Final Assignment:
Exploring IoT Ecosystems

tl;dr: Working in groups of 10, realize a future vision for a 'technology enhanced bedroom' where internet appliances enhance the experiences of tomorrow.

  • Type: Collaborative
  • Due: Wednesday 8th March
  • Submit to: Connected Ecosystem
  • Team Assignments: Self organize - Teams of at least 10.

Major Milestones

  1. Familiarize - Friday, Feb 23

  2. Defamiliarize - Sunday Feb 25

  3. Visionary Proposal + Bill of Materials. - Tuesday Feb 27.

  4. Prototype and Present - Vision Crits - Tuesday Feb 27

  5. Prototype and Present - 1st cut prototype - Thursday Mar 1

  6. Prototype and Present - Draft Presentations - Tuesday Mar 6

  7. Prototype and Present - Final Showcase - Wednesday Mar 8

Where we are

Over the past couple of weeks, you’ve been introduced to the world of connected systems and the Internet of Things. We’ve explored in-situ sensing and using data from the Internet to create ‘enchanted objects’. We’ve looked at how these objects can enhance not just daily routines but human-to-human connections. We’ve seen how ambient information can make data present in physical spaces and give subtle cues to action or nudges towards behavior change. You’ve been introduced to design methods for IoT applications and network centered design. You’ve read about disruptive innovation and reconsidering known spaces to design innovative products. We’ve also looked at the challenges and considerations in realizing internet appliances with multiple interacting stakeholders, needs and within complex service maps. phew and we’re only 5 weeks in…

Exploring IoT Ecosystems

The goal of this project is to bring many of the strands together, in a grounded real-world problem space and which fully explores the potential and nature of connectedness.

The focus will be on ‘ecosystems’ of interacting internet appliances. Previously, we’ve only considered a single device in isolation, now we’re going to consider how several different devices can work together to solve a shared problem.

What does an ‘ecosystem’ of IoT devices mean? Let’s use the analogy of cooking. To make a meal, we don’t just use one ‘thing’; we use a series of ‘things’ together. To cook our dinner, we need our fridge to store and keep the food fresh, a knife to chop, and cutting board to prepare on, a tin opener, a sauce pan, an oven, etc. All of these things work together to help us achieve the overall goal. Each of them as a specific function within the overall task. The same is true of the Internet of Things; real-world problems are complex, and often require a series of complementary devices or interacting systems that work with one another to achieve the desired outcome.

To do this, we’re going to consider a problem space where there are many moving parts: many stakeholders, many users, many data sources and many potential services (think back to Week 5’s in-class exercise; Week 5 readings.)

The challenge for you, in designing solutions for this space, is that it will be very familiar. This makes it harder; these spaces are loaded with expectations (see Week 4 readings.) They come with all sorts of built-in assumptions. We have well established notions of how they should and do work. This makes it hard to see new possibilities or alternative approaches. So, the goal won’t simply be to design a series of connected products for problem space, but to find ways to innovate through disruptive solutions.

To help with this, we’re not going to try to realize solutions for now, but we’re moving the horizon to 5 years out. This frames the project as speculative and should make it a little easier to imagine new, strange and/and unfamiliar solutions (see Week 6 readings.)

The good news, is that we a little over two weeks for the project. This gives us time for review, discussion, refinement and iteration. Something that we haven’t had room for in previous projects!

What is this problem space? Glad you asked…

Problem Space: Connected Bedroom

The bedroom is a space we spend hours of our lives (sometimes sleeping, sometimes not). Our beds are where we spend (hopefully) eight hours a day making the bedroom is an integral part of our home as well as our daily routines. It’s the place that we rest, relax, groom, and prepare ourselves to meet the day. For many of us our bedroom is our sanctuary. It’s a cherished space. And it’s personalized. Through decoration and through the pictures, mementos and keepsakes we display in it, we reveal our personal histories and who we are. It a site of social coordination - for kids who share a room or for couples who have to manage living and sleeping in the same space. In relationships, “a bed serves as a unique interface between people because it is a space that is shared physically with two whole bodies.” This ranges from the subtle cues of weight, breathing and body warmth to the more overt acts of blanket hogging. It’s a space closely intertwined with our identify, or personal rituals and routines, deeply coupled with cultural practices and personal wellbeing. But it’s also an often overlooked space for design and innovation.

Let’s explore the aesthetic, social and cultural possibilities of the connected bedroom. Let’s ask questions like:

Project Brief

This is what you’ll explore. Drawing on your own experiences and interests, this project asks you to imagine the future of the the bedroom as a connected experience.

You are to imagine a scenario that could feasibly exist in 5 years time. This should include a vision for an ecosystem of interacting connected products. This ecosystem would enhance the bedroom experience (or any aspect of it) through the Internet of Things.

In support of this vision, you are asked to develop three working prototypes that illustrate this concept and that interact with one another to develop an ecosystem and support the user and the context.

The manner in which you approach this is up to you, but you are strongly encouraged to consider disruptive rather than conventional solutions!

You will work in one of the following contexts:

  • At Home - enhance or augment an aspect of the bedroom through a connected ecosystem
  • Beyond the Home: Production - enhance the experience of being in a home away from home in a hotel through a connected ecosystem

Project Requirements

Students will work in large groups (approximately 10 individuals per group) and asked to prepare the following:

  1. A vision: a conceptual introduction to how they envision the future ecosystem working and the kinds of connected solutions that will enhance the quality of experience for it’s end users. This should be realized as a short 2-3 minute video.

  2. Working prototypes: prepare at three working prototypes from their vision. Each prototype will be demo’ed during the final class.

  3. Presentation of outcomes: Present their design scenario and prototypes in a 5 minute final presentation

  4. Demo Session: Provide a live-demonstration of the ecosystem working and the connected experience you have designed.

  5. Process documentation: Maintain a record and illustrate their work process, rationale and design decisions.

  6. Outcome documentation: Prepare written documentation of the solution (goal, vision, design process, prototyped solutions, viability of the solutions, next steps, reflection on success, etc.)

Process and Milestones

There are three major steps to this assignment. Each of them is explored in separate documents.

  1. Familiarize - get to know the domain we’re designing for in a rapid research exploration across users, precedents and objects.

  2. Defamiliarize - find unusual approaches to explore this familiar design space, brainstorm possible connected scenarios, and propose a visionary scenario.

  3. Visionary Proposal - develop a statement of intent for your future focused scenario and a lightweight description of your connected ecosystem

  4. Prototype and Present - implement a working prototype, fast! implement connections between those prototypes, faster!

Detailed Timeline and Schedule

Pay close attention - there’s a lot of stuff happening in the next 2 weeks.

  • Tuesday, Feb 20:

    • Introduction to the Assignment;

    • Forming teams

  • Thursday, Feb 22 (for class) Friday, Feb 23 (During office hours):

    • Familiarize research due

    • Presentations of findings in class.

  • Friday, Feb 23 (midnight): Sunday, Feb 25 (midnight)

    • Design Explorations (brainstorming; e.g. repeat exercises from Week 3 and 4)

    • Generate and share on slack a large volume of design proposals.

  • Sunday, Feb 25: Tuesday, Feb 27 10am: All groups should have a project set up on the Gallery to include: Short Statement on Project Goals / Concept; List of team members + roles;

    • Deliverable a) Initial Ecosystem Proposal

    • Deliverable b) Proposed Prototypes (incl. sketches)

    • Deliverable c) Bill of Materials/Parts

  • Tuesday, Feb 27 (during class):

    • Vision Proposal Presentations

    • Group collaboration

  • Thursday, Mar 2 (for class): 1st Cut Prototype

  • Thursday, Mar 2 (in class): Rapid Crit and review;

    • Presentation + Crit of initial vision / prototypes

      • Short presentation on the vision and proposed prototypes design (5 minutes max)

      • Each teams prototype subgroups to bring and demonstrate their prototype

      • Critique: All groups to give feedback to other teams (15 mins per team)

    • Team Discussions, Prototyping; Concept Dev.

  • Tuesday, Mar 7 March: Final Prototyping Session (9am - 12.30pm) AND Dry Run

    • Each team will run their 5 minute presentation.

    • Prototyping support

  • Thursday Mar 8, 10.30a: Final Presentations

    • 10.30 - 11.00: Setup and staging.

    • 11.00 - 11.30: Presentations: 5 minutes per team to include vision video

    • 11.30 - 12.30: Demonstrations: Give guests a walk through of the demonstrations


The team is expected to self organized. However, it is highly recommended to coordinate as follows:

Vision: (1-2 persons) - coordination the project’s vision; prepare vision and concept documentation; work with sub-teams to create an ecosystem

3 x Prototype Group (3 persons each)

Three sub-teams should work on a single working prototype that integrates with the larger vision. It is recommended to organize as three people as follows:

  • Developer - responsible for the technical implementation (code, circuits, functionality)

  • Designer - responsible for the visual design, form, interaction, and experience

  • Liaison - responsible for documentation of process; coordinate with liasions on other prototype groups + with the vision team to develop connectivity between prototypes; communicate the development of the prototype.

Organization, roles and the distribution of effort throughout the process should be noted in outcome documentation.


This isn’t a race to the finish. This is a collaborative exploration.

Feel free to _Share, reuse, revisit_ past projects as needed.

You are welcome to use the code, ideas, outcomes from any previous project even if it is not your own; but you must acknowledge it.

Final Documentation:

Final documentation should be added to the relevant pool on the Gallery. It is recommended that you create one project for each prototype developed, as well as, one project which explains the overall vision and links to each of the prototype’s documentation.

You should provide a clear and concise description of your project, your process, and the outcomes. It should be quick to get an overview of the project. Ideally, your description of the outcomes should be repeatable too i.e. anyone in the class can replicate it easily from the information provided.

Using Online Material: It is perfectly fine to use examples, code, tutorials, and things you find on the web to help you realize your project. That’s part of the open-source mentality that surrounds much of Making, Arduino and microcontrollers. However, you cannot just copy and paste these solutions. In your documentation you must acknowledge where you got this content from. Include a link to any tutorials, guides, or code that are part of your final solution.

Resources, Articles and Places to look

Precedent Projects

Goodman, Elizabeth, and Marion Misilim. “The sensing beds.” UbiComp 2003 Workshop. 2003.

“The Sensing Beds domesticate communications devices by placing them in the bedroom. The beds mediate between two romantic partners who are not co-located by sensing body position in each bed and using a grid of small heating pads to warm the congruent points in the other bed. As an experiment in telepresence, they bridge the physical distance between two people who would normally share a bed, but find themselves sleeping apart. As an experiment in slow technology and emotional communication, they articulate users’ existing concerns about intimacy, trust and knowledge.”

The Good Night Lamp is a kickstarter backed projectwhich connects a series of bedside lamps. “Good Night Lamp is a physicalsocial network. It allows you to keep in touch with people all over the world. When you buy Good Night Lamp it comes as a set of two lamps: a Big Lamp and a Little Lamp. When you turn on your Big Lamp, the Little Lamp turns on too. You can send your Little Lamp to your friend or family member anywhere in the world. There is no lengthy setup and no internet connection needed.”

Pillow Talk is “an interactive product aimed at bringing long distance lovers together. Each person has a special pillow on their bed and goes to sleep wearing a wireless ring sensor. When one half of the couple goes to bed, the pillow on the other’s bed begins to glow softly. Placing their head on the glowing pillow, one can instantly hear the real-time heartbeat of their lover and feel closely connected, regardless of distance.”

NYTimes Labs (2011) - Mirror

The Mirror from the New York Times Labs is “Envisioned as a key fixture in your home, the mirror uses face recognition to call up personalized data, including health stats, a calendar, news feeds, and other information relevant to your morning routine. Voice commands switch between views, and gestures (via an embedded Kinect) activate content, including fullscreen video messages from other mirror users.”. There’s lots of variations of this, and you can find examples on Hackster of people DIY’ing mirror interfaces. It’s very easy



Virginia Tech will unveil the final phase of FutureHAUS with bedroom and home office designs to show “ how digital technologies, cutting-edge products, and smart building design will make our bedrooms and home offices more responsive to our future needs and way of living.”

Odom, William, et al. “Investigating the presence, form and behavior of virtual possessions in the context of a teen bedroom.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2012.

“Teens display and curate their precious material possessions in their bedrooms in order to explore their changing values and aspirations, and project them to different audiences…Through this process, they construct value with their things; mentally reassigning an individualized sense of worth as they possess and repeatedly use their things over time [3]. The bedroom provides teens with their first opportunity to author a space, to create their own aesthetic and sense of style in negotiation with their parents [25].”

Hangers that show you likes. C&A’s Brazilian stores tested the power of Facebook (FB) to prompt in store purchases with hangers that digitally display the number of “likes”

Welspun / TILT Textile’s SpinTales is a textile product that enables augmented reality storytelling for kids. It’s designed to work on rugs or bedsheets to bring to live stories that kids love to read.

Consumer Products

Grooming and Garmentry

Sleep Tracking

Baby and Child

Skincare and Beauty

  • WaySkin’s WAY sensor
  • Neutrogena’s SkinScanner analyzes your moisture level, pores and lines to provide you with a unique Skin360 Score
  • Shiseido’s Optune is a skincare personalization system that includes a sensor to identify skincare needs in realtime.
  • Romy Paris’s Nespresso-like machine makes fresh face cream and serum for a person daily based on the user’s needs and determined with the help of an app.

Sex and Intimacy

  • Kiiroo and OhMiBod - internet-connected vibrators
  • Lovely - connected sex toy designed to measure your sexual performance

Hotel Rooms


“…we live in a world of increased complexity, in which digital data, everyday objects, and social practices are increasingly connected and interdependent. In a world of increasing complexity, designing digital technologies that facilitate meaningful interactions and integrate elegantly in our everyday lives requires an understanding of how to design for commensurability—that is, making our ability to connect across networks commensurate with our current practices in the physical world. Designing the connected everyday is fundamentally about making things commensurate as much as it is about making them smart.”

“A bed serves as a unique interface between people because it is a space that is shared physically with two whole bodies. The presence and actions of our other partners are immediately communicated to us because we are always in close physical contact. We can feel their rhythmic breathing, hear their quiet whispers, and sense their body warmth. Because of this closeness, we have an acutely hightened awareness of the physical and emotional state of one another. Therefore, this bed object is very “loaded” with meaning, as we have strong emotional associations towards such intimate and personal experiences. Work by Paul Sermon has explored the use of video projection to connect two remotely located beds to form a virtual “telepresence” between people. [4]”

In the past decade, HCI has become increasingly preoccupied with the deeply subjective qualities of interaction: experience, embodiment, pleasure, intimacy, and so on, an agenda sometimes grouped under the heading of “third-wave HCI”.”Analytically understanding and designing for such qualities has been an ongoing challenge to the field, in part because its established theories and methodologies are comparatively weak at understanding and being responsive to human subjectivity. In this paper, we present a case study of a group of designers who have, in the past few years, revolutionized their domain - sex toys - by combining embodied pleasure, intimate experience, health and wellness, emerging technologies, high-quality design processes, and social activism. We consider the implications this case could have for researchers innovating on especially third-wave HCI design theories, methodologies, and processes.

Food For Thought

Stuff on the Web