IoT devices need surprises, Amazon claims

By Chris Edwards |  No Comments  |  Posted: June 25, 2018
Topics/Categories: Blog - Embedded  |  Tags: , , , ,  | Organizations:

Manufacturers of embedded devices for the internet of things (IoT) should play more with their software and make use of techniques used in website design to increase overall usability, Amazon’s head of IoT analytics has claimed.

In her keynote at the 55th Design Automation Conference in San Francisco on Monday (June 25th, 2018), Sarah Cooper, Amazon general manager of IoT analytics and solutions, said device manufacturer could apply tricks used in games software: “We are trying to convince customers that putting Easter eggs into their products is a good idea.”

A more fundamental design change would be to support A/B split testing of user-interface modes and other services. This is commonly used in online advertising and the design of e-commerce sites. Cooper said the rapid pace of adoption of electronic products makes it important to test on live devices in the field rather than in the lab.

“End users never use a device the way you think they are going to. It might be because you designed it on a whiteboard. But rarely is that [unexpected application] a bad thing. End users teach you a lot about the variety of uses for your devices,” Cooper claimed.

She pointed to work with a customer making air purifiers where it emerged users would use them to help manage other aspects of home automation. Cooper argued A/B testing of different control modes would help the creation of more intuitive and usable systems. In this style of testing, users are split into two groups. The test involves determining which group sees the greater average success and then adopting that approach. The technological problem with such an approach is in the construction of embedded software.

“To do this you really need a modular code base,” Cooper said. Tools exist for cloud development that help with the kind of structure needed but the question, she noted, is “how do you take those toolsets and make them run not just in the cloud but pull that all the way down so embedded engineers can use the same toolsets.”

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