Braided products and wickerwork.

by Dries De Roeck on November 24, 2015

Suppose that you’d put 10 knowledgable people in a room, chances are high they all have a different understanding of ‘the Internet of Things’. Someone working for a startup company will think totally different on this compared to someone working at a larger company. Someone working in a B2B dominant domain will think about different ‘use cases’ than someone who primarily works on B2C products. I have the feeling that these semantic discrepancies are a source of confusion and unnecessary discussions.

Personally, I am very wary of using the overhyped ‘Internet of Things’ term. I tend to refer to network connected or connected products. More recently I’ve been using hybrid products or hybrid product service systems. Yet, I haven’t landed terminology I feel comfortable with. There are a variety of reasons why I feel this way;

  • In the term ‘Internet of Things’ the focus is very much on technology (the internet) and things. It all feels very much driven by efficiency and functionality, whereas I believe we should strive to create products with emotion and meaning.
  • When using a term like connected products, I feel that I am artificially trying to split products into categories. The ‘connected’ ones versus the ‘not connected’ ones. I think it is important to not make this difference, increasingly often we are creating digital and physical products at the same time. It seems to make little sense to keep distinguishing between them.
  • Using ‘hybrid products’ somewhat solves these issues, but the term doesn’t take a stance. It is neither fish nor fowl, and might even make it more hazy to understand what we are actually talking about.

Turning in the bottom
I recently started thinking about Braided Products. Metaphorically speaking, it holds a lot of value to me:

  • Braiding always involves various ‘strands’ which are interwoven. To me, this is exactly what we are doing within the ‘internet of things’. We combine digital, physical and services to create one ‘combination’ thereof.
  • The focus is on the humane. Technology is not explicitly referred to, but is regarded as something taken for granted.
  • When braiding something, you go through a process in which expertise of ‘the braider’ can impact the end result. It refers to a process of creation, something which needs to be well thought out before it achieves what it is intended to do.

I’m not sure wether coining new terms for old concepts will help the field in any way. But when reflecting on ‘braided products’ I get the feeling that this ‘type’ of wording comes a lot closer to how I would like ‘the internet of things’ to be interpreted at the moment.

Why do I blog this?

Initiatives like the IOT design manifesto, thingclash and human things show that there is a need to approach the tech dominant internet of things world. I wonder to what extend terminology can have an influence on this, although that I realise that introducing new words for old concepts is not what we need, I enjoyed the thought exercise. Who knows where it might lead…

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