it belongs: behavior change. I predict the Quantified Self movement will have a wave of popularity off the back of these appified products. Many users won’t really even know they’ve joined the
Finally, I learned about the French company Withings last week when a friend posted excitedly about a new baby monitor he had purchased. The company, a competitor to Medisana, looks to be doing great things with products like connected body scales, blood pressure monitors, baby monitors and soon, a baby scale.
Withings’ vision statement is worth a read:
After modifying our daily relationship with the computer with the web, then with telephony and television services with telephony and television on IP, permanent broadband access to internet networks opens the way to a profound revolution of everyday objects. Increasing the capacities of an object by network resources is giving it access to infinite calculation and storage capacities without increasing the cost. The object's interfaces are also ported to appliances like mobile phones or computers, to benefit from their resources. The everyday object thus sees its performance increased tenfold, its user interface and design improved, and enters an ecosystem of permanently connected appliances.
Withings’ founders get it. It’s not just “connecting” an object that matters but also porting an object’s interfaces in the form of apps to really enable connectedness. It’s the appification of home health products.
Nike, Nest, Twine, Medisana and Withings: five examples illustrating the first era of truly pervasive computing–the Appification of Things. Apps mediate the fuzzy data behind the things themselves to help humans interact more successfully with their products and also with each other. More specifically, apps introduce a set of “ smart attributes” to physical offerings which would not otherwise be easily accessed. Smart attributes which enable us to understand and change our behavior include: measurement, visualization, optimization, distribution and connection. Next week, I’ll unpack these attributes in more detail and illustrate their importance.
1 Full disclosure: One of the two inventors of Twine, John Kestner, was a colleague of mine at the IIT Institute of Design where we worked on the User Insights Tool project together. Here he is (on the right) inspecting some work with another colleague of ours, Enric: John at the IIT Institute of Design. John, where’s my Twine?!
March 06, 2012
First Thought: Apple’s Move in Financial Services
Apple has made a lot of noise in becoming the biggest, most watched company in the land. One by one, the little fruit computing company that could has made end runs on the titans of industries including music (iPod/iTunes), mobile phones (iPhone/Appstore) and personal computing (iPad/iCloud). Many believe a similar end run on the television market is right around the corner, maybe even as soon as tomorrow. In each case, a similar story unfolds.
A rumor suggesting Apple will introduce some innovative product circulates through the technology press. Endless speculation ensues about this or that iProduct. Occasionally, the rumored product is indeed launched to much fanfare. Tech pundits decree the iProduct in the following week as either category changing or, not good enough. A year later, competitors respond with copies, half-hearted attempts to deliver Apple value with marginal, complimentary benefits (eg. barely lower prices or so-called “openness”), and after another year hilarious quotes are dug up to illustrate how out of touch these CEO’s really are. The story ends with Apple skewering an industry with the major players never really even understanding what was happening until it was too late. Thus, the end run is complete.
Right now, everyone is focused on the iPad3 as well as the rumored iTV. Both are huge announcements so the focus is warranted. Given its explosive growth and the potential for tablets to actually surpass PC’s in units sold by the end of 2013, iPad3 is expected to be another blockbuster hit. The next version of Apple’s TV “hobby”–whether an incremental AppleTV or the hyped iTV–should be another deft step showing that even the biggest company in the world can dance. Of course this news is important.
But what if the world, while obsessed with tablets and TV’s, missed Apple’s moves in an even bigger game, namely, financial services?
Consider this image for a patent–the iWallet–which was granted to Apple today:
Apple seems to have developed a set of patents critical to how people will make payments on mobile devices in the future, while keeping in mind the 220M+ credit-card enabled iTunes account holders that aregrowing exponentially. The logical next step is pretty astounding: Apple should be at the heart, or taking a cut, of every mobile transaction. Their IP will force the issue while their massive customer base greases the gears.
I’ve worked with enough financial services clients to know this type of end run on their bread and butter is absolutely unthinkable. Banks and credit card companies are just too big, too old and too profitable to believe anyone but the government could unseat them. Big financial services look at the Simple banks of the world and they just don’t see a threat.
But what if Apple provided all of the function—mobile payment, connecting the dots between different accounts, integrating with a set of financial services “smart rules” and an already impressive ecosystem—in everyday financial transactions while banks themselves just provided accounts? In this world, it would be easy to see how Simple really could become a viable alternative. What if Apple worked with Simple to make it really easy to open an account launched from iTunes?
We’ve seen Square go from nothing to processing sales for $4 billion worth of goods in just two years. This disruptive innovation is possible because it sits on the back of the massively successful iOS hardware and app infrastructure. Is it so much of a leap to imagine how this could extend further to consumers and our everyday experience?
Maybe this is all just a bit of fantasy fueled by a few disconnected bits of news and some crazy late night thinking. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the game no one is talking about Apple playing.
February 22, 2012
3 Myths of Customer Experience
I recently gave a presentation at an event organized by the the UK Usability Professionals’ Association. The event, focused on UX & Strategy, featured talks by Tom Wood from Foolproof UX, noted speaker and UX professional Leisa Reichelt as well as myself. Tom and Liesa outlined their thoughts on the definition of experience strategy and how it could (or couldn’t) be successful in companies today. With luck, they’ll both post their presentations soon.
I presented a related set of ’3 Myths of Customer Experience’ which sought to address some of the biggest red herrings in UX today. Ultimately, I want to turn ’myths’ into ’truths’ and introduce my definition of Experience Strategy as well as the critical notion of the ’Aspects of the Experience’. I took the time to record a voice over for the presentation and enabled a “Screencast” within Slideshare. The total running time is just under 18 minutes. Tweet me if you have any comments or questions. Cheers.
References made within 3 Myths of Customer Experience:
You Can’t Design Experiences
Can Experience be Designed? by Oliver Reichenstein
Why User Experience Cannot Be Designed by Helge Fredheim
USER-EXPERIENCE CAN’T BE DESIGNED by MAGIA3E
Free Download: All icons from This is Service Design
Nothing is New
Everything is a Remix by Kirby Ferguson
Patent by Telautograph on Free Patents Online
Separated at Birth? by Jim Edwards on c|net
What is iPad? by Apple
What is Newton? by Apple
Creating Value through Experience Strategy & Service Design
The Business Case For (Or Against) Service Design by Brandon Schauer
Experience Strategy & Modeling
Five Questions to Build a Strategy by Roger Martin
Experience Modeling by Margaret Morris and Arnie Lund (from Sapient)
E-Lab by Christine Canabou
Boundary Objects entry on Wikipedia
IIT Institute of Design in Chicago, USA
SapientNitro, my employer and pioneer in Experience Modeling