A challenge within internet of things is to design and develop ‘meaningful’ products. Too often IoT products are driven by technological possibility, and do not question whether they actually solve a problem or support people throughout their day to day lives.

This 7-step ideation toolkit, developed by Studio Dott, can be used to conceptualise and critically evaluate Internet of Things ideas. During each of the ideation steps, your team will move from opportunity identification over concept selection to system detailing and storyboarding.

Step 1

The ideation process starts by observing the world. In order to do this, list all situations that happen throughout the day of your target audience. Ideally, this is based on stakeholder and/or market insights (often one or more persona’s are created as a starting point).

Step 1 instruction movie

Step 2

Step 2 zooms in on at least one situation identified in step 1 and breaks it down in a series of actions. Pick a situation which you find interesting, or in which you believe an opportunity might hide. Write down the actions that this situation consists of. Based on this set of actions, you can identify which persons, objects and environments (might) play a role within your idea context. The identified people, objects and environments will be important building blocks in later steps.

Step 2 instruction movie

Step 3

When ideating an internet of things product, it is crucial to at least have a notion of what systems thinking is. The result of step 3 is a system mapping of the current situation. All elements on this map should have been identified in the previous steps. The map should focus on relations between the various objects, environments and people. Finally, by constructing this map, opportunities and problems within the system can be pinpointed.

Step 3 instruction movie

Step 4

The result of step 3 were a series of opportunities or problems. During step 4, the goal is to think of solutions or define product/service ideas based on the identified opportunities.

Each opportunity is evaluated on 4 aspects. These aspects relate to the fit with Internet of Things;

  • Distance: the physical distance that this solution covers. When physical distance is large, the chance that the need for having a network connection is higher.
  • Data: the data that is used and/or generated within this solution. The more data sources that are involved, the higher the chance that internet of things related technology is relevant is higher.
  • Network: the required network complexity to make this solution happen. The more complex the network, the more relevant it is to involve internet of things related technology.
Step 4 instruction movie

Step 5

By putting all gathered solutions and ideas in step 4 on a 2 axis grid, a selection can be made regarding which idea will be conceptualised further. The grid consists of:

  • Impact (y axis): the more people, objects and/or environment involved – the higher the social impact of this concept can be.
  • IoT Relevance (x axis): when there is more distance, more data and more network complexity involved the chance is higher that this idea is relevant to be tackled using IoT technology.

Note: This grid is not an exact science. It should be regarded as a tool that supports and triggers discussion.

Step 5 instruction movie

Step 6

In this step the system overview and interactions part of the chosen concept are made explicit. Much like in step 3, a system map is created of the chosen solution – mapping out relations between people, objects and environments. The difference is that in this step the relations, or interactions, between all involved actors need to be made explicit. At this point, we’re not looking for technical detail per sé – but mostly want to get a good understanding of the relationship between all stakeholders involved.

For this step, there are 2 templates provided. One focusses on creating the system map, the other is created to support the detailed definition of all interactions involved in the system.

Step 6 instruction movie

Step 7

The goal of step 7 is to break down all parts of the system created in step 6. This is done by creating a storyboard of the final concept, which runs through the interactions step by step. A separate template sheet should be used for each step in this storyboard, allowing you to highlight different parts of the larger system.

Step 7 instruction movie


Download all steps in one .pdf