A non-user centered Internet of Things
Today I perused the ITU report about "The Internet of Things" more seriously. The whole report is a compilation of fact, figures and technologies to support the idea of an ubiquitous computation platform refered to as the "Internet of Things" (some trendy person will soon call it "Das Internet des Dinges"). The point is that in the future, "most of the traffic will flow between devices and all kinds of “things”, thereby creating a much wider and more complex “Internet of Things” and "By connecting the world’s things, the internet would truly achieve ubiquity in every sense of the word." Roughly speaking the equation is something like:
ID (thanks to RFID) + Sensing/Reacting (through sensors) + Computation Power ("smartness" or "intelligence) + Miniaturization (through nanotech) = Internet of Things
Existing technologies are well described and lots of examples (drawn out from labs) are presented, which is great. Overall, the report aims at showing Telcos why this is important but somehow fails at moving forward existing scenarios like "forget-me-not-bags" or "pills that think". The user is scarcely present in this report. However, there is this:
Lack of awareness among users is perhaps one of the most important constraints to the development of the Internet of Things. Since the Internet of Things is still in its nascent phase, many users might still have limited knowledge of its potential. RFID is a case in point. Despite the fact that it is currently the most mature industry in the family of the Internet of Things (and tags are used on a regular basis without the knowledge of users), a survey by Capgemini has revealed that only 18 per cent of Europeans and 23 per cent of US consumers have heard about the technology. The general public is even less familiar with the benefits associated with nanotechnologies and wireless sensor networks.
Furthermore, the lack of information coupled with unbalanced coverage may lead to misunderstandings about the advantages or disadvantages of emerging technologies, thereby creating an unfavourable consumer attitude. For example, the public perception of robots, machines whose only purpose in life is to “replace human effort”, has been largely shaped by science fiction and Hollywood blockbusters. This has led to a general lack of trust in robotics. Fears of the general public range from job losses to an invasion by tiny robots or “grey goo”. Unresolved issues related to privacy and data protection block further diffusion of technologies and even instigate active protests, e.g. in reaction to the adoption of RFID for tracking in-store goods.
They do have some concerns about user-centered design:
The question is whether technology itself will create new markets or whether market demand will determine the direction of technological research. (...). If a company is strictly technology-driven, there is an even greater risk that it will lose its investment if it does not find an audience for its technology.
But what IMO they miss is that they only think in terms of usability:
In order to make the Internet of Things an everyday reality, the core enabling technologies have to be adopted by the general public. This will be possible only if consumers are aware of the benefits and advantages of using or installing new systems and are not faced with complicated user instructions. User-centric design and usability will be particularly important features, especially when taking into account the evolution from simple to complex systems, in which the user might have to become system administrator. In all cases, innovation should occur for the benefit of end-users and not merely for the sake of innovation itself.
It's not just about usability! There are important concerns about the users' needs, their potentiel interactions with the system and of course as they mentionned their fear towards it. And I don't agree that usability is the only key of this! Nevertheless, the report presents some business ideas and scenarios of deployment. And fortunately concerns about privacy are well described.