The Internet of Things is already shaping relationships between people and their environment. The web as the ultimate source of information is now more than ever ready to fuel this living network. 

Q: Do you think the internet of things will have the power to change relationships between people and their environment?

ALK: Cloud computing is transforming the digital sphere on a grand scale – impacting the world around us. As data and applications move from the desktop to ‘the cloud’, information becomes accessible anywhere, anytime, enabling interaction with distributed teams and remote databases and influencing our relationship with people and the planet. Engaging with people via social networks, crowd sourcing, and smart apps is now a top priority for senior marketers worldwide. Focus on ‘sharing’ rather than owning things is the driver of Collaborative Consumption. ‘Deep’ product and service information to fit individual needs and ethics will be a given in the future. GoodGuide is a great example of a 360º ‘real-time’ product – providing information about everything from origin and ingredients to carbon footprint and production methods.

Q: How do you think designers should delineate the right boundaries between software and hardware?

ALK: I think of hardware as the ‘processor’ and software as the ‘enabler’ – both have to operate in seamless synergy in a unified systems network. It is not so much about the boundaries between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, but more about creating people-centric user interfaces that interact with the user in an intuitive and informed way. This is the vision of the semantic web: an integrated ‘whole-brain’ system that fuses tangible and intangible in a logical manner. Empathy and vision are key to connecting with people. They give us the ability to inspire, educate and empower the end-user for the purpose of enriching their life and will drive future design success. Understand too that people – whether they work for you, use your services or buy your products – have higher standards and more complex decision-making processes than ever before. They also expect more meaningful choices, so whatever your offer – hardware, software or an integrated system – you must deliver it an ethical and meaningful package.

Should there be a clear on-line and off-line interaction in future product service systems?

ALK: Boundaries have already blurred and digital mobility with social networks has the potential to enhance ‘face-to-face’ real interaction. In particular, location-aware software and augmented reality enable instant decision making about almost anything, anywhere. In short, we can now control our lives in ways unimaginable a decade ago – creating our own unique identity and discovering the world around us. But if everything were connected to the Internet of Things, the world would become far too homogenous. We seek ‘the real thing’, be it food, fashion, travel or art, happily mining the Internet for the best deal or experience to fit in with our personal narrative.

Q: Bits and atoms are very different. What challenges do you see for designers when designing both in the same system?

ALK: Systems simply must become more people-centric, demonstrating empathy for the cultures they serve and respect for the context in which they exist. Simplification and fusion of complicated systems will play a major role in tomorrow’s innovation and design processes. To create seamlessly integrated products, services and experiences in the future will mean changing the way we think about people and systems. This requires vision, but also an understanding that everything is connected: people, planet and bottom line – so a triple P calculation must be considered when designing for the future.

Q: If things – products, services, spaces – in the future will be increasingly enabled with multiple web intangible functions, how do you think designers should cope with conveying the right meanings?

ALK: By understanding that people are essential for survival in tomorrow’s competitive landscape. The most successful brands of the future will be those that ‘think from the outside in’ and ‘feel from the inside out’. Designers must engage in multidimensional thinking since they are designing complex systems. Integrating ‘Left brain’ pragmatist thinking: logic and facts, with ‘Right brain’ possiblist thinking: intuition and vision, will enable a balanced whole-brain outook to create meaningful and responsive systems.

Brands must wake up to the importance of story. The narrative will vary depending on cultural context and geography – but must reflect the value sets of the next generation. Today the story of the people, the process and the planet is central. However, this is never a given and we will always embrace brands that communicate their individual story in unique ways. The spirit of the ‘Real Thing’ is crucial to your brand narrative. It enables you to invite people to enter the soul dimension of your brand.

Q: How would you like our internet interactions in the future to be?

ALK: Dialogue driven collaborative models and systems that empower the individual. Indeed, I am convinced that operating as a natural extension of people is the way ahead. Companies must ‘cut out the noise’ to create a meaningful lean language and interact with their audiences. Leading brands must now explore their ‘real’ value and their cultural legacy if they are serious about being considered as a directional 21st century organisation.

Book Contribution: Meta Products, Novemer 2011 >>

Infographics
1. The Rise of Sharing and Connectivity
2. The new Drivers of Sharing
3. Collaborative Consumption Models
4. Projected Global Internet Traffic by Region in 2015

Inspirational Sources
Latitude Research: The Sharing Economy, “What’s Yours is Mine” – CollaborativeConsumption.com, AAA Study, Google Trends, AirBnB.com, LendingClub.com, ZipCar.com

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