Hardware, Software & the Internet of Things
June 23–25, 2015 • San Francisco, CA

Building connected products that help disabled people

Ross Atkin (Ross Atkin Associates)
5:25pm–6:05pm Thursday, 06/25/2015
Location: Fire House
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 4 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

A basic knowledge of Internet of Things system architecture (i.e. the core components that come together to deliver a connected product) would be useful but is not essential.


Much of the action in the Internet of Things thus far has been focused in two areas: the creation of flashy devices aimed at technophiles in the kickstarter demographic; or overarching technology platforms attempting to ensconce large technology companies more firmly into the fabric of the physical world.

Both of these approaches miss the enormous opportunity presented by the Internet of Things to make life easier for the huge number of people who find things more difficult than average.

This talk will present two case studies of connected products that seek to capitalise on this opportunity: one in the domestic consumer market, and one in the municipal, smart city area. (Neither has launched yet so I can’t be too specific, but they will have launched by the time of the conference).

A design methodology will be outlined that engages with non-mainstream users on their own terms and then moulds technology to their requirements. This includes an ethnographic approach to research, management of the precarious process of translating qualitative insights into product requirements, and the reconciliation of very human needs with the complicated IoT engineering process.

This process will be illustrated with examples from each case study. These will include maps of insights from research; animations and storyboards articulating scenarios of use; and iterations of prototypes from initial proof-of-concept hacks through to full design intent systems and field test processes.

Photo of Ross Atkin

Ross Atkin

Ross Atkin Associates

Ross Atkin is a designer and engineer with experience working in industry (for leading UK manufacturers like Dyson, Stannah, and Furnitubes) and academia (at the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design). He works at the interface between disability and technology. He conducts research and creates products to improve the accessibility of the public realm, or help disabled people to increase their independence. For the past four years these projects have been focused on the Internet of Things space with two products entering production in spring 2015.