You enter your hotel room. It features a high-quality bed covered with soft linens and comfy pillows. A large flat screen television is mounted on the wall. The room is equipped with the latest air-conditioning system which allows you to set your desired temperature, and the lights can be perfectly dimmed to the desired levels to achieve the right atmosphere.
It is good to sleep in such a comfortable place. But wouldn't it be even better if these things would automatically adjust to your preferences? That the television automatically connects with your Netflix account, the temperature level is set to what you are used to at home and the lights slowly dim when you usually go to bed.
It might be that the things in your hotel room already have this possibility. The fact that everything looks ordinary does not mean everything is ordinary
# Discover the Internet of Things
Buyers of the Philips Hue lights know they bought a smart device. A device to which can be connected via a smart phone and that can be programmed easily. But once put in a lamp socket, it is not immediately visible for others that these lights are smart and they cannot easily benefit from its great features.
Perhaps, the hotel room you're staying has these smart lights as well. How can you discover the smart things around you?
The concept of The Physical Web provides a smart solution for this discovery problem. With The Physical Web, everything is a tap away and you easily see what's useful around you.
The Physical Web works by letting you see a list of URLs being broadcast by objects in the environment around you. A simple technology with great possibilities. And because it is an open standard which is cheap to implement and has a very low power consumption, even your toaster can broadcast it's own URL.
Now you know what smart things are around you. But how can we interact with these things?
# How do we connect to these things?
The most common way to connect with the Internet of Things is via apps. However, it is quite cumbersome to find, install and use these apps if you simply want to switch your lights on and off. Especially if you only want to interact with these things during your one-night stay in the hotel.
With the expected growth of the number of smart devices, it is hard to imagine that we are going to install an app for every device. Using apps to connect with the Internet of Things does not scale well.
A better user experience can be provided by good old web pages. Thanks to modern web browser technologies it is now possible to connect to physical devices without downloading any app. Simply tab the URL that the device broadcasts and you are automatically connected via Bluetooth Low Energy.
As a side-effect, the need for giving up your privacy when installing apps also vanishes.
Let is be nice to meet the things.
# How do the things connect with us?
If an internet-connected washing machine finished its job, it should notify its owner. Most likely, this is done via a push-message. Nowadays, this way of communication has become popular and many Internet of Things devices make use of them.
While sending a push-message is easy for a device that is directly connected to the internet, it is a little more challenge for battery-powered devices operating via low-power wireless technologies, however, manageable via internet bridges.
Yet, the challenge of sending a push message is only the first challenge to take.
Even now - in a world without many connected things - most of use already receive a lot of notifications every day; informing about new WhatsApp messages, e-mails and app-updates. It affects our focus, our effectiveness at work and our real-world social interactions. In a future in which potentially thousands of things have information that might be interesting, there is a need for rock solid logic that filters the most relevant information.
Perhaps artificial intelligence concepts - such as machine learning - can help the things to inform us in the right place at the right time.
# Meet the things
In 1998 the Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol was published. This turned out to be an April fools prank. Nevertheless, standardizing internet of things protocols is essential for providing the best user experience.
No matter whether you are working on a connected office or a connected home, always use a user centered approach. Consider the following.
Can the things you are planning to use cooperate using standardize protocols, or alternatively, via a well documented API? Users should be able to use all devices easily. Do you have full control over what the things communicate, and at what moments? Users should get informed, not irritated. Is your connected environment prepared for scale? A future in which these things are not alone, but together with many other devices? Users should be in control. Always.
Discovering and connecting with the things should be simple. The concept is called the Internet of Things, but despite this name, not the things but the ones using the things should be the first focus. From now on, it's going to be identity first. Identity first!