More Barn

Much is made of the Internet of Things and how our future will entail everyday objects being connected to the http protocol, consequently transforming our lives and possibly our humanity as well.

Everything seems to be accelerating, there seems to be a new scientific announcement every day; announcements that would have been utterly revolutionary only a few years ago are now commonplace.

The ability to parse and analysis huge amounts of data has also been transformed by ever-faster farms of servers and it’s not too much of a stretch to see the Internet of Things becoming the Internet of You… if that hasn’t happened already.

Old trades are dead. If you’re not working with computers or the internet, then you’re not earning very good money, it is only knowledge-workers that are the workers of the future. It’s a good time for the curious and academic, enjoy it before You become the Internet.

This revolution has huge implications for the way products and brands will need to operate. A world of constantly connected devices will mean that they will have to evolve from a service-connected ecosystem to contextually grouped ecosystems that will cut across the brands we know today.

This will transform the home in the same way that the internet transformed working. As the internet becomes more accessible from Yekaterinburg to Coventry and Patagonia to Nuuk, the need for knowledge-workers to be in an office day in, day out has passed.

The home will become the hub and the cluster for the knowledge-worker, not the Internet of Things, nor the Internet of You, but You as Silicon Valley, you as a cluster of devices around your home all working with you and for you to create a personal ecosystem of brands.

Of course, the old products will still exist, the antique writing desk will remain as will the Mont Blanc pen that sits upon it, nobody really wants design classics to be connected to the internet, but everything else will be, you may even have a USB port under your skin to charge up your phone.

Any brand or suite of products that can plan for this future and provide this contextually grouped ecosystem of brands for knowledge workers will clean up. A conduit to the knowledge that workers are sharing and providing to their clients, a branded pipe that will flow forwards and backwards between our digital redux devices.

An interesting template for such a home comes from a story about the singer Neil Young when he wanted to play his (classic) 1972 album Harvest to fellow-musician Graham Nash for the first time. Instead of taking him to his home studio, Young rowed Nash across the lake on his Californian property.

Nash was perplexed, believing that Young had access to a new form of digital device that he wanted to play in the serenity of the lake. But Young had other ideas.

He had set up his whole house as the left speaker and his whole barn as the right speaker to play his album. On the word of Nash, who said it was the loudest thing he had ever heard, Young told his producer who came to the lake shore that he needed ‘more barn’ to harmonise the music. Maybe he should have used his woodlands as a graphic equaliser.

A great story and Young may have been ahead of his time, this week his Kickstarter venture for PonoMusic, a technology that aims to improve the digital quality of music raised its $800,000 goal within 24 hours. At time of writing, and only two days in, that figure had soared to $2.5 million. ‘More barn’ indeed.

But the idea of a connected house, on a slightly lower scale than Young’s property and decibels, is one that has been discussed for years, but has never been closer to reality. We’ve all heard of the internet fridge and were probably put off by something that seemed unnecessary. How quickly all that has changed.

An interesting idea is BleepBleeps, a suite of beautiful anthropomorphised devices to help parents monitor their kids from the womb to early childhood. Then there’s washing machines that notify you via an app that the washing needs taking out or even scheduling the noisy spin-dry for the noisy part of the day and not later when peace and quiet should prevail impact positively on us.

Imagine that the washing machine manufacturer being the same brand as the USB phone charger under your skin as well as the same one that produced your 3D printer and you have a new world.

The Silicon Valley of You not only means a cluster of devices all working together to make your life more efficient and easier, but it also means a pile of personal data that will probably improve your life for the rest of your life.

Of course there will be blips. As much as fast WiFi in Harghesia, the capital of Somaliland, it’s still not possible to get it on any train into London yet at 30’000 feet no problem. For brands and designers, however the next few years will be like the Renaissance for them.

This rebirth of how products work and how brands will prove to be halcyons days for anybody connected to design. Brands will need transformational design now to prepare them for their inevitable futures, it will be interesting to see who fails to do so. One’s thing for sure, though, it won’t be Neil Young.

More Barn!


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