Getting started

The IoT ideation cards were created with a high level of flexibility in mind. There are times that you already have a product idea in mind whereas you might start from a completely blank canvas in other cases.

The cards

The card deck consists of three types of actor cards (person, object, environment) and one set of interaction cards.

Actor cards:

  • person (orange): persons and/or groups of people relevant to your project context. For example: your target audience and other stakeholders.
  • environment (pink): the contexts related to your problem area. For example : 'the living room' or 'on the train'.
  • object (turquoise): physical objects relevant to your project context. For example: things typically present in the defined environments or things linked to the defined person cards.

Interaction cards:

These cards make the relations between actor cards explicit. Interactions can be labelled as:

  • input: when the interaction is an input to something else
  • output: when the interaction is the result of an outcome
  • physical: when (part of) the interaction is physical (eg. push a button, pick up a vase)
  • data: when (part of) the interaction generates or requires data (eg. location of parks in the city, traffic congestion)
  • sensor: when (part of) the interaction involves a sensor (eg. detect water level, when the light is off)

It is possible to assign more than one label to an interaction card. For instance, an interaction can be physical, related to a sensor and an input at the same time.

Example : The goodnight lamp

In order to get an idea of how the cards can be used, let's start with an example based on an existing network connected product : The Good Night Lamp. The Good Night Lamp is a product that consists of one 'big' lamp which are connected to one or more 'small' lamps. When the big lamp is turned on, the small lamps turn on too. Doing so, the product allows for ambient communication in families or amongst friends.

The image below shows the system behind the product as a network of ideation cards, using objects, people and environments linked together with interactions.

This example above shows a typical outcome created during an ideation session. It should not take long to understand how this products works: one person switches a reading light on, and another person's lamp indicates this activity. There are 2 physical activities involved (switching on the large lamp, noticing the small lamp turn on) and one data interaction (communicating the status of the reading light).

Using the IoT ideation cards, the system behind this product can be made visual. Doing so, it becomes more clear which 'actors' are crucial to the product. Be creating these type of 'system maps' it becomes a lot easier to understand the product.

In the example you quickly notice that one person only interacts with a part of the system components, whereas another person uses other elements of the same system. This way of understanding and defining a concept is essential in an internet connected setting. You need to define all system components and know which component influences the system at any given time.

Using the cards, step by step

This process describes a full 'ideation' session, which means that you start the session without a plan or goal and end with at least one (but usually a several more) Internet of Things products.

1. Problem definition

In order to kickstart an ideation session, it helps to define one or more problem statements. A useful problem statement consists of:

  • Target audience or core stakeholder
  • Context(s) of use
  • A 'how can' question

In order to proceed to the next ideation step, you should be able to fill out following template sentence:

Problem definition template

Take into account that we are looking for Internet of Things product concepts. In order to focus on this type of products, we have created some Internet of Things inspiration wildcards, which can be flipped randomly. These will introduce elements typical to Internet of Things products and services. A printable version of these cards can be found here.

#protip: construct a (fictional) story related to this problem statement. What could a setting be in which this problem happens? Who are the central stakeholders? What are they missing? ...

2. Customise your deck

Using the blank ideation cards, create one card for each environment, person and object relevant to your problem statement. This will provide you with relevant components to start working towards a solution. You can always add more later!

#protip: creating your own deck works best by fictionally walking through a storyline. Which stakeholder does what at which time? Where does this take place? What objects does s/he use or need?

3. Create your solution network

Place your target audience 'person' card in the center of the table. Now you can start to construct your solution based on this. This will greatly vary from situation to situation, from group to group. The overall goal should be that you manage to solve your initial problem statement.

4. Add and define interactions

This step usually happens in parallel with step 3. Once your team is heading towards a solution, you can start adding interaction cards. These cards link together persons, objects and environments and define the relationship type between them (data, physical, sensor, input or output).

#protip: Make sure to only write one interaction on one card. You will sometimes need more than one interaction card to define the relationship between

Useful related resources:

The IoT ideation cards were created based on existing methods and tools, remixed and made specific for an IoT related setting.

This kit focusses on 'setting the scene' to define an IoT concept by providing a very visual tool that helps in constructing a story and solution space for network connected product concepts.

A well known technique, often used in service and experience design related activities. This type of mapping allows you to make an overview of all involved stakeholders in a project.

This umbrella term has a rather elaborate legacy in various domains. In essence, it comes down to the idea of creating a visual map of related elements. Often, a system 'modeling language' is defined, examples include UML (software focus) or BPMN (business model focus).

A technique to explain a product concept in a visual way. By forcing you to deconstruct the way a product and/or service is used into 'comic style' drawings, the full story related to a concept becomes better defined.