Problem: Remote Kiosk Management
Another challenge for the Hop project was how to best manage the kiosks. We initially began with a cloud-based administration panel that could oversee each kiosk remotely. However, we soon realized that it was difficult to manage physical devices using an interface with a high level of abstraction. For example, if you see that “tap 4” is having problems, how do you know which tap that corresponds to?
Using a diagram was one potential option that we considered. However, it’s difficult to code and design and would need to change as the kiosk’s physical layout also changes.
In the end, we offered both a remote administration panel in the cloud, but also added individual tap controls for each kiosk. Managers can log into the device and make changes while they’re standing in front of the machine. Despite all the hype around the cloud, sometimes you’re not able to make everything an abstraction.
Why Testing is a Challenge for IoT Applications
Real-World User Testing
At the beginning of an IoT project, testing is difficult, because replicating the hardware is impossible until you build everything out. There’s very little way for designers and developers to see how people use both the hardware and software in a 3D environment.
Still, the knowledge and insights that you gain from real-world user testing is invaluable. You learn a lot about how people’s brains work by seeing them physically interact with a device.
The best way that we’ve found to get around this issue is to move as fast as you can in the early stages of the project. Start by creating a small working hardware prototype with minimally functional software that you can use for testing, and then progress from there as you develop more features.
Another challenge during the Hop project—and IoT projects in general—is working on a multidisciplinary team of both hardware and software experts. Designers and software developers need to collaborate closely with engineers throughout the entire process.
Even though it’s not their chosen area of expertise, designers and developers need to have a solid understanding of the system’s different hardware components, as well as the capabilities of each component. This will help prevent conflicts when designers have an idea that isn’t physically feasible due to hardware limitations.
Working on the Hop kiosks taught us some valuable takeaways about IoT projects. First, everyone on the project should dive into the hardware as soon as possible. Gain a full understanding of the hardware’s abilities and limitations so that you don’t have unrealistic ideas about what it can do.
Second, at the outset you should put focus into building a bare-bones proof of concept or minimum viable product (MVP). Work on establishing a simple user interface with the most basic features enabled, and see how users respond to it during testing. By including user testing throughout the development process, you’ll be much more likely to build a product that satisfies the client and that people actually want to interact with.
Are you thinking about starting an IoT project? Reach out and tell us about your project here; we'd love to help.