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The Internet of Useless Things (and how to avoid it)
With the rapid growth of technologies the #IoT is upon us. There is a danger though, that many of those objects will be useless. This is an introduction into how to develop a brand IoT strategy and how to avoid the useless things. This is an ongoing project and more slides will be added!
The Internet of Useless Things (and how to avoid it)
AND HOW TO AVOID IT
I’ve been working with digital channels for over 21 years. I help brands
and advertising agencies developing strategies for innovation (and
general brand stuff). When I’m not doing that, I’m a Senior Lecturer in
Future Media at BCU.
You can follow me on Twitter (@brillthings) or feel free to visit my blog,
> What is the IoT?
> Understanding the landscape
> Connecting your channels/devices
> Developing your service layer
> Focussing on real problems
WHAT SHOULD GO IN TO AN IoT STRATEGY?
From thermostats to smart
fridges and roboDc vacuum
THE TERM IOT WAS FIRST TOUTED BY KEVIN ASHTON, IN 1999. It’s more than just machine to
machine communicaDons. It’s about ecosystems of objects that form relevant connecDons to people and
other objects. In the last few years big corporaDons such as Cisco or IBM have picked up on the IoT term
(just as MicrosoW jumped on the Internet). However, regardless of who is trying to ‘own’ the name, it’s a
useful term to describe the world of connected and wearable devices that’s emerging.
smart glasses, smart fabrics.
We even have smart
headbands and caps
Driven by roboDcs and AI,
the IoT is already having a
massive impact on industry
Google are not the only ones
building self-‐driving cars. We
also have shipping & of
course there are the drones
It’s not just Oculus RiW, many
new displays and interaDons
will be appearing, including
gesture control and hapDc
Connected health is already
here, thanks to companies
such as Withings and
Scanadu, but it is an area for
WHAT IS THE INTERNET OF THINGS?
1980s Casio TV
Sound responsive T-‐shirt
Training Heart Rate Monitor
(who needs a Fitbit?)
(popular with bouncers and taxi drivers)
TV Hat (not a
computer, but it’s
FOR YEARS …
… THE DIFFERENCE IS THIS
CONNECTED OBJECTS AND WEARABLE
COMPUTING HAS BEEN AROUND FOR A
WHILE. The principles are not so new but
the rise of cheap compuDng has allowed our
devices to be come more communicaDve.
Why all the hype about the IoT?
The real change is that we have powerful
pocket computers (smartphones) that can
connect all this stuﬀ in a more meaningful
IT’S NOT JUST
LOW COST SCREENS
THE IoT IS ALSO BEING
DRIVEN BY sensors, new
forms of rapid development
(yup, 3D prinDng) not to
menDon new crowd sourcing
THIS IS A SIMPLE SOLUTION FROM
THE IoT ACCADEMY. It uses sensors in
child buggies to monitor the air quality in
ciDes. By crowd sourcing the data, it can
idenDfy areas with higher levels of
poluDon such as parDculates or Nitrogen
Dioxide. GPS tracking sensors and a
connecDon to smartphones would upload
the data to an app. It allows both
individuals to avoid areas of poor quality
air and also provide data to local
authoriDes to manage the problem.
EXAMPLE: USING SENSORS BUGGY AIR
A WORLD OF USELESS OBJECTS?
50% OF FITNESS TRACKERS ARE NOT USED
50% OF FITNESS BANDS ARE NO LONGER USED*. These are not central computing devices, so there’s a risk that even the Apple Watch
will only been worn for the first few months. I compare this to the sandwich toaster. How many people have one that they used for a
while then put it in a cupboard and forgot about it? That could be the future for many IoT devices.
LOOKING FOR A
BUT THE INTERNET FRIDGE IS TYPICAL
OF WHERE THE IoT IS GOING WRONG.
What problems does it actually solve? I have
an iPad for recipes and knowing how much
milk I have is not really a life-‐changing
Moore’s Law (technically not a law, but a
guide), suggests that COMPUTING POWER
grows exponenDally. The problem is that
humans ﬁnd it hard to grasp the concept of
exponenDal. The technology grows faster
that society, even faster than business and
much much faster than governments.
How do we close that gap? Downs talked
about ‘The Killer App’, but the thing that
allows society and business to manage
technological change is INNOVATION (more
on that later).
[Downes L., Harnessing the New Forces that
Govern Life and Business in the Digital Age,
TECH IS MOVING FASTER THAN PEOPLE
ALOT OF HYPE
It’s important to remember that there’s
a lot of hype around this stuff. Don’t be
scared by people saying the IoT, Big
Data, wearables or AI are ‘the next big
thing’. They probably have no idea
GARTNER HYPE CYCLE: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918
BUT NO ONE
HOW BIG THE
IoT WILL BE
HOW BIG? PredicDons suggest
anywhere from 20bn-‐100bn
connected objects. Two things
are certain – there’s going to be
many connected things and no
one knows how many things
there will be.
REAL INNOVATION TAKES TIME
INNOVATION IS A PROCESS. Bill Buxton from
MicrosoW talked about THE LONG NOSE OF
INNOVATION. Here’s the point … it’s like the disrupDon
curve. InnovaDon takes Dme. It requires development,
tesDng and honing. There isn’t a light bulb moment.
Take the mouse (the computer mouse, that is). It was
ﬁrst invented in the 1960s by Douglas Engelbart at SRI.
Xerox then got hold of the concept and worked on it at
PARC. Then Apple got their mits on it in the 80s, and not
long aWer than, created the Mac. Then it got tracDon
and everything had a mouse.
GREAT EXAMPLE OF
THE LONG NOSE OF INNOVATION
‘APPLE DIDN’T INVENT ANYTHING’. Puong aside the 1000s of patents that
they have, Apple don’t actually invent new things. The iPhone is a great example
of how the company pulled many exisDng innovaDons together -‐ mobile
compuDng, accelerometers and touch screens. Nokia were playing with touch
screens over a decade earlier but the innovaDon never took oﬀ. Before the
iPhone, we sDll had bucons on phones. Blackberry had them. So did the Google
G1. Then Apple showed how it could be done by delivering it in one well-‐
designed package. Try ﬁnding a smartphone with bucons these days.
ANYONE CAN BUILD IoT DEVICES
THERE ARE MANY EXAMPLES OF HOW START-‐UPS HAVE BUILT DEVICES, FROM PEBBLE SMARTWATCHES
TO OCULUS RIFT. This example shows how simple it is. The ﬁtness band for pets came from a problem – many
dogs and cats are overweight because they are fed too much. By monitoring them against their size and breed, the
ﬁtness band can deliver the right feeding programme via an app. It was developed by sourcing the accelerometer
etc from China, 3D prinDng a case and then puong the concept on Indiegogo. The proposal won enough money to
take it to prototype stage and as a demonstraDon to VCs of the product’s viability.
WITH THE PROLIFERATION OF DEVICES, INDIVIDUALS WILL HAVE THEIR OWN PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY
ECOSYSTEM. It means that we can understand the audience based on their unique set of devices. For example,
Nest owners might be young families with environmental concerns, Oculus RiW users could be gamers, those using
smart glasses are likely to be in technical roles. [These are just examples and not real personas]. By mapping out
these ecosystems we can understand each users needs and aspiraDons.
BUSINESSES NEED TO UNDERSTAND THE USER
THE TWETTLEA TWEETING KETTLE
HELLO CUBETHE TWEETING SCULPTURE
THE PIANOTHAT TWEETS
WHY TWITTER? Since the earliest days of the channel, innovators have seen the potenDal of connecDng objects to 140 character message.
It is a simple way to create engagement The Twecle concept, for example was developed in 2010 There are simple APIs that let the
machines broadcast themselves and it anyone, anywhere can respond. It takes objects beyond the conﬁnes of their physical space into
A good example of art, meets engagement. Hellicar
and Lewis bult this sculpture for the Turbine Hall in
The Tate Modern. hcp://www.thehellocube.com/
A silly idea with a serious intent. Cats take their own
picture which is Tweeted on a #catselﬁe tag. It’s a
fun way to show cats aviailable for adopDon.
This was a concept from a few years ago. Pointless? A
licle, but the idea was to tell a whole oﬃce that it had
boiled, thus saving Dme and energy
An interesDng art project. You make and send
messages on Twicer by playing the piano!
TWITTER CONNECTS THE IoT
BRITISH developer TOM COATES is
based in the US and has created a
TweaDng house @houseofcoates . Things
such as lights, plants and rooms will
Tweet depending on what happens.
People even have conversaDons with the
house. Weird? Not really. As humans we
like to anthropomorphize things. Robots
are increasingly used by the military. The
soldiers can get so acached to them that
they’ll even risk their lives for them. THE IoT NEEDS A PERSONALITY!
AN OS FOR
ESSENTIALLY THE IoT IS ABOUT CONNECTIONS.
One area that is likely to become a bacle ground are
IoT operaDng systems. Unlike mobile, where a
proprietary OS is straight forward, the job of an IoT
OS is to connect a fragmented landscape.
Google’s Brillo is one of the major challengers, but
IoT. but there are big players including Samsung,
MicrosoW, Cisco and mobile chip manufacturer,
ARM. There are also a growing number of start-‐ups
and open source projects such as ConDki, Riot,
Onion.io or Thing Worx.
A superb example of that is IFTTT. Many people will be familiar with this service layer app
for cross posting. But it does much more than that. IFTTT can also connect across devices
such as Nest or Fitbit without the need for complicated programming. [ifttt.com]
WE CAN CONNECT
AN IoT FOR COWS
THE ‘BOVINE WEB’ IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHERE THE IoT IS GOING.
Cows are given heat sensors and connected via a GSM device.
When the cow is ready for insemination it can notify the farmer
with their location. It has increased calf production by 66%. I call
it ‘The Bovine Web’.
CONNECTS THE IoT
CONNECTED VEHICLES IS ONE EXAMPLE
OF THE IoT. It’s not just about Google Maps
in cars. When Tesla found a soWware fault
with their vehicle rather than an expensive
and PR damaging recall, they simply
updated the car’s operaDng system over the
APPS TO DELIVER THE SERVICE LAYER
IoT STRATEGY #4
Back to The Law of DisrupDon … Larry
Downs suggests that the gap created by
the laws of disrupDon can be solved by
ﬁnding the KILLER APPLICATION. Not
necessarily one for an iPhone or Apple
Watch, but funcDons and uses that
THE KILLER APP?
-‐ -‐-‐ Innovation
SO HOW WILL
DEAL WITH IT?
LET’S MAKE AN
APPLE WATCH APP
THERE’S A DANGER THAT BRANDS
WILL PUT TECHNOLOGY FIRST. If
brands only see the IoT as a markeDng
opportunity then we’ll end up with
useless Apple Watch Apps. It’ll be just
like the ‘me too’ days of the early
There’s a great paper from Tim Dunn on
how brands should do the Apple Watch
(see the reference secDon at the end).
MANY EARLY SMARTWATCH APPS SIMPLY COPY THE
SMARTPHONE VERSION. Just downsizing for a smaller screen isn’t
enough. Geong my phone out my pocket is not a major problem in
my life. With other smart devices use and context are very
MOST SUCCESFUL SMARTPHONE APPS COME FROM
STARTUPS. Whilst we ﬁrst marvelled at popping bubble wrap on an
iPhone, we’ve moved way beyond that. It’s not even about UX. It’s
about an app as part of a service that connects the world around us.
AirBnB books more rooms than the Hilton Group. Waze is used in
Brazil to avoid police roadblocks. Depop is revoluDonising the way
we buy and sell vintage items. And then there’s Uber. Like it or not
(and many don’t), Uber is successfully connecDng us the physical
world through their app. That’s the IoT.
IDENTIFY THE REAL PROBLEM
TAKE THE CONNECTED WASHING MACHINE. TexDng me to
tell me the spin cycle has ﬁnished is useful. But what I’d really
like is a washing machine that can dry, iron, fold the clothes and
put them away in the wardrobe.
BUT THAT’S NOT THE REAL PROBLEM. The challenge is
washing our clothes. Why don’t we have materials that don’t
need washing? Perhaps we could just shake them and the dirt
and the smells just disappear?
[In other words, the IoT doesn’t solve everything].
EXAMPLE: MEET BRAD THE TOASTER
BRAND LOOKS LIKE AN ORDINARY
TOASTER. But he’s an IoT toaster (and
a very anthropomorphic one, at that). It
was an art school project. Rather than
TweeDng to tell us the toast is ready,
he does something far more useful. If
he isn’t used for a while he simply puts
himself up for sale on eBay – that’s one
way around The Internet of Useless
Things. It also highlights how licle we
use the products we own.
IoT FOR CLOTHES
BRAD SHOWS HOW MANY THINGS
WE DON’T USE. Here’s a problem. We
all have far too many clothes. We don’t
wear them enough (and clothing
manufacturing is a massive drain on
resources). What if our unworn clothes
could oﬀer themselves for sale,
automaDcally? Maybe we could have
‘smarthangers’. If we didn’t take them
out the cupboard for a while they would
contact a charity who would send a bag
to return the list of unwanted clothes?
Nivea Protection Wristband
SOME BRANDS GET IT
NIVEA’S CONNECTED WRIST BAND
IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF BRANDS
DVELOPING FOR THE IoT. This simple
device was a paper wrist band
(distributed via print ads) that
contained a beacon device. Parents
could put it on their children’s wrists
and using an app, they could see where
they were on the beach. If the child
strayed out of range (around 40m) it
set oﬀ an alarm on the phone.
Disney Magic Band
EXAMPLE: A COMPLETE IoT EXPERIENCE
DISNEY’S MAGIC BAND IS A
$1BN INVESTMENT IN A
The band arrives before the
park visit and does everything
from accessing rides to paying
in restaurants. It also has the
user locaDon, so aWer
ordering food, the server
knows where they are siong.
And of course, there’s no bill
to wait for as payment is
automaDcally made via the
THE SIGNIFICANT IMPACT OF
ALL THESE CONNECTED
DEVICES IS DATA. It’s not
enough to think of the IoT as a
series of devices that can talk to
each other, or people. The
opportunity is understanding
how we can use the vast amount
of data being generated. Brands
might think it’s about customer
informaDon, but the key here are
the anonomysied data points.
The big data (if you prefer that
WHAT IF WE HARNESS DATA FOR GOOD?
WHAT IF WE HARNESS THAT
DATA FOR GOOD? One example
is with the spread of infecDous
diseases, such as Ebola. The
diseases spread as people travel.
What if we can track the
movement of mobile phones?
Then we can see where the
disease will next appear. It could
also be used in disaster areas – by
knowing how many phones were
in the area before and how many
have leW, then rescue services will
no the number of people they are
BUGGY AIR -‐ hcp://iotacademy.org/#/buggyair
IOT ACADEMY -‐ hcp://iotacademy.org
TELSA -‐ hcp://www.wired.com/2014/02/teslas-‐air-‐ﬁx-‐best-‐example-‐yet-‐internet-‐things/
BOVINE WEB -‐ hcp://www.ibDmes.co.uk/connected-‐cacle-‐how-‐wearables-‐cloud-‐help-‐farmers-‐get-‐their-‐cows-‐pregnant-‐1499220
CONNECTED COWS -‐ hcp://blog.iiconsorDum.org/2015/01/staying-‐connected-‐through-‐cows.html
BRAD THE TOASTER -‐ hcp://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2014-‐03/18/addicted-‐toaster
HELLO CUBE -‐ http://www.tate.org.uk/context-‐comment/blogs/hello-‐cube-‐tate-‐modern
THE TWEETING PIANO – hcps://vimeo.com/73105181
DISNEY MAGIC BAND -‐ hcp://www.wired.com/2015/03/disney-‐magicband/
NIVEA WRIST BAND -‐ hcp://www.adweek.com/adfreak/nivea-‐magazine-‐ad-‐really-‐protects-‐removable-‐bracelet-‐tracks-‐your-‐child-‐beach-‐157490
THE GARTNER HYPE CYCLE -‐ hcp://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2819918
INDUSTRY ESTIMATES FOR DEVICE ADOPTION -‐ hcp://www.ironpaper.com/webintel/arDcles/internet-‐things-‐market-‐staDsDcs-‐2015/
UNUSED FITNESS BANDS -‐ hcp://www.techrepublic.com/arDcle/wearables-‐have-‐a-‐dirty-‐licle-‐secret-‐most-‐people-‐lose-‐interest/
FITNESS BANDS HAVE PEAKED -‐ hcps://wtvox.com/2015/04/report-‐smartwatch-‐ownership-‐rises-‐at-‐a-‐quick-‐pace/
SOLDIERS BECOME ATTACHED TO THEIR ROBOTS:
Ideas & Concepts
THE LONG NOSE OF INNOVATION –
LAWS OF DISRUPTION -‐ hcp://larrydownes.com/the-‐laws-‐of-‐disrupDon/
PREDICTING THE FUTURE OF THINGS -‐ hcp://www.oinc.com/object/me-‐zogbi-‐20140109.html
SMARTWATCHES -‐ hcp://brandsandinnovaDon.com/2015/03/27/are-‐smartwatches-‐the-‐new-‐sandwich-‐toaster/
APPLE WATCH STRATEGY -‐ hcp://usblog.isobar.com/2015/03/10/apple-‐watch-‐will-‐change-‐human-‐behavior-‐2015/
THE INTERNET FRIDGE -‐ hcp://fuckyeahinternezridge.tumblr.com/
MAKER MONDAY -‐ hcp://makermondaybrum.tumblr.com/
Connec>ng the IoT
IFTT – iWc.com
THINGWORX -‐ hcp://www.thingworx.com/
CONTIKI -‐ hcp://www.conDki-‐os.org/
ONION.IO -‐ hcps://onion.io/
RIOT -‐ hcp://www.riot-‐os.org/
POSTSCAPES -‐ hcp://postscapes.com/internet-‐of-‐things-‐soWware-‐guide
EMBED -‐ hcp://mbed.com/