Smart Devices Need Even Smarter Design Teams

Smart Devices Need

Smart Devices Need : Products and services that create actionable data are increasingly tied to added value. Making a product smart through the human-machine interface, integrated electronics and connectivity can bring high-margin revenue opportunities.

HMI is the brain of a device, telling it to act when the end-user needs it to. HMI technologies range from the traditional single-touch display mounted on a machine to advanced technologies such as gesture-recognition sensors.

The HMI technology market is on track to become an $11.88 billion space by 2026, and much of its success can be attributed to smart home technology. More and more devices are beginning to use capacitive touch, proximity sensing, natural language processing and other technologies designed to think, make decisions and learn, in turn, making HMI design and manufacturing front and center in product discussions.

Evolving HMIs and related functionalities are growing consumer demand for smart home devices. In Jabil’s 2020 Smart Home Technology Trends survey of 215 IoT decision makers, 57% of participants said opportunities for connected home solutions have more than doubled in the previous two years. Furthermore, production and development of these devices across every category had increased in the same timeline.

The Fitness Industry’s Example

The fitness industry is one area of opportunity for connected home solutions, particularly since the pandemic lockdowns elevated consumer awareness of the range of options available for “fitness from home.” Fitness industry trends are leaning toward “smarter” equipment with more intelligent and integrated electronics.

Fitbits and Apple watches were once used primarily at the gym; now we have connected home equipment that measures our blood pressure, our heart rate, calories burned and more. Peleton’s in-home fitness equipment, connects with remote, live trainers in real time.

We’re seeing the future of intelligent solutions that combine wearable with the world. Wearable devices like smartwatches, body monitors and fitness trackers can send a signal to the user’s smart home network when they enter the perimeter of their home. The device can act according to that signal by powering up the living room lights, TV or air conditioner. What makes all this possible: HMI design.

Design Essentials

Modern HMI design for the smart home requires a clear understanding of the device’s users, to understand preferences, anticipate needs and respond to dynamically changing actions.

Early on, product engineers should decide on the visual language of the IoT device. For instance, should the device use icons or colors? It’s vital that users be able to operate the device intuitively.

Status indication is also essential. It’s not only about determining whether a device is on or off; it must perform many other functions and understand the end-user on a sophisticated level. An electronic status indicator signals a function of a device with the end-user.

Light can shine through the device and communicate in multiple ways: light pipes, panel mount indicators or capacitive touch sensor displays. Such indicators play a big role in how well or poorly an end-user engages with a smart home product.

Engineers also need to consider communication functionality in HMI system design. Usually, the less text and the more visual cues used for the HMI, the easier it is for the consumer to understand it. The brain processes visuals faster than text, so using visuals instead of words whenever possible can ramp up visual communication and eliminate language barriers.

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