How magic might save the future of Internet of Things

With our most recent project (codename: BuzzBoard), we have started to think of ways for our connected home to interact with us. With a LED information board we aim at giving our home a voice, or rather a screen to display relevant information. Another screen, another interface – to be honest, I am very sceptical about the accumulation of screens and apps for ( the Internet of ) everything. Hence, with this blog post I want to give our readers a chance to question and reflect on the true smartness of the connected device flooding our homes.

So what makes a device smart?

In the recent months while tinkering in our beautiful home, we were trying to connect every possible device on our openhHAB home server – from light, to heating, washing machine, to speakers and even plant sensors! That was the time I realized how incredibly complex it is to build a platform for all those different devices, systems and protocols. But hey – that’s just an attempt to solve the challenge of trying to integrate those yet still fragmented and vertically-oriented systems – far far away from being smart.

The next step we took to make those devices smart, was building a huge set of rules to automate our connected home. But letting your devices dance to a strict and rigid set of rules is automation – that’s not smartness!

But then Johannes started working on the music that follows you through our home, coupling our Sonos speakers to the Beacon technology.  To me this is something, which enables implicit interactions with our home, while reaping the benefits from new technologies. Meaning, to the user the technology is completely irrelevant – it’s all engineered around the actual functionality – listening to music wherever I go, without any interaction with the physical device.

So, the point I am trying to make is, that truly smart devices should leverage technology while still putting its actual functionality and the needs of the user into the focus. So when coming up with new product ideas one might rethink if putting a screen on it and make it configure-/controllable with an app is really smart, when it actually makes things rather more complicated than trying to serve a need.

So is there an alternative?

Absolutely – just like Johannes’ follow-me entertainment system there are similar approaches around in the eternal universe of the Internet of Things. There is one in particular I would like to share with you – a truly magical onel! Magical, because its about the concept of enchanted objects.

David Rose who coined the term talking about enchanted objects.

With enchanted objects smart technology is embedded within everyday objects, enhancing their actual function with magical features. For example, do you remember the sword of Frodo from Lord of the Rings that started glowing when orks were near? Transport that idea to an umbrella, that is starting to glow when rain is being forecasted. Or what about a wallet that is harder to open, when you overstretched your budget?

So what if the future will not be dominated by more apps and our gazes locked on screens that will absorb our attention, but will be filled with such enchanted objects that have enhanced their core functional capabilities? I believe that this could be an interesting concept worth considering for future product developments around the Internet of Things.

What do you think – will screens keep dominating our future digital landscape or might things change into a different direction?