Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

Mesh networking, the Internet of Things (IoT), pervasive computing – these are all threads in the fabric of our everyday (near future) lives.


Google provides superb machine-learning. Apple contributes gorgeous devices and (relatively) seamless user-centric experiences. Companies like Dropbox, Amazon and, intriguingly, Upthere offer unlimited, always-available storage.

But we don’t yet have the software or the infrastructure that knits everything together.

This is such a thrilling time to be working toward building interoperable, cohesive, compelling experiences for myself, my friends, my family, my community.

Let’s go!


Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

“What do I want?” – the first question in product development (and life)

As an actor, the most powerful question to ask oneself is “what does my character want?” Every subsequent choice the character makes flows from the answer. If an actor is lost in a scene, returning to this question will quickly focus one’s performance on something specific and vital.

The same guiding question applies to finding a new job, working with clients, negotiation and sales or product development. Knowing what a client or customer wants focusses everything that follows on making a genuinely useful and commercially successful product. Muddled decisions that delight no one and frustrate everyone result from not clearly understanding what one wants.

User-centred design returns again and again to “what does the user want?” To orient myself when reviewing a wireframe, design or piece of development, I chose a persona, “get into character” and ask myself as the user "what do I want?“ Everything – decisions about the onboarding flow, the placement of widgets and controls, the most relevant data to visualise, everything – starts there. 

Do you know what you want – and do you know what your customers want?

“What do I want?” – the first question in product development (and life)

Using iOS 6 Maps in the real world: when your solution is the problem

After a week using the new Apple Maps app in iOS 6 around London and on my business trips to Paris, I find it perfectly capable of finding specific addresses, but the information one sees on load lacks context.

Where is Belsize Park tube station? I see Chalk Farm, but not Belsize Park … until one taps in closer. Very odd behaviour, indeed.

Did anyone at Apple use this to navigate through areas with which they were unfamiliar? What does one do when lost or simply in a new place? Look for transportation links, points of interest, a place to eat, have coffee, quaff a cold gin and tonic …

I suspect the fury that greeted the move from a Google-powered dataset to Apple Maps has little to do with aesthetics, but rather the lack of a quick, accurate answer to the question: “where is the [tube/railway station, hotel, Starbucks, Ye Olde Pub] that I think is around here somewhere, but I’m not entirely sure about how to find it]?”

Nice to see there’s a place for coffee, but where’s my hotel – and which metro is that?

Just the other weekend I was going to Paddington for a day out in the Buckinghamshire countryside. I took the 46 bus from Hampstead, but it skirted around the station in a way with which I wasn’t wholly familiar. I opened Maps on my iPhone and … had no idea where Paddington was in relation to my bright blue blip despite being no more than a two-minute walk away.

This highlights precisely why one takes a hell of a lot of care in the creation of user stories and exploring use cases: if your product doesn’t solve a real-world problem for your user, that really is a problem.

Using iOS 6 Maps in the real world: when your solution is the problem

The best interface is no interface

This piece by Golden Krishna gets at exactly why we use technology. For a piece of tech to be useful, it must help me accomplish tasks or create things I otherwise wouldn’t be able to accomplish or create.

Krishna’s survey of digital user interfaces from the past forty years pinpoints exactly what 99% of devices frustrate the hell out of me – their attempts to simplify only serve to confuse. Using a pre-iPhone mobile was like trying to communicate with someone who insisted on speaking a very technical dialect of English, but delivered in “goo goo, ga ga” baby-talk.

There is a better path: No UI. A design methodology that aims to produce a radically simple technological future without digital interfaces. Following three simple principles, we can design smarter, more useful systems that make our lives better.

Principle 1: Eliminate interfaces to embrace natural processes

Hell yes.

The best interface is no interface