Our world is becoming more connected and devices that communicate are now becoming the norm. As user experience (UX) professionals, we will be creating experiences across and for these devices. I’ve worked in the past with scenarios involving connected devices and this is my effort to create a framework to document inputs and triggers for these connected interactions. To me, connected experiences are experiences between humans, devices, and programs. These inputs are triggered by activities or device interactions not associated with keyboard or standard touch input. These actions would be considered as elements used in service design. (For information on service design see: Service Design 101 & Service Blueprints)
A Framework for Inputs
I wanted to make these inputs easier to understand and use, so I’ve segmented the framework into the following categories: location, device communication, time and date, computer sensory, human, and miscellaneous. This input framework can be used for service design or IoT interactions. Each one of these categories contain triggers. I’ve given a short definition, with an example and some notes below. You can use one of these as a starting point and then combine them to create more complex activities.
Let’s dive into the categories.
Location-based events are dependent on where something is geographically. It could be a object, human or a zone. Geolocation zones are not static either, if you have a zone around yourself and are en route somewhere, that zone will travel with you.
Location Based Triggers — triggers that depend on location
Exit Geolocation Zone
- This will trigger an event when a geolocation zone is exited.
- Example scenario: You have set up a geolocation zone around your house. When you exit the zone, you have a trigger set to change the temperature of your home thermostat.
Enter Geolocation Zone
- This will trigger an event when a geolocation zone is entered.
- Example scenario: You have set up a geolocation zone around your house. When you enter the zone, you have a trigger set to turn your interior lights on.
Device communication events are used when devices come online, connect, lose connections, or just talk to one another. While many times these interactions may trigger events that are background events, they can also convey notifications to people as well.
Device Communication Triggers — triggers that depend on devices communicating with something
Device to Protocol
This will trigger when a device connects to a communication protocol.
- Example scenario: You have connected a device to your network, be it wifi, bluetooth, NFC, ZigBee, etc. The device will now notify you that it’s connected and ready.
Device to Device
This is triggered when a device connects to another device, or loses it’s connection.
- Example scenario: A phone connects to a wearable device, e.g. watch, and is now capturing data from that device.
- Notes: This could be used for a family scenario as well. Think Disney’s magic bands. If a child gets too far away from their parents when not on a ride, it could trigger an alert.
Time and Date
Time and dates are common triggers in our lives. Things like “Set an alarm for 6:30 tomorrow morning”, “Remind me two weeks before my wife’s birthday”, or “Ten years from today, remind me to replace the smoke detectors in my house” are tasks that utilize time and dates.
Time Date Triggers — triggers that use time, dates or periods of time
Timestamp Event Trigger
This will trigger an event on a predetermined time.
- Example scenario: You have set up an alarm for 7am in the morning to be notified. Or you have set a device to turn on at 7am (e.g. the coffee maker).
- Notes: this can be a reoccurring event. e.g. “Every day at 7am”
After Timestamp Event Trigger
This will trigger an event after a predetermined time.
- Example scenario: You have set up an event to restrict wifi access to your router after midnight to guest devices.
This will trigger an event on a predetermined date or day.
- Example scenario: You have set a notification to change the air filter on your HVAC unit on a date. Or you have a reminder set up to workout on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
After Date Trigger
This will trigger an event after a predetermined date or day.
- Example scenario: A smart smoke detector will notify you after ten years that it is has expired.
This will trigger an event during a scheduled duration of time.
- Example scenario: During a vacation for the next week you want the smart lights to turn on and off using the same pattern from the last week.
Devices have replicated most of the human senses and extended the range as well. Think about the devices that now allow us to see the infrared spectrum or night vision. These triggers are an extension or replication of some of our human senses and the addition of more.
Computer Sensory Triggers — triggers that use computer sensor inputs
Computer Recognition Event
This will trigger when a computer identifies a face, person, place, object, UPC, etc.
- Example scenario: Computer vision — When a computer identifies a face it could add it to a photo album, or tell you that your Grandmother is at the front door.
- Example scenario: Computer listening — A device is in listening mode for a command when it hear’s a predetermined phrase. for example: “Ok, Google”, “Hey, Siri”, “Alexa”
Computer Detection Event
This will trigger a computer or device detects something. It could be movement, shape, shadow, silhouette, zone enter/exit, sound, molecular sniffing, RFID, etc.
- Example scenario: Computer vision — When a computer identifies that movement has occurred in a zone, it will start recording or send you a notification.
- Example scenario: Computer listening — A device could be listening for a window break when you’re not home. Another scenario could be listening for a heart rate in a senior living home.
- Notes: Vision could be regular, ultraviolet, x-ray, infra-red, etc.
These are triggers based on events inside and outside of our bodies. Whether they are based on health data or triggered by commands like gestures, or voice commands we provide a rich set of interaction triggers.
Human Triggers — triggers that are reliant on humans direct or indirect actions
Health Data Event
This will trigger when a health statistic hits a predetermined level.
- Example scenario: You have an alert set to send a notification when your blood pressure rate is below a predetermined level.
Body Event Trigger
This will trigger when an defined event affects the body.
- Example scenario: When someone has fallen send a notification to the nurse. Another scenario could be a trauma incident from a car accident or concussion to call emergency services.
- Notes: Events could be trauma, orientation, force, fall, etc.
This will trigger when a person gestures with a part of their body.
- Example scenario: a person waving their hand under a paper towel dispenser to activate the device and dispense a paper towel. Or pointing at something to activate a virtual reality command.
This will trigger when a person is focusing or lingering on an element.
- Example scenario: A person could be wearing a augmented reality headset and when they focus on an object, a reticle could be displayed.
This will trigger upon a voice command.
- Example scenario: A device is in listening mode for a command when it hear’s a predetermined phrase. for example: “Ok, Google”, “Hey, Siri”, “Alexa”
A question for readers: Would “life form” be better than “human” here? All of these events could be extended to animals very easily.
All of the rest of the triggers that didn’t make sense to be grouped together, I put here.
Activity Absence Event
This will trigger when there is no activity for a predetermined time period.
- Example Scenario: You have a camera watching your front door. If the camera is not recording, you will get a notification that it is not online.
- Notes: Usually used in conjunction with another trigger.
Out Of Bounds Event
This will trigger when a measurement is out of it’s expected range.
- Example scenario: A temperature is too low or too high for an expected range and triggers a notification or communicates to another device to turn it off for safety.
- Note: This could also be an end of life event. e.g. The sensor in a smoke detector is no longer any good after 10 years.
This will trigger upon the presence of an element.
- Example scenario: A water leak has occurred and a notification is sent.
- Notes: This could also be thought of as a Computer sensory event. A computer could detect the presence of water, radiation, molecular presence of fire, etc.
This will trigger upon an interaction with a bot.
- Example scenario: You have a bot that waits on your behalf to speak with a CSR agent. Or you ask a bot to hail an Uber driver for you in a conversational UI.
This will trigger a notification method based on a trigger.
- Example scenario: Once you book a ride, your information is shared with other members of your party.
Putting these together
When creating connected experiences remember that these interactions should be surfaced to you as a person, at the right time and place. They should be meaningful and not require too many interactions or interruptions. If they do, they lose value and become yet another thing requiring your attention. Connected experiences should bring value to your life, make things easier, or augment abilities.
This is my first pass at the framework. Any constructive feedback and conversation is welcome. I have also created cards for each of these so you can lay them out and put them together to create your own scenarios and user flows. In my next article, we’ll explore how to use the framework in a couple of scenarios.
Thanks to Jason Alderman for his editorial help and great feedback.