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Techvision

Frictionless Design: Effortless and Surprising Experiences

Takeaways

  • Meet a user’s future expectations
  • Form follows emotion
  • Security is a value creator
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Friction is the reason we change brands

Effortless. Magical. That's how Apple describes its new AirPods. The wireless earbuds sense when you’re moving and when you take them out. Two taps and you’re talking to Siri. Effortless could just as easily define the Uber app. Hailing and instantly paying for a ride with Uber is faster and more efficient than alternatives. In China, facial recognition technology from companies such as Face++ give new meaning to effortless transactions, allowing consumers to pay for goods and services, such as picking up rail tickets, just by scanning their face.

Eliminating friction is about going above and beyond what the customer expects. The light switch on the wall was the competition for the IKEA smart lighting product called Trådfri. Removing friction in the customer experience was a conscious design decision, and the result was the pre-paring of the wireless remote-control light switch and the bulbs. The two parts of Trådfri are shipped in one package so the customer can enjoy a frictionless out-of-the-box experience.

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Apple AirPods – “effortless” and “magical”(Source: Apple)

Revival of Emotional Design

At the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota unveiled its Concept-i car that previews a future where drivers form emotionally rich relationships with their self-driving cars through Yui, the car’s ubiquitous AI presence. Yui is a multi-dimensional UI that includes light, sound and touch to communicate critical information designed to transform a mundane, functional relationship into an emotional connection. Toyota intends the Concept-I to be more of a friend and less of a machine that provides transportation.

It won’t be long before the customer expects all the products and machines they interact with to be like Yui. Using natural language processing and understanding, communicating with gestures and facial expressions, and creating the illusion of a human conversation present new challenges for product designers focused on enhancing the human element of future products.

Indeed, as AI redefines the relationship between humans and machines, companies need to think long and hard about the best way to design a generation of products and services where form follows both function and emotion. Emotion requires working with all the senses. If you have a shopping inquiry for Amazon Echo, for example, it would be a good idea for the customer to be able to visualize what they want to buy. Maybe they initiate through voice, or visualize using augmented reality, then engage through gestures to select and pay for the product.

There are innovative capabilities being developed today that will be necessary for such an immersive customer experience. For example, Affectiva, an MIT Media Labs start-up, is developing technology that allows developers to gauge a user’s responses by analyzing their facial expressions to understand motivation and intention.

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Rambus(Source: frog)

Indeed, as AI redefines the relationship between humans and machines, companies need to think long and hard about the best way to design a generation of products and services where form follows both function and emotion. Emotion requires working with all the senses. If you have a shopping inquiry for Amazon Echo, for example, it would be a good idea for the customer to be able to visualize what they want to buy. Maybe they initiate through voice, or visualize using augmented reality, then engage through gestures to select and pay for the product.

There are innovative capabilities being developed today that will be necessary for such an immersive customer experience. For example, Affectiva, an MIT Media Labs start-up, is developing technology that allows developers to gauge a user’s responses by analyzing their facial expressions to understand motivation and intention.

Hi car…can we talk?

Very soon, voice systems will understand the intent of the driver or passenger using natural conversational language. For example, instead of the driver having to tell their car to “please turn the AC down to 21 degrees,” they could simply say, “it’s too hot in here.” Or if the driver inquires “what just happened?” the car should be able to answer, “that was just a bump in the road.”

The listening and dialogue capabilities of voice systems are based on the driver’s vocabulary, diction style and dynamic acoustic models based on background noise or ambient conversation from other passengers or radio chatter. To further push the limits of emotional design, computer vision will pick-up passive body signals perhaps to detect the driver’s stress level, or whether they are falling asleep.

Security as a Value Creator

More often than not, product security focuses on combatting an adversarial threat, such as physical tampering, theft of code or malicious compromise. Managing risk is concentrated on controls such as hardening software code, blocking attacks and preventing data leaks. Such an emphasis is warranted as the presence of vulnerable and connected devices become lucrative targets.

However, security also plays a role in creating value by paving the way for new revenue-generating digital services. Security can strengthen trust, which builds loyalty over time. And security innovations can make the many hoops that customers jump through—credentials, passwords, firewalls, policies—both transparent and less burdensome.

For example, Aadhaar is a biometric database created by the Indian government that allows citizens to authenticate their identity by fingerprints and retinal scans. Over one billion people have created a digital proof of identity, representing over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. Airtel, India’s largest telecom network, with over 260 million subscribers, launched the Airtel Payments Bank, committing $440 million to provide its service across India. Airtel will let anyone open a bank account using their Aadhaar identify data.

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The Apple Touch ID is reduce checkout time – in every interaction(Source: Apple)
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The Qualcomm Glance is a simple, low-cost and low-power image sensor module that could be developed into an iris scanning app for smartphones.(Source: Qualcomm)

Of course, Apple Touch ID fingerprint sensing technology is a standard bearer for what’s possible when even one hoop (password entry) is removed, be that in retail stores that accept contactless payments or in the Apple app store for downloads. Similarly, Qualcomm is working on a module, called Glance, that includes a lens, image sensor and low-power processor running computer-vision algorithms that learn to recognize objects. Glance will be cheaper than a camera and use less energy. Potentially, it could be used for iris scanning, or to detect movement, including hand or arm gestures.

Creating a frictionless customer experience requires security to be an essential design consideration especially given the explosion of Internet of Things devices. There are three major security opportunities that create value for the customer.

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The Qualcomm Glance is a simple, low-cost and low-power image sensor module that could be developed into an iris scanning app for smartphones.(Source: Qualcomm)

Transform Trust

The idea of creating trusting relationships with customers is hardly new. However, we now have multi-modal interfaces and an exponential number of personas and interactions—both human and machine. For example, industrial devices need to share streams of telemetry data, such as equipment conditions, with remote monitoring services. Cars will need to know whose driving and who’s in the backseat. Amazon Echo, Google Home and other personal assistants need to recognize the voice of each individual household member.

Here, blockchain has started to gain acceptance as a means of establishing trust in large-scale interactions, including global supply chains, business networks and consumer and industrial settings. The trust-and-contract model of blockchain’s distributed ledger creates transparency and efficiency in applying security services.

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For example, blockchain can be used to raise the confidence that software, which has been co-developed by multiple organizations, is safe to operationalize. A blockchain becomes a trust anchor for source code in a DevOps environment, ensuring the integrity of workloads, such as virtual network functions, before onboarding them to the cloud.

Also, blockchain is ensuring the integrity of IoT devices, where firmware is stored as a hash—a cryptographic fingerprint of the code—at regular intervals in the ledger. If malware alters the firmware’s code, blockchain issues a new hash to change the code’s value then generates an intrusion alert and takes countermeasures.

A distributed ledger is also a natural fit for managing supply chain risk. It’s not easy to maintain a tamper-proof history of components moving from manufacturing through distribution and logistics. The opportunity for counterfeit activity is high as both chips and software are susceptible to hacking. Here, Cisco and Bosch have developed a blockchain-enabled protocol that allows users to register weak identities such as serial numbers, QR codes and UPCs to form a stronger cryptographic identity that can verify the provenance of the asset.

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Propel Ecosystems

Successful products and services derive their value from a complex ecosystem of partnerships. It takes hardware, software, people and processes to solve a customer’s problem. A traditional enterprise security model is typically static, with firewalls and policies that tend to slow down participants from sharing information and collaboration. What’s needed is a fluid software-defined security model that can be surgically applied and evolves with the threat landscape. Within this model, every element—the product, network, edge and cloud—becomes an active participant to thwart attacks.

Gartner predicts that 10% of companies will deploy a type of micro-segmentation and programmable security by the end of 2017. For example, once a vulnerability in a product’s firmware is identified there is typically a lag time until countermeasures such as malware signature updates take effect. In a software-defined security approach, cyber defense is active and ready to marshal countermeasures.

In another example, as products are transformed into platforms, the ecosystem must be pulled together across end users, network operators and developers. They each must have a unique set of permissions, privileges and consent agreements. And individual contributions to the platform—code submissions, published apps and reviewer approvals—must be validated and certified. Finally, there is a chain reaction of events that define the operations: security compliance, billing, revocation of privileges and indicators compromise.

Today, such platform services are a collection of fragmented systems of record, service lifecycles and security tools. Blockchain’s distributed ledger, smart contracts and web of trust come together as a “trust machine” where all participants have the appropriate degree of control. The experience is orders-of-magnitude more convenient and cost-effective because friction is removed. Of course, discrete use cases must be defined and implemented on open-source projects, such as the Linux foundation’s Hyperledger project, or as-a-service offerings such as the IBM Hyperledger Fabric.

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Defend Interactions

There are new digital and cyber-physical interactions spinning up because of IoT—connected workers in factories, augmented reality headsets at venues, smart devices in homes and connected cars. Emergent properties of these hyper-connected systems can lead to security breaches that are extremely difficult to predict.

Consider a future hotel check-in process that uses facial recognition, iris scan or a fingerprint instead of a driver’s license to valid the guest’s identity. Every device in the hotel room—the door handle, faucets, lights, thermostat, TV—will have an embedded IoT device with programmable settings. The guest management system then maps a customer’s identity and profile to a set of guest entitlements, including access to the gym, pool and restaurants. The biometric scan creates a temporary trust certificate between the guest’s identity and all touchpoints throughout the hotel. When the guest checks out, their identity map is purged and the certificate is deactivated.

Such a complex set of activities and processes create the potential for unintended consequences. At every interaction and data exchange, there is a new window of opportunity for attack. In such a large and heterogeneous environment, every component and subsystem must be individually designed so there is measurable confidence in a capability before it is released to customers. During the product development process, adding a security orchestration layer brings predictability and scale to cyber defense. For example, human effort spent hunting for software vulnerabilities is augmented by machine learning and automation to rapidly prioritize the highest security risks then initiate a course of action that stretches across the DevOps pipeline.

Security and privacy will ensure adoption of next-generation interfaces

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The Audi e-tron quattro has a speech dialog system that can accept many different natural language expressions and extends voice control capabilities substantially. (Source: Audi)

Adaptive Speech Recognition Models

Several key providers of natural language processing (NLP) platforms have developed services that empower adaptive speech recognition in scenarios where the speaker or the environment they are in can create challenges in parsing syntax and/or understanding meaning. These capabilities include advanced language modeling and identity management for the driver based on background noise and ambient conversation from passengers or radio chatter.

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The Apple HomePod features voice control, Siri intelligence, remote access and connectivity to smart appliance through the Apple Home App. (Source: Apple)

Conversational Intelligence

In parallel with advancements in recognition services, natural language understanding (NLU) platforms have reached a capability level which allows for more free-form conversational exchanges between human and machine. This creates new opportunities for interaction design patterns that go beyond the “butler” model of simple command and control exchanges. Combined with context from computer vision and/or sensor information alongside touch, gesture and haptic response, a complex but natural choreography between human and machine can occur.

Where once there was friction, now there is a transformational act.

Four case studies where friction is removed from public spaces.

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  • Digital Beacons

    By providing spatial and location information in public spaces and large venues, digital beacons can enhance the public’s experience. Open communications platforms can direct users to destinations, provide information and connect them with local businesses and services, making any large area more accessible and safer.

  • Traffic Flow

    Whether it’s autonomous vehicles or people traffic, congestion can cause delays and pose real dangers. Smart flows understand traffic patterns and can optimize for release points when congestion is too high. Sometimes the solution is opening a new gate to redirect a crown to a less congested route.

  • Smart Parking

    Parking spots themselves can be smart by knowing when a car is occupying a spot and automatically charge the driver the appropriate amount. Using smart sensors connected to a mesh network, a car’s location can be known to the smart venue—and to its owner—at all times.

  • Access

    Wearables, such as bracelets, can improve inefficient experiences in public venues, such as entry and exit, finding and paying for items or locating a companion. Disney created a smart band that parkgoers can use to access everything from their hotel rooms to park entry to photos taken of them during the day.

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