Using IoT to turn lights into an experience
Imagine that you wake up with your coffee ready to drink while a dim light that simulates dawn accompanies you, this is the experience that Litio wants to offer you with its concept of programmable lightning.
Smart lighting is the most important innovation in lighting since the invention of the lightbulb. It adds so much functionality to such a key part of our lives, elevating the concept of lighting our homes beyond just the utilitarian.
Understanding the market
The most popular type of smart lighting is smart LED bulbs, mainly because they are easy to install and set up. While they used to be very expensive, prices have dropped dramatically, and you can buy a smart, connected LED bulb for as little as $5. While that’s twice as much as a comparable dimmable LED, it’s far more affordable than just a few years ago.
According to a 2018 Gartner report, smart lighting is the fourth-most mature IoT tech specialty, and one of the closest to general adoption. Navigant, too, lauds smart lighting’s quick payback period and massive potential, noting in a recent report that a fully deployed smart street-lighting project can save up to 80 percent of the energy a conventional street-lighting system would use.
The smart lighting industry is paving the way with new delivery models, including lighting-as-a-service.
Who invests in Smart lighting?
I started off the process by creating a survey using google forms to send out to as many people as possible — I did not have an initial target audience as this was a discovery exercise to collate quantitative data.
With a total of 43 participants the results were enlightening, here are some highlights:
- Equal split of users that own both a laptop and a smartphone (highest percentage were Apple products)
- Average age: 25–30
- 70% don’t own smart home devices
- If you are a homeowner you are more likely to own a smart home device.
With the research data, an user personas was created to develop solutions, user requirements and product functionality for a user interface.
I then conducted a competitive analysis by looking at current 3rd party apps that are used for managing multiple smart home devices to understand the range of features they offer — This helped us to understand user’s expectations.
I had the opportunity to use the tools of Litio who had two light bulbs of their competition with their respective apps connected, with this I did a usability test with 3 unbiased users, some of the primary concerns were: difficult onboarding, the first connection between the device and the app can be frustrating for users who are not familiar with technology; two users commented that they don’t want an app or extra tool just to have a light switch, this is a great opportunity to add value above the competitors.
I wrote down all the results of surveys, usability tests and competitive analysis by notes and worked with the CEO to categorize them to determine the most important features to include.
Remote control: This is a must-have basic: If the user is out of the city or just away from the light switch, he can use the app to turn on/off the lights on any area of the house
Style customization: The user is able to change intensity and color according to their needs
Hour programming: This is a real added value, after research, we realized that for this product to help and integrate with our user’s life, it had to work like the coffee machines that receive you in the morning with a freshly brewed coffee.
In this way, you can program what time you want your lights to turn on and off, you can also program how the intensity will be during this time frame, making a much more fluid and integrated experience.
Ideation & design proposal
To organize and maintain a useful and usable body of information I structured a basic hierarchy by conducting card sorting and tree testing exercise
This is a flow for the happy initial path:
I decided to split the app into 3 new navigational tabs. Home, Schedule and Devices. This fit perfectly with the three levels of interaction we’d discovered and provided lots of opportunity to highlight top level information and actions.
Once I had an understanding of the different actions you may want to take, I completed a site map to understand the information architecture of the app then started sketching.
I set my self a limit of 15mins to draft the main screens of the app — making this a time boxed exercised ensured I didn’t obsess on the detail.
After the wireframes were completed — text, images and color were added.
Prototypes & test
I created extremely basic prototypes in principle, with some tailored to match the general device data of our testing candidates.
Once the prototypes were ready to go into testing, thankfully we had a bi-weekly in-house testing schedule which allowed us to explore these prototypes with users quickly.
In summary, most candidates were excited to see an app that provided shortcuts to their basic intentions of using the app and as far as our hypothesis goes the improvements were a success.
This was a great brief and thoroughly enjoyed learning about different benefits and features of smart lightning — looking forward to continued releases.