Incorporating ecosystems of smart devices into a project means acknowledging that almost no device now exists in isolation. To really understand how smart devices (e.g. a smart phone, a bank account, a car, a lighting system) works for someone, you might also need to look at their computer, their tablet, their camera, their TV, their satnav, their heating system – the list grows longer by the day. Our regular investigations of ecosystems for client projects from a variety of perspectives lets us document and explore these disparate influences without diluting a project’s primary focus.
Many of our recent projects have in some way involved ‘ecosystems of networked devices’ – by which me mean looking at both the collective devices people own as well as the choices and options that these offer. Broadening the scope of a project to acknowledge that people own and use a diversity of devices does not have to compromise the focus of the project. Over time, we’ve developed various tools and process that allow us to intelligently incorporate the diversity of choices, options, and solutions presented by modern device ecosystems into focused design research projects. The aim throughout is to provide meaningful context around the main topic of interest, whilst avoiding to overwhelm our audiences with vast reams of sprawling information.
Processing and Structuring: Developing Curated Content
Exploring and learning from the use of networked devices often involves the need to provide ‘curated’ context. This doesn’t mean a heavy-handed processing of results that isolates only a selection of insights; it’s instead a matter of embellishing the primary focus of the project (usually the device or service that’s the client team’s main concern) with extraneous information that provides the design and strategy teams with rich and evocative context-of-use.
Ultimately, considering the influence of ecosystems at the earliest stages of design and innovation projects means developing products and services that are more integrated with people’s life and routines. Opportunities to refine, enhance, or otherwise improve ecosystems can be identified and documented in a manner that allows design teams to focus on developing ‘integrated’ solutions – and in an increasingly connected world, producing ‘isolated’ products is often no longer an option.