Beyond the IoT – The Internet of Experiences will change the world operates
This article first appeared in the #8 edition of COMPASS, the 3DEXPERIENCE Magazine published by Dassault Systèmes.
While participants in the IoT tend to focus on “things” – the individual smart devices connected to a network – the Internet of Experiences aims higher, concentrating on what becomes possible when smart devices piggyback off one another’s capabilities to create experiences: innovative services that simplify and enhance daily life in ways never possible before. Enabling a tree, for example, to report, “I’m being attacked by caterpillars,” which prompts a computer to dispatch a drone equipped to treat the situation. Or a highway to report, “I’ve reached my carrying capacity,” which prompts the rerouting of automobiles onto alternate routes.
Such capabilities, however, only become possible when the maker of one device imagines, anticipates and virtually simulates how it can leverage the capabilities of devices made by others to improve the user’s experience. The trick, experience experts say, is to put the user at the center of the solution’s reason for being, which is the essence of the Experience Economy.
While giants such as Amazon and Netflix have benefited from the personalization that digitization enables – recommendations of other books or movies a customer might like based on past selections, for example – the sensor-laden world of the IoT greatly expands the behavioral and contextual data available to shape and deliver personalized experiences. By enabling their devices to share data with other devices on the network (with the user’s permission, of course), and to evolve as the user’s needs and wants change, organizations that aspire to the Internet of Experiences greatly enrich the value they can deliver.
Consider, for example, personal health and well-being devices like the Smart Body Analyzer from Withings (Issy-les-Moulineaux, France). It can detect a user’s weight, fat mass, body mass index and heart rate, capture room temperature and display air quality, including carbon dioxide levels. Significantly, it can share this data not only with the user and their Withings smartphone app, but with other apps that the user may turn to for weight loss management, fitness tracking, food logging or fertility and pregnancy tracking. The result is the ability to deliver individualized monitoring, goals, tips and coaching to help users reach their personal objectives.
Companies that design for the Internet of Experiences also think not only about what their device can deliver today, but how it can evolve. In the Internet of Experiences, conventional physical products are mere “delivery vehicles,” or conduits, for ever-evolving experiences. This transformation is already evident as, increasingly, new or upgraded products arrive in consumers’ homes virtually, in the form of ongoing software updates to devices they already own.
When DJI, a drone-maker headquartered in Shenzhen, China, decided to make its drones easier and safer to fly, hoping to attract more novice users, it didn’t design and release a new product; it issued a software update that added new flight modes to existing drones. It even transformed the built-in 1920 x 1080 pixel camera on one model into a 2704 x 1520 pixel camera via a software update alone.
Withings took a software update path, too, transforming its Pulse pedometer into a new product, Pulse Ox, which improves on the original product by capturing blood oxygen levels, providing automatic wake-up detection, and working not only in English but in five other languages as well. Likewise, home-automation company Nest (Palo Alto, California) used software-only updates in its third-generation Nest Learning thermostat to give customers the option to set the device to display either temperature or an analog or digital clock. Thanks to software integration, these updated Nest thermostats can now send alerts or shut off the heating system if a Nest Protect smoke alarm detects smoke or carbon monoxide.
Arguably, however, no company has mastered the art of product and experience transformation through software updates more than Tesla Motors. When Tesla (Palo Alto, California) decided to add a “crawl” feature, allowing drivers to ease into slow cruise control in heavy traffic, it issued an over-the-air software release that added the feature at once to the entire fleet of existing Tesla cars.
Previous enhancements delivered via software update include automatic emergency braking, forward- and side-collision warnings and avoidance, traffic-based navigation, commute advice, range assurance to reduce the risk of being out of range of a charging device, and a remote-start capability via smartphone.
With its next major software update, Tesla plans to add “Autosteer,” essentially transforming the Model S sedan from a smart car into a self-driving car, including a valet “Autopark” feature that lets customers summon their cars from their parking spots via smartphone.
Tesla’s approach demonstrates that, done well, the Internet of Experiences should make once-complex offerings and activities technologically simple, easy and convenient. Behind the scenes, however, blending products, services, software, content, technology, cloud and data into an experience within the multidirectional hyper-connected world of the Internet of Experiences remains a complex undertaking.
Consider, for example, Nest’s smart thermostat. A Nest “learning” thermostat creates an experience by sensing and then automatically adapting to a homeowner’s daily rhythms and personal preferences to make their home safe and comfortable – no programming required. Under the hood, the thermostat is a complex system of sensors, software, processors, circuit boards, communication devices, energy sources, frames, wiring and display monitors. Each of these elements is produced by engineers working in different disciplines, yet they all need to work in sync with one another and with quality technicians, sales and marketing professionals to produce the behavior – the experience – that will delight the customer.
The device itself is complex, but it doesn’t operate in a vacuum. To deliver maximum value, such thermostats are being integrated into larger smart home control systems – which may or may not be produced by Nest. Therefore, it must operate not only as a stand-alone system made up of complex subsystems but be capable of operating within a much larger “system of systems,” from a smart home system to a smart local electrical grid system, to a smart regional, national or continental electrical grid system.
Strategies for addressing such dependencies and complexities are the domain of systems engineering, a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to designing, realizing and managing complex systems that interact to produce behavior no individual element of the system can (see “Mind-Boggling Complexity”). The challenge becomes even bigger when these complex systems become part of the largest system of systems ever created: an ultra-large-scale system (ULSS) known as the IoT, which will incorporate devices from hundreds of thousands of makers, all with differing – even conflicting – objectives and approaches.
As organizations work through the complex business of mastering and making complexity disappear – a critical element of a positive experience – what is most important, Pine believes, is to “keep the customer at the center of their thinking, and to remember they are not producing things for an Internet of Things, but creating living, evolving experiences within an Internet of Experiences.”
Back in Melbourne, Green Leaf Elm, Tree ID 1022165 and citizen “F” are building a relationship that honors this distinction. Once upon a time, “F” might have simply walked by Tree 1022165. But now, Tree 1022165 and “F” are connected. As “F” writes, “we don’t have a lot in common, you being a tree and such. But I’m glad we’re in this together.”