Emergent Experience and the Connected Consumer in the Smart Home Assemblage and the Internet of Things

Download the Monograph:  Hoffman and Novak (2015) Emergent Experience in the IoT

Since the commercialization of the Internet began over twenty years ago, we have been fascinated with the opportunities that computer-mediated environments present for human interaction. As a result, we have spent the last few decades researching the marketing and consumer behavior impact of consumers’ interactions in digital environments.

Now, as the consumer Internet of Things emerges, we find ourselves with renewed excitement as we consider the opportunities for consumer interaction in physical environments with objects that have brought the Internet with them into the real world. Just as the Internet was revolutionary because it enabled many-to-many communication through connected digital networks at unprecedented scale, the IoT is a revolutionary advance that brings the digital into the physical realm. Now, interaction is distributed not just virtually “on the Internet,” but also everywhere in the real world where people actually live, work and play.

What awaits us as we are able to interact with smart objects in our everyday lives, and these objects are able to interact with each other, often autonomously? What are the implications for human interaction and for consumer experience? Will new marketing approaches be required? In the course of thinking about these kinds of questions over the past few years, we realized we needed a new framework to help our thinking jell. We found that framework in assemblage theory. The smart home assemblage serves as the context for our theorizing, but we believe our approach generalizes to any consumer IoT assemblage.

In the monograph linked above, we present an assemblage-theory based conceptual framework and its implications for consumer experience in the smart home. In 8 sections, we discuss the evolution of the Internet and the emergence of the consumer IoT, offer a lay version of assemblage theory, develop our framework and discuss the implications of our framework for research in UX, consumer experience, and marketing strategy. The last two sections offer some early practical insights derived from our theory and some perspective on where things might be going. 

Because the pace of change is rapid, we wanted to put this material on the Web as early as possible for comment and feedback. The monograph remains a work in progress. We are developing several papers based on these ideas  for submission to academic journals and look forward to hearing from others working in this compelling new area.

Donna Hoffman & Tom Novak
Washington, DC
V1.0, August 20, 2015

Everything We Know About Apple’s Smart Home

Apple has an installed base of 25 million Apple TV Trojan Horses, with Siri ready to take command of an army of MFI devices when they arrive. The Smart Home may emerge en masse overnight.


While iPhone users flash their handsets to make payments and wait with bated breath for the release of Apple Watch, another of the company’s smartphone-based initiatives is ready to roll out — and it will forever change how people run their homes.

From turning on lights to securing locks, Apple’s smart home plans are designed to bring an array of third-party products to the iPhone ecosystem in a way we’ve never seen before.

Here’s what you need to know to plan for your Apple-centric connected home:

How Apple’s Smart Home Will Work

Siri will become your digital butler, turning up the heat and closing blinds at your command. But how that happens deserves some explaining. Requiring neither a new hardware device nor an operating system upgrade, Apple’s smart home capabilities will let users discover, configure, create actions for and control smart home devices using their iPhone’s operating system.


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CES 2015 – The Emergence of the Smart Home

After three days of pounding the floor at CES 2015, I’m back in Washington, DC and ready to collect my thoughts about this year’s experience.  Originally, Donna Hoffman and I expected,as we usually do, to spent most of our time at Central and South Halls in the Las Vegas Convention Center.  Not this year.  In 2015, CES was divided into three zones:  Tech East (Las Vegas Convention Center ), Tech West (Sands and Venetian) and C Space at the Aria.  Tech West housed pretty much all of the new emerging product categories we were interested in – smart home, fitness and health wearables, 3D printing, robotics and sensors and over 375 startups in Eureka Park.  While it’s overgeneralizing to Oculussay that Tech East only showcased big TVs, its a fair generalization that Tech West came across as housing the new and emerging and Tech East the same old-same old.  With some exceptions – Oculus was situated in Tech East (BTW I wasn’t impressed by the Samsung Gear VR – it’s a step up from Google Cardboard but not a full blown Oculus experience).  So, most of our time was spent at Tech West – the “New CES.”

Smart Home Systems.  In my last post, I talked about Samsung’s big push this year promoting its new SmartThings acquisition and the role that Internet of Things (IoT) is playing in Samsung’s product and marketing strategy. In Tech West, it became clear that Samsung and SmartThings has a lot of competition. Lowe’s displayed its entire Iris line of connected home products, including hub, cameras, motion sensors, smoke alarms, leak sensors, locks, keypads, lights, plugs, garage openers, smart pet doors, and more.

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CES 2015 – Tuesday January 6 – Samsung and IoT

Donna and I spent most of the first of our three days at CES 2015 at Central Hall.  Fresh from last night’s keynote by Samsung CEO BK Yoon, where he announced that in 5 years 100% of Samsung devices will be Internet of Things (IoT) devices, we first headed to the Samsung exhibit at Central Hall.  If my memory serves me correctly, while the new Samsung TV’s were as flashy as ever, the exhibit didn’t have the overall grandeur of past Samsung displays, such as the massive sculptural arrangements of dozens upon dozens of LED TVs at 2010 CES.

Samsung Exhibit at CES 2015

However, true to CEO Yoon’s promise that Samsung was 100% onboard to the Internet of Things, newly acquired SmartThings was given a prominent position in the Samsung exhibit.  The “Infinite Possibilities of IoT” was reflected, for now, in the finite number of SmartThings devices (hub, sensors, outlets) and the finite but growing number of firms producing products that work with the SmartThings system.

SmartThings hub, sensors and devices on display at CES 2015
SmartThings hub, sensors and devices on display at CES 2015

Presumably, the “infinite” possibilities of the IoT will come from the ways these devices will be combined with each other, once they are in the hands of consumers. For now, Samsung and SmartThings chose to highlight four fairly basic scenarios of Samsung’s IoT devices – the living room, kitchen, bedroom and garage – designed to create peace of mind, energy savings, convenience, and a “welcome home” feeling. These scenarios were pretty specific and in some cases involved technology that is currently out of reach of today’s consumers, such as “voice command your car to pull out of the garage.”  Unfortunately, a self-driving car isn’t one of the current Samsung SmartThings modules, so I guess we’ll have to wait for that.

SmartThings ecosystem partner companies announced at CES 2015 Samsung keynote
SmartThings ecosystem partner companies announced at CES 2015 Samsung keynote

At CES 2014, I don’t recall Samsung saying much, if anything, about the Internet of Things. A year later, with the acquisition of SmartThings, IoT was at the heart of Samsung’s CES message.  I was surprised to see Samsung so heavily promoting it’s investment in IoT at CES – what a difference a year (and a good acquisition) makes!

The vast majority of the smart home and IoT activity this year is happening at the “Tech West” in the Sands (which I’ll visit tomorrow).  Given CEO Yoon’s keynote statement that “IoT needs open standards and universal inclusion to be a game changer for society,” it’s a bit to confusing to find Samsung’s IoT presence was at Tech East, while most everyone else was present at Tech West.  Does that mean anything?

Prototype of TV based smart home dashboard for new SmartThings hub
Prototype of TV based smart home dashboard for new SmartThings hub

Although I found plenty of interesting IoT parts at the Samsung exhibit, and good examples of how these parts can be combined into specific use cases, still lacking was a clear sense of what the smart home as a whole was going to be like.  We all know the whole is going to be more than the sum of the parts.  The problem is people seem focused on the parts, instead of what it is all going to mean.  One place where it started to come together a bit was a prototype of what a smart home TV-based dashboard might look for the new SmartThings hub coming out later this year.  The Samsung rep couldn’t provide specifics on the dashboard, but this is a place where things do start to come together.  Still, it’s not clear how all of this will change the relationship people have with their homes, or the experience of what one’s home is.  Maybe that will become clearer tomorrow at Tech West.

eLab City in Second Life

Tom Novak

Background. The eLab City project was started in Second Life in October 2007 and will be up and running at least through the end of 2014. eLab City was originally envisioned as a lab environment taking the form of a “live-work-play” community as outlined in a September 24, 2007 memo and a second memo on September 25. A more detailed concept plan was developed on October 1, 2007. Ideas for eLab City were also influenced by the Glam City build in Second Life. A call for proposals for the final 4-phase concept plan was made, with the bid for development awarded to Cezary Ostrowski and Nadia Hennrich.  Construction on the 2 island region eLab City East and West began in November 2007 and was completed in May 2008.  A third island, eLab City Northwest, was added in 2009 but will be removed in 2013.

The use of eLab City…

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Facebook Swallows Up Oculus Rift

Tom Novak

So today we learned that Facebook bought Oculus VR for $2 billion.  That’s a lot less than the $19 billion Facebook paid for WhatsApp, and in my opinion Oculus Rift is a much more exciting product than WhatsApp with a lot more long term potential. I’m just not super excited that it’s Facebook that now controls Oculus Rift.

Oculus-RiftWhat does Zuckerberg have in mind?  In a statement, he talks about immersive gaming (let’s hope he isn’t thinking VR Farmville!) but goes on to say “after games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home.”

But is Zuckerberg implying we can all look forward to spending time in virtual reality…

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Depressed by Facebook and WhatsApp

Tom Novak

I find Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp to be incredibly depressing. While you can argue that Facebook is paying “only” $42 for each of WhatsApp’s 450 million plus users, paying $19 billion for a 55 employee company that runs a messaging app just smells … very wrong.

http://arnoldzwicky.org/2011/08/20/munch-up-to-date/ http://arnoldzwicky.org/2011/08/20/munch-up-to-date/

The first thought that comes to mind is, Facebook – why couldn’t you have figured this out yourself? This isn’t rocket science. Facebook has evolved into a bloated mess that ignores the concepts of usability. I see little resemblance between my desktop, iPhone, and iPad Facebook experiences. Facebook doesn’t guarantee that your friends will see your posts (in fact EdgeRank guarantees that most of your friends won’t see your posts) so now you have the added insult of Facebook asking you to pay to ensure that your posts will be seen. I don’t even enjoy using Facebook anymore. So why be surprised…

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