Monday, December 07, 2015

IoT is about to change Human Behavior

Internet of Things (IoT) is no longer a futuristic science fiction stuff. It is here and is slowly but surely changing our lives. As the technology matures and the prevalence of connected devices increases, it will change our lives in several profound ways. IoT would have an impact greater than that of World Wide Web!

I would say IoT will be one of those things that will fundamentally change the way we live on this planet:

 - Just like our ability to harness fire put humans on path to civilization,
 - Just like our ability to read & write helped create complex civilizations,
 - Just like Newspaper and Telegram created a global economy,
 - Just like Internet & WWW created a knowledge economy,

IoT will fundamentally change the way humans live, behave & interact in the society.

Let illustrate this with an example.

Let's say there is a construction on a major highway in the city. One hundred years ago, information of this construction would be published in newspaper - which very few people would read, and the local administration would put up big hoarding all around the construction site - requesting commuters to take alternate routes, and a local policemen would manually redirect traffic.

Percentage of people who knew about the advisory - 5%
Percentage of people who heeded to the advisory - 1%

The rest 99% would still drive on the same path and get redirected by local police.

With the advent of Radio & television the situation did not change much. With better communication technology, more people were now aware of the construction, but did not know

Percentage of people who knew about the advisory: 20-30%
Percentage of people who heeded to the advisory:  1-5%

The rest 95-99% would still drive on the same path and get redirected by local police.

Internet and World Wide Web along with  Social Networking tools improved the level of awareness, but people would still pile up at the construction point and choke traffic, and we still needed police to redirect traffic.

Percentage of people who knew about the advisory: 50-80%
Percentage of people who heeded to the advisory:  5-10%

While we now have all the tools to send out information, we as humans still have limited capability to absorb information and act on it.  So even with instant communications, real time traffic map service and social networks, people behavior hardly changed.
Studies done on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and Katrina show that people now have awareness - but still do not act on those information!

But IoT is about to change this.

With the advent of GPS Navigation systems, users can now chart out their driving path so as to avoid the construction area. So with IoT,

Percentage of people who knew about the advisory: 100%
Percentage of people who heeded to the advisory:  50-80%

The next generation IoT does even bettwe, with the advent of self-driving cars, the information about road constructions will be consumed by the car and it will reroute its path to avoid construction site, thus avoiding unnecessary traffic jams and wasted time/fuel. Thus with second generation of IoT,

Percentage of people who knew about the advisory: 100%
Percentage of people who heeded to the advisory:  100%

First Generation of IoT

While IoT is no longer a futuristic pipe dream, the technology is still maturing. The  technology has evolved a lot ever since Simon Hackett and John Romkey operated a toaster via the Internet in 1990. Technology evolved quite a bit since then and today we have Smart thermostats such as Nest, or fridges which can display Tweets!

Today, there is much wider prevalence of connected devices - which collect lots of data from the surrounding environment. But these are essentially the first generation of IoT.

Collecting information and presenting information is just a proof of concept of what role IoT can play in our daily lives. Devices such as smart watches or Fit-bit bands can collect a whole lot of information on a person's daily activity. But it does very little to change the person's behavior.

Very few people can change their actions and behavior based on the information presented to them. I would say less than 1% of people changed their exercise pattern because of Smart Bands/watches.

First generation of IoT was all about collecting data. But data was not an end in itself.  Consumers are already overwhelmed by data. Some systems were able to present data in a meaningful way in form of actionable information for people to act. For example, smart baby monitors can alert parents when the baby's breathing pattern changes. But then all mothers are still very anxious and would not change their sleeping patterns - even after knowing that their baby us being safely and actively monitored.

First generation IoT did not make life better, rather it added tremendous complexity with yet another gadget that consumes attention and feeds our obsessive-compulsive disorders.

Smart products today still have big challenges in making users interact with the products and take actions.

The first generation IoT was still far away from creating meaningful experiences.

Second Generation of IoT

Second generation of IoT is just around the corner. Few systems are already being deployed and tried - but these are just the beginning. Smart systems today react to all the information coming from connected systems in a meaningful, purposeful ways.

For example, Smart insulin pumps can alter the quantities of Insulin being pumped into body based on real time blood sugar levels.

The second generation of IoT goes beyond collecting & presenting data. It has to simplify life through automation. Connected devices have to remove tedious chores from our daily lives, allowing people to concentrate on more important stuff.

Second generation of IoT has to provide the ability to control things automatically - which we otherwise would not. For example changing the building thermostat settings to match with power savings plans or based on real-time power supply data - when grid loads increase beyond a point, smart gird can tell all connect smart buildings to lower their power consumption. Smart buildings will then react to this request by changing the temperature & lighting settings.

The next big innovation in IoT will be to create user experience in ways that it makes lives richer by seamlessly eliminating mundane activities. One must create systems focused on meeting a conscious or an unconscious need. For example self driving cars - which meets the need for transport whenever without the hassle of driving.

Today, Airlines and aircraft's are using data from IoT to change the flight parameters to create better fuel efficiency and better passenger comfort - all without pilots actions.

Closing Thoughts

Developing this second generation IoT systems will certainly require a different ways of thinking. This also presents a tremendous opportunity to enhance human experience and enhance life in ways that were never possible before.

Smart systems must be able to understand our intentions and desires and then act independently to create those experiences. When IoT and Smart systems can take real time, meaningful action - without human interaction, IoT will become mainstream.

Second Generation of IoT will not be centered around the product. Instead, it will be centered around user experiences, while hiding all complexity of technology.  Second generation IoT does away with all the unnecessary interfaces and enable customer to concentrate on more important tasks. When IoT products (sensors, actuators), the network, the apps - will all work seemlessly - it will ehance the customer experience - without "Experience of the product"


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