Part 1: How to build services, not products

Danielle Lundquist

Internet of Things Podcast:

Nandini Nayak, design strategy leader at Fjord, recently spoke to Stacey Higginbotham, a Fortune reporter and host of the Internet of Things podcast, about Living Services. An excerpt from their conversation has been transcribed in a two-part series. This first excerpt focuses on what Living Services is and how it will impact people and products. Part 2 focuses on the impact on brands.

The full interview can be heard by clicking here

Higginbotham: When I met you a couple months ago, you actually put into words very eloquently a concept that I have been thinking about for a while, which is this idea of Living Services. Do you want to talk about what that is?

Nayak: Today, you have computing capability in virtually all devices around us. But what we believe is more interesting than the technology is how it enables a new kind of service, something we call a Living Service. And what I mean by that is: digital services are finally becoming more human-like, more responsive to context, and better at meeting human expectations. At Fjord, we call this the Era of Living Services. We started out with the age of the Internet (in the 1990s) – that’s when we had access to a lot of information around the world. Then in the 2000s, it was mobility. And today, it’s Living Services. Computing has become so every day that we expect to have everything around us connect together to help us live better lives – that’s the reason we call this Living Services.

Higginbotham: One of the things that I thought was really compelling is that Living Services offers a sense of customization. It’s this idea that you’re not only designing a product to put in people’s homes; you’re also building a service. And that service is unique for each person. Can you kind of give us an example of some of these Living Services as you see them?

Nayak: That’s right. Fundamentally, Living Services emerge from two forces – the digitization of everything and liquid expectations. Digitization of everything means that everyday devices – washing machines, your fridge, maybe your pencil or your fork – have some level of ability to capture data from the environment around it and also respond in specific ways. Therefore, these objects by themselves are not the products you might buy; you’re buying the service of human intent. Imagine a washing machine in the future that’s actually able to tell me whether I have enough detergent. If I’m running out, it will be able to add detergent to my shopping list or – even better – automatically figure out the brand I use and send it to me if I subscribe to some type of replenishment service. It automates a mundane task. Similarly, you might think about cereal in the upper cupboard in your kitchen. Or you may think about whether your diabetic mother is out of a traditional sweetener. You need to make sure it’s there for her; otherwise, she’s tempted to have regular sugar.

So what we’ve seen with these types of services is that the product, the hard product, has now become  a sort of ongoing service, and has a participation in your life – not just with the washing machine, but the ability to help you deal with the task of washing dishes or washing clothes. Eventually, all of these services will personalize themselves to individuals so that when I walk into the room, the washing machine settings, for example, will show how I might do laundry (versus someone else). So you can imagine how this could extend into the future in terms of how the environment and the ecosystem begins to connect to and shape itself around different individuals.

Higginbotham: How can we move Living Services from consumption examples, like the washing machine, to something outside of me buying more stuff, if that makes sense?

Nayak: Let’s think about the work environment. Most companies today have a one-size-fits-all philosophy to work practices. You come in at a certain time; you leave at a certain time; you sit at certain type of desk; you don’t differentiate between how I like to work versus how Stacey may like to work. So a lot of standardized practices in workplaces are not helping to maximize productivity. We’re beginning to see companies think about how people need to be (individually) supported when they’re doing intense, highly cognitive work as well as how they set up their environments for that type of work. We’re beginning to have sensors in computers and in the surrounding environment, which can readjust to support that type of work. It’s oriented around creating the optimum work environment. And even in the washing machine example, it’s about creating the optimum ecosystem for a task to happen.

The full 20-minute interview can be heard by clicking here

Danielle Lundquist

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