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The UX challenge for a smart and connected world

SUMMARY: The big challenge is to design the intersection of the digital and the physical world, to understand how it can really improve our daily lives with seamless experiences for the users.

Last Salone del mobile has hosted Eurocucina, the biennial fair dedicated to the most innovative kitchen brands that are defining the future of the market.

Me and my business partner Fabian Niederkofler attended to have a look at the results of our studio’s last 6 months hard work for Smeg – presenting their first ever iOT collection – and to have the opportunity of having a look at the bigger picture, how technology is shaping the way we live our daily lives more generally.

Walking around Eurocucina 2018

One of the first things we noticed was that everybody is betting hard on the Internet of things area, from Tech giants like Samsung to Italian companies like Elica, it seems that connecting the digital and physical world is the shared vision of the future for the kitchen market.

Cookers, fridges, ovens, wine coolers.. it’s like a big puzzle of appliances is getting smarter with one big goal: evolve the cooking experience to the next level while making our lives easier.

Many companies around the fair exposed prototypes, using a method that’s typically used in startups

Sounds good right? But It is not that easy to understand how. That’s probably why many companies around the fair exposed prototypes, using a method that’s typically used in startups where staying lean means understanding the market first and then satisfy the customers. Big companies are getting faster and smarter.

As for every new market, what pays the most is making little steps trying to focus on little but big improvements.

Take the Smeg Connect line as an example, their wine cooler helps with small but so handy features like wine pairing – thanks to a special partnership with online wine retailer Tannico – or food pairing, with a bunch of recipes specially crafted for the Italian brand. While designing the user experience we were particularly focused on exposing this features in the right place at the right time to give the best experience to the user. The oven app is yet to come with assisted step by step recipes and special programs.

Italian companies like Elica are doing well too, with a bunch of product smart features like air quality detection. Your meal is burning down? No worries, an alarming light will gently pulse and alert you just in time.

Companies that usually succeeds are the ones that solve a small problem with big and clever solution.

We also had the opportunity to try Samsung’s family hub smart fridge. While it is an excellent piece of tech, it remains tricky to understand how people are exactly going to get advantage of its tons of advanced features. Will we really ask the fridge what’s actually in the fridge ( as Samsung employee did) or ask to call an Uber for us? Sometimes it’s hard to understand if companies are trying to bring value in our lives or if it’s just a run for the most feature-rich product. As we continuously see in the startup market the companies that usually succeeds are the ones that solve a small problem with big and clever solution.

In the end, what remains clear is that something huge is happening and many companies are working hard to do something remarkable.

It’s a UX challenge

Are we really going to add a screen on every product we own? Hopefully not. The big challenge in terms of User Experience is to design the intersection of the digital and the physical world, to understand how it can really improve our daily lives with seamless experiences for the users. The big goal is to enter in the era of calm technology where the interaction with digital products doesn’t demand our constant attention and smoothly permeates our lives, improving them. There is a long way to go and only the ones that will put the user at the center of the process will be really able to leave the mark.

We are so curious to see what will happen.

What about you? Do you already use smart and connected objects in your daily life? How do you feel they’re already improving your life?

Share your thoughts ; )

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