Building an IoT Prototyping Platform – Part II

Here is the link to part one of this series, you might want to start there.

Based on the before stated principles and requirements for the prototyping platform I came up with the following architecture:

On the left you see the web server where the HTML of the Prototyping tool will be stored. On the right, the different hardware components (sensors and actuators, e.g. buttons, rotary encoders, LEDs) are connected to ESP8266 microcontrollers. In broad terms, ESPs are similar to Arduinos but also offer WiFi connectivity for a low price. In between sits a server to broker and translate the information coming from both sides.

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Building an IoT/Hardware Prototyping Platform

This is the first article of a series (parts: two and three), as this topic needs some more space and time. I have about half of the content written, so I will post updates as I go along.

Even though the Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic, with todays tools it is really hard to prototype and test IoT products or services beforehand. Very few tools allow us to use hardware components (like buttons or knobs) together with software user interfaces (UIs). Most software prototyping tools are closed systems offering no or only very little outside connectivity. Most of them only allow us to link screens together and that’s about it.

Plus, hardware prototyping is more complex than software prototyping: In addition to software interfaces, you need to know something about hardware, of course. Programming skills are needed if you want to tinker with them. And some knowledge about IoT protocols and platforms are helpful, too. These are skills very few user experience (UX) designers possess, since a lot of them focus on the design of digital-only products and services. Just google the evergreen argument whether UX designers should be able to code.

Motivation

I thought that this was unfortunate, since prototyping is such a crucial activity for creating successful products or services. We need to make your ideas tangible, test them with users and evaluate their feasibility before starting to build the real thing. And since I have some experience with software prototyping tools and tinkering with hardware I started looking for a way to create IoT prototypes.

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Rereading the Classics

For design to become corporate competency, it has to be more than just a department of people with the cool shoes, more than the activity you perform just prior to commercialization. Design is a way of approaching problem solving, decision making, and strategic planning that can yield better outcomes. It’s an open approach, and anyone in the organization can participate […].

Subject to Change, 2008

 

Amen.

Peter Merholz wrote that in 2008 – more than a decade ago. And organizations are still trying to get a grip on this.

 

Technology and (the Lack of) User Value

About a year ago Mark Zuckerberg released a video clip about the result of his personal challenge of 2016: Jarvis, a simple AI to control his home.

Back in December 2016 this was cutting edge technology: a smart home assistant you could talk to or chat with. It was able to play music, inform Zuckerberg about events, recognize faces, and control household applicants, of course.

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Happy Birthday, dear Axure book

Five years ago, in 2012, I released a small e-book on the Amazon Kindle platform called Axure for Mobile. At that time Axure 6.5 was just released, offering quite a few enhancements for mobile prototyping (swiping events, the mobile settings panel, etc.). My book described these new features and offered quite a few hacks which made mobile prototyping way easier.

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UX Prototyping Trends

For the longest time our discipline seemed to pay only lip service to one of the key activities of UX design: prototyping.

Yes, everybody always states that prototyping is important. Do it often and early on in the process. Always treat your prototypes as experiments. Don’t fall in love with them and last bust not least, always welcome failure.
Right.

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