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The value of the Service Design approach for IoT

Not understanding the value of Service Design for IoT means missing out on major business opportunities.


If Product Design responds to the challenges of the industrial economy, Service Design was born for the service and experience economy, identifying the relationships between all parties involved as its strength. Developing a product or service based on the interaction with customers and end users allows to offer a quality experience to both: user side, offering a product that responds to real needs and optimizing usability at touchpoints, service owner side, ensuring a product that provides a strategic advantage and that is capable of achieving set business objectives. All this involves a significant workflow, requiring improved processes compared to traditional ones. That is why it becomes essential to be able to count on the support of a team capable of managing relationships, connections, processes and experiences, optimized in terms of time and quality.



Service Design for the IoT

The topic of user experience (UX) Design is quite broad: although the most immediate reference is to the design of user-friendly websites or apps, in recent years there has been increasing talk of service design. Service Design, specifically, is not only concerned with the design of a service and its business model, but also organizes and takes care of all the processes necessary for proper functioning and fruition: ways of working, actors involved, processes of interaction between each back-office and front-office level. A systemic way of thinking, which, thanks to the creation of multidisciplinary teams, makes it possible to design services and experiences based on relationships that last over time.


Relationships must also be enjoyable and ensure a quality experience for all parties involved. So all touchpoints, that is, the contact points between the service and the people involved, must be designed with not only the function factor in mind but also usability, clarity, aesthetics, pleasantness. All of this is on the user side. But another key role of service design is to attend to the internal needs of the organization offering the service. This often means enabling different, innovative, and optimized work processes than traditional ones.


When Service Design is applied to the development of IoT solutions and services, however, the degree of complexity increases exponentially. In fact, while traditionally each user has his or her own application and interfaces exclusively with it, in service design for the IoT, everything is more articulated.


Consider, for example, the management of an entire fleet of devices, which tend to have wide-ranging behaviors and, a defining aspect of IoT solutions, produce real-world effects. In concrete terms, if the manager of an ecosystem of smart devices prepares a firmware update or a new configuration for his devices, he is making tangible, potentially disruptive changes, and a Service Design team needs to anticipate every aspect regarding management and ensure the best possible control in each type of operation.



The three pillars of service design


The Service Design approach is based on three basic areas: understanding, design, and prototyping.


Understanding is the first essential element in designing a performing service: listening to the customer, interviewing and empathizing with both the end user but also the stakeholder, understanding their real needs, defining the problem to be solved, and knowing the target market are some of the best practices that create value and allow for a clear understanding of the problem and the opportunities to be seized. After understanding what are the key elements to work on, processes of:

  • Definition of personas, i.e., the types of users for a given service, their needs and aspirations, and how they interface with the product/service in the target scenario.
  • Identification of pain points, i.e., the critical issues that emerge from the simulation of the interaction between the service and the personas
  • Brainstorming, to establish the macro-areas of intervention and the priority of each in relation to the project. Once these are defined, hypotheses of solutions are formulated, even very embryonic ones, which will later be evaluated, extended, and implemented recursively.


The design phase corresponds to the actual design part. In this phase, the team proceeds to define a concrete solution to present to the client, including a detailed analysis of what solutions might be best suited to solve the problem presented. This phase involves:

  • An initial structuring of the service, with a subsequent assessment of the business model, i.e., an evaluation of the capabilities that service will have to create, distribute, and capture value, providing a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
  • A subsequent testing and validation phase, characterized by recursive validation processes on multiple levels. Ideas are always evaluated within the design and development team, and, recursively, shared and evaluated in the early stages, with the client and, after refinement, with a subset of the end users to capture feedback and priorities on each feature.

In each project phase, new ideas and case studies continually emerge that, if noteworthy, are incorporated either within the business model or within the feature list of the service. Likewise, issues also emerge that are promptly resolved before moving on to the next phases.


Finally, the prototyping phase is addressed, in which the service outlined earlier is "grounded." The touchpoints, the points of contact, between users and the service/product are precisely defined, identifying the expected usage flows and interactions within the system. The goal is to design an initial working prototype through which to conduct initial usability tests and gather initial feedback from stakeholders and users. In fact, up to 80 percent of possible problems can be found at this stage; therefore, it will be necessary to correct the various errors, continue with testing, validate the prototype again, and measure subsequent performance.


Usually, in the field of IoT, these last steps are repeated even when the product has reached its final form, but in a radically different perspective: once the first usability issues have been solved, the focus is to proceed repetitively with the design and integration of new features to maintain and increase the competitive advantage of the service in the market. In this area in particular, it is crucial to continuously evolve the service and add features according to market, user and stakeholder demands in order to enhance the service and avoid potential lock-ins that will arise in the long run.



CLEA's design combined with the advantages of custom AI apps

The ability to manage all devices in a timely and sustainable manner, always having full control of them, offering modularity and freedom of action to the user, is one of the main features that characterize service design in IoT. Fundamental, however, is the feedback, from devices, of concrete insights and real value creators.


In this sense, CLEA, SECO's modular Edge and Cloud AI platform, with its extreme flexibility and ability to run both ready-to-use and fully custom both edge and cloud applications, enables device managers to make their devices truly smart by enabling vertical services and applications that bring concrete and tangible value within the business.


In fact, the concrete advantage CLEA brings to the target business is provided by custom AI apps: applications developed to meet the customer's highly specialized needs can be deployed on a wide range of devices.


Being fully customizable and based on Artificial Intelligence models, these apps fit perfectly into one's smart ecosystem, ensuring the highest level of accuracy in terms of feedback, processed data, and useful insights. The goal is to achieve operation, performance, and value creation for any type of device: that's why CLEA apps range from AI-based refill detection for vending machines to smart defrosting for chillers, in addition to predictive maintenance, which is increasingly important in the industrial environment - and currently not commonly implemented in most vertical markets. These types of applications enable tangible ROI, with significant savings in terms of downtime reduction and production process optimization, which translate into both a strong reduction in service and maintenance costs and a significant increase in revenue. This also enables new business models based on AI that result in recurring fees.


It thus seems clear how, regardless of the industry in which one operates, the CLEA platform enables the creation of more and more concrete and real value in business by putting the power and potential of AI at the service of the customer and the user.

Tag: AI IoT