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Design Thinking is not a new concept. It was from 1969 but the concept really shaped up with the work done at Stanford and IDEO in 90’s.

How design thinking is powering successful IoT implementation? Key is the involvement and the creative time spend by the IT with the customer entities. Before deciding for any IoT implementation, companies have to define a viable and clear business cases. Build a future organization with architects, domain experts and consultants. This team should fully understand the business drivers and translate into business cases.

The emphasis on creativity is the main value of design thinking and is critical for IoT success. Design thinking removes traditional analytical thinking with building ideas using different brainstorming approaches. Design Thinking assist to eliminate ambiguities and faulty assumptions. Iteration, prototypes, observations, insights and actions create valuable and innovative products.

3 key results come out of Design Thinking process.

  • Theory, Prototypes, Testing and Refinement

  • Focus on need

  • Eliminate the repetitive or unnecessary steps to make it simple.

Design Thinking can be explained with a simple IoT case study.

In a scenario when consumer go to the kitchen and came to know his cooking gas is empty and drinking water is depleted. Consumer will open his mobile application of the agency for the gas and water supply. Agency will deliver the same in next 1 hour time. This is reactive and current smart mode of response and reactions.

Let’s do the design thinking for above scenario for a smart solution.

  1. Identify the actors.

  2. Form ideas

  3. Prototype

  4. Test

  5. Return to step 1 or step 2 until the desired result is obtained.


Actors can be cooking gas and water agency operational team, internal IT team, logistics team members, domain experts and selected consumers. Include other entities in agency who can add value to the process change. In design thinking workshops ideas are not limited. This involves consulting experts to find out more about the area of concern through observing, engaging and empathizing with people to understand their experiences and motivations, as well as immersing yourself in the physical environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved. All assumptions are set aside.

Conduct different brain storming sessions with the actors and implementation experts. Prepare storyboards and conduct experiments. Questionnaire is provided to the selected consumers and response are evaluated. Interviews conducted with the logistic team and supplier company representatives who are supplying the required shipments to agency.

Meet customers in their premises to understand the challenges faced by them. Problems are discussed without any assumptions. Logistic team is having a grievance that they have to do the transportation for a single customer whenever there is an emergency and delivery will be miles away. This is increasing the cost of delivery. Agency changes the delivery of gas and drinking water due to limited or no stock to meet the customer demands. Store manager is not able to get a clear forecast about the demand and supply.

Finally key informations gathered from empathize stage is defined in a human-centered manner.

  • Consumers would like to get the delivery of gas and water earlier than its replenishment.

  • Zero UI. Agency want to eliminate the consumer time from checking the gas level and water every day and then use the app to communicate back to them.

  • Ware house managers are tied up with unplanned demand and supply. Sometimes stocks are over loaded, sometimes stock is not available to meet demand. Store manager want to automate the stock loading in ware house in optimum level with a demand and supply forecast.

  • Logistics team want to reduce the recurrent trips, sometime to the same location in a day. Delivery time should be tailored for optimized logistics with minimal cost of delivery. This will improve the driver’s health and vehicle condition. Obviously cost of delivery.

During the third stage of the Design Thinking process, designers are ready to start generating ideas. Designers are grown to understand the customer pain areas in the Empathize stage. Think outside the box to identify new solutions to the problem statement that are created, and start look for alternative ways of viewing the problem. Few Ideation techniques are Brainstorm, Brainwrite, Worst Possible Idea and SCAMPER. In ideation stage it’s important to get as many ideas to address the problems. Some of the problems will be newly added and ideas will be discussed.


Inexpensive prototype or scaled down versions of the product will be produced in the next stage. These prototypes will be shared within the team and outside group of people. During this experiment, solutions against the pain areas are accepted or requested for improvements or rejected completely. Finally more informations are derived from the prototype experiments and designers are in a better position about the new solution. Designers were able to understand how the actual users reacted to the solution prototype.


Thus with the best fit prototype the designers will continue with the testing. This is the final stage of designing but an iterative approach. How the end users behave, feel and think are more materialized during this stage. Some of the problems will undergo redefining and solution will be corrected. Prototypes will be modified to accommodate this problem and will undergo for testing again. By the end of this stage designers will come out a deeper understanding of the problem and its users.


Prototype designed for testing includes:


  • Sensors connected to cooking gas and water dispensers.

  • Data from the sensors connected to cloud through an IoT bridge. This data is continuously analyzed and once its reach the predefined breakeven point, alert send to ERP system connected to cloud.

  • Automated work orders are created in ERP.

  • In ERP system; stock is checked to meet the demand.

  • PO for suppliers will be created automatically in case of stock non availability.

  • If the stock is available response is given back to the cloud which will alert the logistic team.

  • Store managers are provided with demand and supply forecast dashboard for stock optimization.

  • Logistic operation team will get the most optimized delivery schedule and customer is alerted through a SMS regarding the delivery time.

  • Logistic operational team will get the real time data from the delivery van sensor connected to the cloud about the delivery route and delivery status.

  • Post-delivery, sensors will send the new data back to cloud and delivery status is updated in the ERP. Invoice is automatically generated and shared with the consumer.



Above prototype is addressing all the pain areas discussed during the define stage. Design Thinking process Integrate future users with design process from the day one .Agile process helps Design thinking to provide insights into the problem which customer was not aware of. Once the prototype is tested successfully design team will hand over the solution to the implementation team for the bigger landscape implementation.
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