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How to humanise the IoT future


Source: SAGA

Most of us are aware that there has always been a ‘Big Brother’ problem hovering over the industry’s enthusiasm for M2M and more latterly IoT.  It sometimes seems that the more utopian the promise the more dystopian the downside.

The utopian vision for IoT rests on safer, faster more reliable and more cost-effective systems of all kinds making our world a better, safer, more sustainable place in which to live - from domestic automation in the home, integrated transport systems outside it, technology-assisted care everywhere…  the list is not just long, it’s exhaustive. Everything will eventually be connected and thereby improved.

Nurse, the screens

The dystopian vision is in many ways the same coin, different side: connected technology is clearly in danger of being used to gather yet more granular, privacy-busting personal information; to help displace jobs; to monitor our every move and motivation (for security purposes) and will thereby promote an atomised global society where we shut ourselves away behind a screen.

That screen, by the way, performs both its literal function (def: a movable device, designed to divide, conceal, or protect) as well as its post-cinematic one in displaying visual information. So in the dystopian view our screens are screening us from each other while simultaneously force-feeding us images.

For Jonathan Belisle, Chief Design Officer at IoT specialist SAGA, the answer is not to ditch the technology as being too dangerous and reductive, but to get beyond the screens and engage all our other senses, using the technology to do it.

SAGA ‘s mission is to support social change through the creation of an innovative transmedia narrative universe that encourages audiences to action. SAGA also creates tools to reinvent how stories will be told tomorrow using old and emerging technologies, says its blurb.

“Today we have the industrial sort of IoT where companies are connecting and tracking objects,” says Jonathan, “ but for me there is another IoT with a  more the human side to it. Technology to humanise the future.”

The key is SAGA’s  IoTHEATRE, which is described as a ‘Storytelling engine for smart environments’.  That environment integrates 60 types of physical sensors, Web Services and Wearables that can trigger content on any type of screen using mobile apps, sound systems and scenic equipment.

For Jonathan, the technology environment and its human interfaces took a slightly wrong  turning when it evolved what he calls ‘attention-seeking’ devices, like PCs and smartphones a few decades back and now balance has to be restored and the other senses brought on-board.,

“I got tired of the corporate view of things and thought maybe I can to use computing to make people meet in meaningful ways. I was so used to seeing people heads down on their phones - that’s not the way imagination works. It works when people look each other in the eye and talk together. That’s how we get new ideas.”

So the idea behind SAGA and IoTHEATRE was to do a storytelling engine for the programmable environment. “What if,” he says, “an environment was programmable and listened to the user and, most importantly, adapted to the user and the context?“

“If you think about it, the world is a theatre, so we’ve combined  a  world that has never before come together: APIs, scene or show control, home automation, and data analytics. Those four worlds coming together gave us IoTHEATRE. “

So how does IoTHEATRE work?

Here’s an example - a man enters a fitting room where he’s going  to try some new mountain boots. In this case the whole environment becomes a forest. There’s a scent machine that receives a trigger from the system and at the same time some data about the customer - age, sex, how many times he’s been here before and so on, and the environment changes to suit that context.

Imagination can now run riot to develop the space - a smoke or wind machine could be fired up, different scents could be wafted, lighting could be adjusted, appropriate sounds (bird song, running water perhaps) can be generated  and contextually relevant video content can be displayed around the space to show a forest. The result is a compelling retail experience providing real context for wearing the mountain boots. The wearer no longer has to imagine what it will be like to wear these boots in the forest -  he’s in the forest.

In some ways this sounds like a virtual reality experience. “No, no,” says Jonathan, “it’s exactly the opposite of VR. We want people to experience things and each other directly through all their senses - it’s about the ultimate human interface. So in our view, IoT is a web service for the physical world. It’s like the internet and it’s not just one thing that a single person can deliver.”

You can hear and meet Jonathan Belisle at Smart IoT London, ExCel Centre on 12-13 April.  TelecomTV is an enthusiastic supporter of this event which will bring together an exciting range of IoT/M2M voices and practitioners under one roof. Like Jonathan they are all passionate IoT supporters, so come and be excited too.


Vincent and Jonathan work together in SAGA. Vincent is responsible for the firm’’s vision and culture and in charge of both the production team and business development. Jonathan is the Chief Storytelling Officer in a wonderful living space where multidisciplinary and international teams are building the next generation of immersive experiences tailored to retail, learning and public spaces.

Their main platform, IoTHEATRE, is a cloud-based platform to design and drive amazing user experiences in the physical connected world. IoTHEATRE connects a wide range of sensors and controllers to the power of the programmable web to create smart and reactive environments connecting people, objects and places. SAGA intends  to transform the way today's industries relate to their audiences, by blurring the lines of physical and digital worlds, and by enabling compelling user experiences in the physical world. To do that, SAGA has developed and packaged available market-ready solutions and is currently opening the potential of this platform to partners.

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