#TechTuesday: Why Human-Centered Product Development is the Key to Leveraging The Internet of Things

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One founder discusses how IoT creates entirely new ways for companies to interact with the people who use their products.

By Bogdana Rakova (Co-founder & CTO, HutGrip)

As an alternative to a tech-driven perspective, we can look at the idea of the Internet of Things from two key perspectives: frameworks of human needs and frameworks of business opportunity. At the end of the day, the last word on any successful new product introduction is not the manufacturer. It’s the people who use the product and their real needs and desires.

As much as we can dream about the technology, we need the real-world “human” perspective.

What do Humans Need?

This is the question that my mentor and advisor Dave Blakely and I ended up discussing a while ago. Dave leads the Technology Strategy practice at IDEO. His day-to-day job is to explore the business opportunities created when emerging technologies are linked with customer needs.

So, I pitched my startup to Dave around the concept that IoT can help make sense of industry equipment data. As I went on and on about our experience and the awesomeness of our technology, Dave kept asking about the customers. “What do people say?” he wanted to know. “How do they use the product?”

This is really the key. This is absolutely true in the IoT world. While working to help technology companies and strategic partners innovate, Dave has shared with me some of his experience in the field. I am more than glad to share it with all of you here.

Creating Change

The Internet of Things is just another step to the continuum to being always connected. Until we get there, we are seeing multiple trends that are starting to create change:

  • Phase 1: Embedding intelligence inside individual sensors and objects.

  • Phase 2: Tools and platforms are developed to allow people to create applications for the “connected world.” A perfect example is Xively, a public cloud platform allowing people to program for the IoT.

  • Phase 3: Entirely new services and possibly new industries are emerging in the process of turning information into a valuable asset. Again a perfect example: HutGrip, a platform to help equipment providers create value added services to their new and existing products by utilizing machine learning algorithms.

We can consider the Internet of Things to act as the nervous system that ties all these trends together. In the future, we expect this nervous system to become extremely hackable and marked by the stamp of the Makers Revolution. This creates the “longtail” set of applications enabled by the general purpose IoT platforms available today.

There are great possibilities for emerging, small and medium-sized companies to take advantage from this technology to provide better services to their existing and new customers.

The truth is that the profile of manufacturers is changing. Once dominated by large-scale plants serving a global market, now every company has the ability to operate in the global market. The manufacturing sector is very much built on local demand and on providing highly customized and specialized products.

IoT is giving us new tools to be efficient, leading to new millennium constructs of operational efficiency. In this way, the technology is making the invisible visible by presenting us data and making it actionable with relevant data analytics.

It’s not about the technology, but about people and solving their problems.

IoT creates entirely new ways for companies to interact with the people using their products. But at the end of the day, our customers don’t really know how we do what we do and they don’t need to — they just need to know it works. The evolution of our company helped us understand that and learn to act on it. You have to do it, too!

How else can companies incorporate a human perspective in IoT product development?

headshotAbout the guest blogger: Bogdana Rakova is co-founder and CTO at HutGrip, a cloud-based process improvement platform to help people make more informed decisions and increase efficiency utilizing artificial intelligence and the industrial internet. She studied Computer Science in Sofia, Bulgaria and in the Graduated Studies program at Singularity University in 2012.


About the guest blogger: Bogdana Rakova is co-founder and CTO at HutGrip, a cloud-based process improvement platform to help people make more informed decisions and increase efficiency utilizing artificial intelligence and the industrial internet. She studied Computer Science in Sofia, Bulgaria and in the Graduated Studies program at Singularity University in 2012.