Why humans are the most important part of your IoT system

How to create valuable app insights

When it comes to IoT apps, there is a lot of data out there. Simply put, it can be overwhelming. So how do you boil it all down so that it yields an experience that’s convenient for the end user? This question got me thinking. My conclusion: the context in which this info is presented is just as important as the app’s usability.

The human element of IoT

After all, humans are an integral part, if not the integral part of any IoT system. It is humans who must read, interpret and ultimately use the data. If the information cannot be easily consumed, it is worthless. The data is too vast. The app dashboards, too busy.

Yet, it is human nature to want immediate and continuous access to the right information, at the right time. Whether driving to work, exercising or shopping, we expect data-driven apps to enhance our experience. But while data is good, information overload is bad.

Quality applications enable the user to quickly translate that information into actionable insights for the task at hand. So, how do we accomplish this? The answer: Consider how human beings will use the data, and then develop and test real scenarios before field deployment.

The issue with IoT app testing

A common problem with IoT applications is that it’s difficult to acquire realistic data to test them. Physical data is useful, but there’s nothing to account for potential scenarios that might occur in production.

A new technology that’s making waves is the concept of virtual devices for IoT app testing. The benefit of virtual devices is that they produce synthetic data, allowing you to frequently test your app’s visualization early in the process. You can mock the production environment with realistic data streams, analyze and fix errors, and ultimately, optimize the application for actual users, before they ever use your app. With this realistic data simulation, IoT developers and designers are equipped to determine how to best present the data in a way that is thorough, yet consumable. Yay!

Why UX is everything

One example that comes to mind is my smartphone’s navigation app. The app collects and analyzes all sorts of data such as my car’s speed, my location, the road’s speed limit, etc. I find this information useful. But if it foolproof? Not quite.

Yes, the audible alerts and directions are helpful, but the app does not always give the information in time for me to make the correct turn or lane change. The app works fine if there are few cars on the road, a very unlikely happenstance in a city. If only the app was designed to consider traffic volume and select the optimal time to present the information.

I can’t help but think that if the developers had access to realistic data during prototyping, this app could delight more users. Sometimes small tweaks to the user experience make all the difference. In this case, timing is everything. 😊


The bottom line: if you’re designing an app consider the user early and often. When it comes to IoT app testing, use realistic data to account for different scenarios as early as possible.


If you’d like to more about virtual device testing, you can check out my startup, KnowThings.io. Our mission is to empower IoT developers with intelligent virtualization-based testing.

– Partha

Anne Atlas
Anne Atlas is a Principal Information Engineer at CA Technologies. She provides documentation and multi-media…


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