Rethinking IoT — Talk to Plants and Learn About People

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Tech is more deeply intertwined in our lives than ever before. The implications are not so clear but research shows that people find it increasingly difficult to detach from it and form meaningful relationships with the world around them. The promise of 5G and IoT will integrate technology even deeper into every aspect of our lives. So instead of looking at all the possibilities, we need a stronger focus on understanding the right balance of relationships within the context of a tech-driven world: what we want versus what is possible.

Take the leap

Start with a plant

We wanted to understand how to build meaningful interactions between people by looking at how we relate to plants. The most straightforward relation you can probably think of is that plants are irrational and indifferent, which is a good start for our experiment. So we wired up a number of office plants with sensors and interfaces and programmed them in such a way that they would pro-actively try to establish a relationship with us and the other plants through WhatsApp, Slack, and Skype. After switching them on, we closely studied the behavior of our colleagues in the office.

What we learned from talking to plants.

2 — Connecting. After initial excitement within the office, a smaller group of people now have taken a more responsible role towards the plants. They tapped into the interaction more constructively than others and had the plants send them messages over the weekend.

3 — Going beyond human connections. We have now connected multiple plants to form a group to help understand how machine learning can improve interrelations between plants. In a future IoT driven world, it will be interesting to find out how a heavily connected world with inert objects could impact human behavior. The first signs are quite annoying (connected plants seem to be complaining about the weather mostly) but interesting.

It may seem gimmicky, but this quirky use case helped us understand better how technology can impact human behavior and strengthen relationships.

With technology, we can now form relationships with things that we weren’t previously able to communicate with. We can give a voice to inanimate objects. To stand out from the competition and truly connect with your customers, it has become more important than ever for business leaders to prioritize meaningful human interactions. To do this, companies need to learn to take a humanistic approach to technology in order to strengthen the relationship they have with their customers and to the world around them, such as cars, bikes, headphones, or even chairs. The bottom line is that it provides you with brand affinity and business.

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Hello. We are Edenspiekermann, an independent, global design agency. We solve business problems with design.

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