Internet of things and digital break
Connected objects, connected homes, connected children and babies… welcome to a world where the new buzzword is “connected”. We are all connected, or soon will be and this is just the beginning. The enthusiasm is without limits on the geek side but almost non-existent for other members of the human race. Here is an example: I wear a FitBit Flex and people regularly ask me “What is that flashing bracelet on your wrist? “. First answer “is a FitBit Flex” (frown from of my questioner). Second try “It is an activity tracker” (lack of understanding in his eyes). Third try “it allows me to check that I move enough every day for my health “(understanding and compassion in the eyes of the novice) mission accomplished!
It is difficult for us geeks, immersed in an ocean full of trackers, sensors, tablets and other connected objects, to perceive the digital gap between us and the rest of our fellow citizen from our country and from the rest of the world. And the gap IS real, it is so real that in November, the French National Digital Council proposed a plan to reduce it by working with teachers, professional trainers and social workers. We call this new skill, which has become necessary in order to evolve in our digital world« Information Literacy », and it englobes the understanding and use of digital technology. We will not talk about our new « geek fancies » in this report, but about the fact that some citizens are less and less able to perform straightforward administrative tasks requiring a computer.
Although the usefulness of these new objects seems obvious and logical, there is still a long road before Mr. and Mrs. Everybody, have a “Mother” or the latest weather station from Netatmo in their home.
Every human being is “unique” and his life too
Gradually and inevitably, connected objects will enter our existences. As they do, ways of using them will not be uniform and standardized, because each person apprehends and uses each object differently. Furthermore, the potential applications of objects such as activity trackers, are multiple and every human being is different. People adapt its use so that it matches their lifestyle and habits and can thus smoothly integrate into his daily life.Take the example of FitBit Flex (or Pulse, Misfit Shine, the Vivofit, the Jawbone, the Angel, …) and imagine a few scenarios:
- If I am an overweight man on diet. I want to set myself a target weight. To achieve this, I will track calories absorbed and measure those dissipated thanks to sport, walking and other daily activities. I will compare equivalent modes of transport such as climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator.
- If I am a woman of normal weight I shall just keep moving daily and watch my weight regularly with additional help from my “Aria”;
- If I have trouble sleeping, I can watch the changes in the quality of my sleep (number of awakenings, periods of deep sleep, episodes of restless sleep). I can then use the “Aura of Withings”, that will allow me to go further in monitoring and improving the quality of my sleep.
These three simple examples illustrate that even a simple object, (a basic connected bracelet) can, and will be used in a wide variety of way and must thus be designed to adapt to the radically different lives and needs of its potential users.
IOT is everywhere ! Still it is necessary to be connected…
In March 2013, 23% of large companies managers* thought that IOT would not affect their business models or business strategies. At the same date 68% had already made investments in the field of the Internet of Things. Reflecting on this, it is obvious that the phenomenon is global and irreversible. A recent forecast indicates that by 2020 each human being will own 24 connected objects.* However, if we read Cisco’s publication from 2013, we observe some very interesting facts about the current state. In practice, only 0.06% of objects that can be connected, really are.
The projected figures for 2020 seem unrealistic when they are compared with current practice. However, in a typical Geeks home, between 20 and 30 connected objects already exist, (I invite you to count yourselves). Compared to this, in 24.1% of French households 0 connected object exist **. Once more, the gap between the two universes is obvious and a possible first step towards a more massive spread of connected objects could be to connect these homes. This seems even more obvious when we reflect that 64% of these “unconnected” households belong to people aged 65 and older and that their needs of connectivity will continue to grow.
Let’s enter into the heart of the subject with two areas where these new connected objects have a great future:
- Senior Citizens and the very Old ;
Seniors needs innovations and connected objects
Objects of all types emerge. Many of them related to health monitoring (for protection) and assistance for the elderly. Let’s take a step back and think about this:
- Seniors are sometimes lonely and/or isolated;
- they frequently have medical treatments that requires precision (hour / day / regular decision taking);
- they can faint or fall (heat, lack of hydration, fragile joints, …);
- they may get lost (Alzeimer);
- they are sometimes unable to contact help.
Simply considering this rudimentary list, it is only too obvious the potential solutions that iOT can bring. Seniors (3rd age) and the very old (fourth age) are people whose needs are becoming increasingly vital to their health and wellbeing. Yet very few practical solutions exist today to manage this population which will number more than 10 million people in France by the year 2040.
But let’s not innovate without thinking. Today, Senior Citizens and very old people represent 64% of French households not equipped with internet connection. We find the same phenomenon everywhere in the civilized world. Although this figure is gradually falling we must think differently about these people.
- Designing objects that work in homes not equipped with internet. You can view work on connected jewellery by the company named Assystel (pictures below);
- help to equip houses with internet connections to help deal with the increase of population in the coming years.
At the present time, for a “dependent” senior citizen (having a serious loss of autonomy), up to 3 people may be involved in their everyday life. The household helper, the Mobility & Living Aids and the nurse, perform essential tasks for these people. But, can the present model continue to function smoothly when the number of people requiring assistance rises to 10 million? How can tomorrows connected objects respond to these issues?
Human contact is essential, nursing at home is too. But faced with such a massive need they will be capable of fulfilling their essential tasks without some sort of additional support. Is the answer to be found in connected object assistance?
The Internet of Things is naughty
As with any growing technology sector, we find erotic products. Eroticism is one of the important areas of design. Surprisingly perhaps, many designers have also worked on erotic objects for couple, and/or on sensuality. Matali Crasset, Matteo Cibic, Discoh Andrea Knecht, Sarah Szyber and even Philips with the « Intimate Massagers ».
It is naturel thus, that we find erotic applications in the world of connected objects. The “Smart Love brand”, offers to bring together couples living far apart or frequently on business trips. With the same objective “Lovepalz” (picture below), whose creators have even developed special headphones to accompany this moment of intimacy and another product called “Lovesense” are actively following this direction. Durex also innovates with “Fundawear” a connected underwear running with an iPhone app (still in test phase).
It is predictable that in the coming years, the emergence of new types of dating sites or actual sites will offer new online services around connected sex toys. And new and complex social issues will no doubt appear with them.
Another trend has emerged at the same time as the “quantified self”, called “quantified sex”. This is however not really new. The “List of conquests” that can be shared with your iPhone app, or the apps to show how many people are enjoying sex in your neighbourhood and in what positions are already classic applications. There are also now applications that quantify your sexual performance such as Spreadsheets. Spreadsheet allows you to follow up to seven days (sound, time, etc.) and provides you with all kinds of statistics. It is also possible to share your performance data on Twitter and Facebook. You can choose to post:
- The duration of a sexual relation;
- only if a new personal record is reached;
- or the total time of sexual relation.
You can also participate in an international global statistics program, with “Nipple, the sex tracker”. However this application has triggered a storm of hostile reactions resulting from its provocative launch in mid-March 2014 at SXSW.
« The world slowly walks towards wisdom »***
However, there one important problem that startups and established companies are already trying to solve through the iOT which is really worthwhile. This concerns accompanying couples during the period when they are trying to conceive and found a family. This period can easily become a source of stress and doubts. Current solutions tend to “medicalise” this period as soon as the first difficulties appear which may not always be the best way to handle this question. Although the ongoing work is a first step into this sensitive area, innovative solutions are already begining to appear. Here is an example with the range of 8 “Bleepbleeps” products under development including:
- Master Bates: an object that is used to test the fertility of sperm (orange guy below);
- Olivia P Sticks: an object to test ovulation (blue guy below).
There are also other products of the same type such as “Temp-drop”. These objects are consequential to mobile apps such as “Glow” which still required a lot of personal investment in time, to enter all the necessary data (weight, daily temperature, etc..).
The subject of pregnancy, birth and accompanying young parents are also topics that are under development and on which many solutions need to be found so as to ease and improve everyday life and reduce unnecessary stress.
*ARM and The Economist : survey on 779 companies
** Médiamétrie (French company of Scientific audience measurement for main medias) 1st quarter 2013 « Référence des Equipements Multimédias »
*** « Le monde avec lenteur marche vers la sagesse » by Voltaire