The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the†term on everybody’s lips for some time now. Still, IoT is currently still an underemployed field of study with regard to Service Design. When Engineering Director, Paul Houghton and UX Designer, Ricardo Brito from
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been the†term on everybody’s lips for some time now. Still, IoT is currently still an underemployed field of study with regard to Service Design. When Engineering Director, Paul Houghton and UX Designer, Ricardo Brito from Futurice searched for tools in order to develop proposals for IoT services they found nothing available to utilise. Recognising a need for such a tool , the developer and designer duo harnessed their creativity to create this helpful framework.
The IoT Service Kit is a cocreative means for exploring usercentric interactive scenarios. Its goal is to merge physical and digital realities into feasible digital services. The Kit supports not only service designers, but multidisciplinary teams too, to develop services at the edge of available technology.
The IoT Service Kit has open source as its core foundation from its very early concept stages. The kit has been developed with the IoT Design Manifesto in mind (h ttp://iotmanifesto.org/) , according to which the goal of IoT design should not be to “only make profits or create robot overlords” but “to use design to help people, communities, and societies thrive”. The IoT Service Kit embraces this code of conduct and thus is available open source as a means to support this manifesto statement. Additionally, the team recognised providing the creative tool via open source was the most viable way to promote it and to stress its modifiability. Service Design teams who use the IoT Service Kit can iterate blueprints and tokens according to diverse client projects’ needs.
After recognising the lack of existing design methods for IoT, the team opted to create a bootstrap solution. The two F†uturiceans†based in Berlin and Helsinki decided to start from scratch whilst using all theoretical means and practical experience they had at hand. In order to tackle the task, the team used an iterative process practiced at F†uturice to assist with Service Design projects called Lean Service Creation (LSC). In accordance with LSC theory the team started a series of iterative cycles of observation, cocreation and prototyping from a user point of view.
After defining the challenges and objectives of the project, the development process started with handson research work. The team divided to create a list of technologies with the potential to drive IoT services, such as different kind of sensors and hardware currently available. While “engineer thinking”†was applied to broaden the list as much as possible, “design thinking”was used to filter and thus reduce the list according to specifications of the featured items, since many could be used interchangeably in certain design contexts. The rough categorisation led toa primary set of information with different subcategories of items potentially able to perform certain functions in an IoT setting.
Inspired by the knowcard of Tina Aspiala designed for student education about IoT, the sub categories were designed as a deck of cards to accompany a board game structure, complete with a game board and tokens. The first round of playing cards featured a twotier interface, first an item’s specifics, touch points etc. and secondly up to four guiding questions aimed at refining the item’s suitability in a user scenario. In subsequent user testing the latter hindered understanding between designers and engineers, and the twotier feature was removed.This prioritisation left only the key information of specifications and considerations on the card in the form of easily scannable bullet points.
The game board design was designed to show the hot spots in the user journey. Over time different maps were created, showcasing different use cases that IoT services might cover, such as the outdoors, depicted by a park in aerial view, shops, buildings, homes etc., in order to represent diverse scenarios and thus to enable the development of all kind of services. The IoT Kit’s tokens were 3Dprinted in order to bring a tangible quality to the kit and also to allow for the open source printing of the tokens. 3Dprinting also allowed users to to download the code for hardware designs and print tokens themselves, which abolishes the need to order hardware pieces from the initial creators.
Next, the Kit was introduced internally and beta testing sessions were held explore its usability. Only after being presented at the Service Experience Camp and within the scope of customer workshops user feedback was validated. The Kit is still in being iterated and has gone through several refining processes. Continuous improvements on the IoT Service Kit are always welcome, and due to its open source character the kit is always seen as in development. Still, a highly workable version of the current kit can be downloaded from GitHub free of charge .
As a first step in their development of a Service Design aid the Futurice team identified three main challenges:
1. Communication In order to tackle
IoT the teaming up of engineering and design experts is vital. Due to differing mindsets and detrimental focus communication between drafting (designers) and building (engineers) staff tends to be hindered.
2. Scope of Technology
For designers it is a challenge to keep up with the constant changes in existing technologies as they are not everyone’s cup of tea. Designers have to be supported to keep track of the limits and abilities of new technologies in order to develop viable new services or products.
During the development of connected services based on IoT one is likely to arrive at an unusually high level of abstraction and speculative designs. That poses a problem because ideas and technical feasibility are often not aligned.
The Kit team addressed the outlined challenges by defining what their service design tool aimed at should be able to do. It should:
● facilitate communication within multidisciplinary service design teams
● turn the abstract level of communication into something tangible and real
● enhance designers’ access to and understanding of technological changes
● visualise entire user journeys contextually, providing an overview of different touchpoints, triggers and actions
Those objectives were mostly met by the presentday outcome product, a methodological tool to support the ideation of IoT concepts. The IoT Service Kit enables designers and engineers to communicate on the same level. Depicting ideas in relation to new IoT services physically by using tokens and maps enables ideation teams to showcase their ideas on a handy small scaled game reality. Testing emerging concepts within a depicted physical reality helps these teams to identify abilities and pain points of services involving high end technology.
The ideation kit comes in the form of a board game including game cards, 3Dprinted tokens and blueprint maps as a play board. The cards are divided into categories such as “sensors”¨ “open data” “interaction” “service” and “ user” Each category contains different items potentially able to fulfil a certain function. Participants of an ideation session can use the items of one group interchangeably and thus easily iterate their service propositions. Due to the tangibility of tokens and cards, ideating teams are motivated “to run around” drawing from a range of technological products or services for the development of IoT services. The printed blueprint maps serve as play boards depicting different scenarios from retail to logistics. The tokens motivate teams to engage in role play during ideation, an ideal basis to understand and consider the users’ perspective.
The rules of the game are easy to grasp. The IoT Service Kit is used by picking a particular context, starting off with a certain map, and then recreating the customer experience around it. Arranging the tokens on the blueprint aids discussion and in turn thus creates a working ground for ideating participants. Ideally, the different depictions created during the discussion about a service draft should be documented in order to be able to draw from them at a later time and to monitor progress.
Using the IoT Service Kit has proven to be a viable tool for fast and productive prototyping in internally as well as externally conducted workshops. It has been presented in the main conference schedule of Service Experience Camp last November in Berlin, The playful and fun character of the board game tool helps to align different experts mindsets and knowledge base, and facilitates conversation and debate in a tangible and productive way. Final outcome of the methodological tool is the depiction of the entire user journey for IoT services. Using the kit provides a clearer overview of the necessary technological frameworks and enables touchpoint management. It also provides suggestions with regard to viable technological substitutes via the cards’ preselected categorisation.
As the IoT Service Kit is available for free and users are encouraged to amend it, the exact number of cases in which it has been in use is unknown. The impact and usability of the IoTService Kit was tested in a vast case study being the conceptual tool for the V örproject (pronounce engl. “VORE”, http://vor.space/) in Finland. In this project the IoT Service Kit helped to create a meaningful IoT service within a at people’s workplace setting. Set up in a public space in an office a raw blueprint was used to ideate how to enable people to communicate seamlessly in and with their surroundings. User research was conducted concurrently, interviewing passersby about their needs. Assessment of emerging ideas occurred in front of the gamelike structure and thus was easily comprehensible to everyone, interviewees and the service design team alike. Swapping the provided raw blueprint for a big self-made map of their office space did the trick for the Vvör team: they created a sensible service for their own office including a mobile application and sensors entirely downloadable in open source code. German management and technology advisory firm Cassini GmbH appropriated the IoT Service Kit to serve as corporate methodology ( http://www.cassini.de/).
The IoT Service Kit has attracted attention and starred in:
● General Electrics Design via Twitter (https://twitter.com/GEdesign)
● London’s digital agency Head in their weekly “ Five best stories on new trends and technologies” (https://www.headlondon.com/)
● Thingscon 2015 , a “leading conference about the future of hardware¨ connected devices and Internet of Things ” (http://thingscon.com/)
● Interaction South America 2015 (http://isa.ixda.org/2015/index.en.html)
Observations so far support the fact that the IoT Service Kit meets its objectives to enhance the creation of new services in the realm of IoT by shortening incubation time, facilitating communication between designers and engineers and fomenting team dynamics. It does so not only as a direct means to ideation sessions but also indirectly by letting team members’ intuition play its part and leaving ideas to resonate and assemble in a truly creative process. With this functionality the IoT Service Kit is a perfect fit for teams applying Design Thinking and related approaches to innovation.
· Project Name: The IoT Service Kit
· Category: Methodology Professional
· Service Design Award 2016, nominated project for Professional Award
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