The easy part of building the Internet of Things (IoT) is connecting the infrastructure. Sensors and wireless technology expedite the flow of data from “things” to us and become the source of new products, market opportunities and cost savings. Yet as these connections multiply and generate massive amounts of data, the hard part is remaining mindful of the human motivations that are the foundation of the IoT. As designers helping to shape this new world, we should continually raise questions about the impact of our rapidly evolving connectedness on the individual, the community and on how we live.
After two hours on curvy mountain roads, and an hour on a stone-cobbled, one-lane track, our team arrived in the village at the top of the tea plantation. Our plan was to interview the new branchless bank agent for the tiny village of 85 households, meet some of his customers, and learn about the lives of tea laborers. We arrived at the house of Maman, the agent and community leader, at the planned time and sat down on his carpet to begin our chat. A few minutes in, two gruff looking men, wearing leather jackets and smoking cigarettes, invited themselves in and sat down among our circle. The local interview participants looked tense and mumbled some words of greeting. As the interviewer, I asked our translators to ask the newcomers to introduce themselves — initially thinking I could explain to them that we were conducting an interview and that perhaps they could come back later if they had business with the Maman or his family. Our translators relayed that one man was the security guard for the tea company, the other was a local policeman. Their business was to know everything that happens in the town and determine if they approve. They were not just interested in the interview, but in the product we were representing and piloting in their village. They explained there had been scams in the village before: Ponzi schemes, payroll embezzlement and false cooperatives -- to name a few. They wanted to know if this branchless bank thing was legitimate. The interview turned from our team being the leaders, to being interrogated.
Creating Internet of Things products can place businesses and their product teams in an uncomfortable place by pushing them outside of their comfort zone. In the third installment of our Internet of Things series, we will explore six design characteristics to help guide IoT product teams as they set forth into uncharted territory.
The Bertumbuh Project team has been navigating many different communities in the course of our field research. From fish distributors in North Jakarta to trash resellers in Bogor to tea plantation workers in Cikoneng, we’ve been learning about how people think about money. Their actions -- how they save and spend, search and strive -- are interesting to us. In addition, their mental models are just as fascinating. All of that data, and all of these stories, are important for our synthesis and design process.
Prio is a meatball seller in Ciherang, and this morning he invited us in to sit down and chat. His day typically starts at 3:30am when he wakes up. From 4:00am to 6:00am, Prio goes to the market to buy ingredients, returns home, and makes meatballs until 9:30am. From 9:30am to 10:00am he takes a rest. The the real work begins from 10:00am to 10:00pm when Prio sells his product. All of this hard work nets him about 100,000 rupiah a day - or roughly $10. He knows which days he makes more money (Saturdays and Mondays), but he has no idea why.
Most children in the developing world will never see a doctor or visit a clinic, relying instead on Community Health Workers (CHWs) who are a critical link in delivering basic healthcare to underserved populations. Every day this dedicated and largely volunteer network of CHWs visit patients, help screen for life-threatening diseases and dispense medication, often with little training or support.
Our first experience in Jakarta consisted of walking through mud and over broken stones to get to a client meeting. The streets, congested because of severe traffic, meant taking a taxi the 3.6 km would have taken too much time. So, off we went, negotiating the heat in our business attire.
Our Aging in Place initiative is focused on exploring product and service solutions that encourage the continued autonomy, independence and wellbeing of seniors who are aging at home. After our initial research and ideation phases, we found ourselves returning to a core set of themes that were fundamental to each of the varied seniors we interviewed: Identity – “Help me stay ME,” Sociability – “Help me stay engaged,” Routine – “Help me stay in control,” and Activity – “Help me stay mentally and physically active.”
Up to 50 percent of all neo-natal deaths in the developing world occur within the first 24 hours of delivery, largely the result of inadequate access to healthcare and precarious conditions at birth. In this perilous environment, how can high infant mortality rates be reduced? That was the challenge frog was asked to solve by Bill Gates, as part of his guest editor stint for Wired magazine’s December 2013 issue focusing on lifesaving innovations. Jonas Damon, frog creative director and project lead, discusses frog’s prototype for a holistic support system to help mothers and vulnerable newborns.
Sometime around 1996 I found myself standing in the upstairs library of a drafty, suburban Chicago Victorian owned by a mentor, marveling at what seemed to be a neurotic collection of books. He had volumes on cooking, social science, biology, business, systems engineering, anthropology, architecture, comics, painting, science fiction, classic literature, graphic design, and a batch of academic papers, among others. When we went book shopping together, I often left with a stack in hand similar to what was on his shelves, despite other intentions.