As we barrel ahead toward an ever increasingly connected world—watching innovation after innovation surface through the Internet of Things (IoT)—it’s easy to get caught up in the endless possibilities of the technology and lose sight of who it’s being made for. Makers, innovators, and tinkerers in this space would be well-advised to pause for a moment and recognize brands that thrive live and breathe people first.

Brand Experience = Human Experience.

At the heart of any brand experience lies a human experience. After all, brands aren’t built to please machines. They’re built around human needs, wants, desires, and—the ones who really get it—human delight. You can imagine, then, how encouraging it was to hear so many of the speakers at the SOLID Conference this past spring echo that very sentiment. Keynote speaker and conference organizer O’Reilly Media CEO, Tim O’Reilly, may have put it best when he said, “[The Internet of Things] is about human augmentation. It’s about making us smarter and more capable.” So, brands in the IoT space need to bring everything they do back to how they can automate, streamline, collect, aggregate, and alert in ways that truly improve our lives—give us more time, help us live healthier, make us smarter, and care for our planet.

A few examples that hit the mark.

The two day SOLID Conference was a delightful firehose of presentations and demonstrations showcasing innovative and inspiring thinking (and making!). A few gems really exemplify the human-first perspective…

SmartThings + Jawbone UP.


Speaker: Alex Hawkinson, SmartThings CEO

The consumer-focused IoT landscape is still largely dominated by single or multi-function stand-alone smart objects. However, as the space evolves, we will see systems of (sometimes disparate) objects emerge. SmartThings is forging ahead on this front. Their open source platform provides an easy point of entry for consumers and product manufacturers alike. SmartThings provides a comprehensive, yet modular, “plug and play” smart home sensor system for consumers. Combined with a developer community, that’s churning out apps to expand the system’s capabilities, and a growing number of third-party product partners, who can easily plug their products into the SmartThings system (without the need for exclusivity), the possibilities – and return on investment – are endless.

So far, they’ve integrated Phillips Hue, Belkin WeMo, Sonos and Jawbone UP24. The first three alone make for some powerful system augmentations, but the addition of the Jawbone UP24 smart wristband really up-levels the experience. With it, your household devices – lights, thermostats, coffee maker, sound system, etc. – respond based on when you wake up and fall asleep. Now we’re talking smart…delightfully smart. Watch the video above to see it all in action.


You can tell yourself that juggling multiple mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons – and the intermittent rinsing thereof – is all part of your kitchen adventures. You might even convince yourself it’s true. That is, until you try Drop. This iPad-connected smart kitchen device will bring you out of your denial…fast.

With this brilliant scale/mixing bowl/app combo, you simply add ingredients and it measures for you in real-time on-screen. You add and act, step by step – in ONE bowl – as the app visually guides you through one of their many curated recipes. The app will resize the recipe based on number of servings needed OR how much of the ingredients you have on hand. It also suggests substitutions for any ingredients you don’t have. Plus it’s got digital timers, mobile alerts and social sharing baked right in.

This little powerhouse’s creators studied every aspect of the cooking experience in painstaking detail to concoct one seriously enchanting (not to mention ergonomic) cooking experience. How do I know? The product “told” me. As each feature was revealed, I ooh’d, aah’d, wow’d and sweet’d. That’s when you know you’ve nailed the human-centric approach. Watch the video above and see if you don’t do the same.

LUMO by Po-Mo Inc.

Immersive interactive experiences are another place where imaginations run free in the IoT space. Responsive gallery installations, retail signage and experimental public events are gaining traction in major metropolitan centers around the globe. Beyond marketing and entertainment though, these experiences have enormous potential to educate and foster creativity.  Enter Po-Mo Inc.’s LUMO, the world’s first interactive projector for kids.

LUMO, at its core, promotes movement and imaginative play. To kids it’s the magic wand that instantly turns make-believe into reality. To parents, it’s the sedentary “screen time” equalizer. The system comes pre-loaded with a handful of interactive game templates that kids can play as-is, or easily modify to make their own. They can even make their very own games from scratch using a combination of supplied images, self-created images, effects and commands. So, there’s an aspect of “cheese on their broccoli” to it, too – they only taste the fun, but, with each bite, they also get the benefit of learning how to build interactive experiences.

With a LUMO SDK at the ready – and an army of engaged developers chomping at the bit – it won’t be long before “if you can dream it, you can play it” becomes a reality. Just don’t forget to let your kids play with it once in a while, too.

Ballet Hero.


All of this new technology also creates enormous opportunity for instructional activities and environments. With the ability to sense and respond to all kinds of input – movement, sound, temperature, etc. – cues and direct feedback can be substituted for and/or integrated into the teaching experience. As part of Georgia Tech’s innovative Interactive Product Design Lab,  students James Hallam, Emily Keen, Christa Lee, Alison McKenna, and Mudit Gupta brought this opportunity to life for ballet, with Ballet Hero.

As described on the blog, “Ballet Hero is a full-body dance instruction garment, intended to help new dancers better understand the motions the instructor is making, and move in sync with them. The project uses lit bands on the arms and legs of the garment to break the dancer’s moves down into the flashing keyframes, and are used to signal the student when they are out of sync.”

A natural next step is to develop synced teacher/student outfits. When asked, the team said they definitely had this in mind, but wanted to test out this first iteration before expanding.

What other products like these have you seen that exhibit a true understanding that brand experience = human experience?

About Heather Dougherty.

heatherHeather has been delivering successful, high-caliber client solutions in the digital space since 1999, in a variety of environments—including start-up, corporate and agency environments (servicing both B2B and B2C clients). Her unwavering eye toward emerging and ever-shifting trends in digital, combined with deep expertise in digital marketing, content strategy and user experience best practices, inspire strategies with impact—for customers and businesses alike. Her client collaborations include Walmart, Subway Restaurants, Icebreaker, The Vanguard Group, Milgard Windows, Daimler Trucks North America, NW Natural and Portland State University.