As UX meets IoT, the need for screens will go away

Goodbye pretty little apps? The fusion of user experience and the Internet of Things will change the way we interact with computers.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

There are two forces at work in today's IT infrastructure, coming from two different directions.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

On one end, there is the drive toward enhanced user experience (UX), fueled by the need to achieve greater cohesion between applications and the people who use them, or even a greater sense of satisfaction and joy among users.

On the other side of the world, there is the emerging Internet of Things (IoT), in which devices, sensors, applications and anything else you can think of are accepting or generating data to provide situational awareness.

It may not seem obvious now, but UX and IoT are linked, and these links will grow ever stronger as time goes on - with UX taking on an entirely different meaning.That's the word from George Malim and Frank Palermo, who speculate in a recent post that as IoT advances, screens will increasingly go away. "Screens belong in the past," they state. "UX design is no longer about designing for a screen, but about designing for the integrated context."

Well, we're still going to need screens for many of the things we do. But there will be many more things going on behind the scenes as we interact with computers or sensors around us. It's all about context, Malim and Palermo state.

Such an evolution is changing the very nature of UX itself. In a separate article at UX Magazine, Peter Eckert refers to the coming shift of UX to IoT as "the Experience of Things." He notes that "while there's a lot of buzz lately around the Internet of Things, I think that term is incorrect. When we talk about empathy and our connected experiences, we're talking about something much larger than an Internet of Things. It's really the Experience of Things--everything that we use and interact with in our daily lives is starting to build a computing mesh around us."

Eckert adds an interesting perspective as well: we're becoming a "node" within "something larger, providing feedback and data which, in turn, form this massive computing mesh around the globe. The world itself now is a larger capturing mechanism."

So what are the new rules for UX this emerging, screen-less, inter-meshed computing architecture that is emerging? Malim and Palermo offer some thoughts:

"Screens belong in the past," as noted above.

Apps are no longer just pretty faces. Apps are no longer just pretty little interfaces intended to entice users. "Now, apps gravitate towards developing real world experiences as opposed to grabbing user attention spans," Malim and Palermo state, saying it's time to shed "superfluous icons."

Context rules the day. UX's new role is to "spark seamless integrated experiences" across any setting the user happens to be in. It's likely that the hardware in these settings "won't even have traditional user interfaces, so it's up to the app to coordinate these interactions."

Data drives design. "As this data treks into the world of wearables, appliances and sensors, design thrives more on visualization and data integration," Malim and Palermo state. Integrated, smart cross-device dashboards can better enable ease of use and ultimately provide simple visibility to end users."

It's about performance, performance, performance. The big question is if our networks are ready for UX-IoT fusion. "Patience will fly right out the window if someone is locked out of their car because of a spinning app," say Malim and Palermo.

UX design and data integration will become one, requiring more standardization. "Integrating and connecting the interfaces for all of these IoT devices is no easy feat," Malim and Palermo point out. "All smart objects, whether it be lighting controls, fitness trackers or thermostats, require their own specific mobile apps to work properly. Therefore, how can one coordinate any and all of these devices?" Ultimately, it demands IoT standards on the back end. The challenge with IoT is that with so many manufacturers and software companies getting g in the game, solutions are all over the map.

It's notable that the Object Management Group, a familiar face in the SOA and cloud world, has been working in conjunction with its sister group, the Industrial Internet Consortium, to test and formulate potential semantic standards. Stay tuned.

Editorial standards