Top UX Design Trends for IoT GUIs

“Internet of Things” (IoT) became a hot phrase when the first internet-enabled devices and appliances hit the market. Soon, we’ll just say “things.” An internet connection is becoming a must-have feature for all types of devices.

The IoT isn’t only for modern developments like voice assistants, GPS trackers and security systems. It’s also changed how we use our watches, thermostats and refrigerators. While other industries faltered, IoT spending grew 21.5% to $201 billion in 2022 (via IoT Analytics). The IoT is no more a fad than the internet itself—and the competition for market share is only beginning.

What Separates the Best IoT Devices?

The first IoT devices were popular because of their novelty. As the of available IoT devices grows, standards are getting higher. Success in IoT device manufacturing depends on designs that capitalize on these seven trends.

1 – Connectivity

As more types of devices join the IoT, there’s an increased need for them to all work together. Users expect data sharing and interconnectivity across networks. Real-time communication between devices and systems is ideal. When an embedded GUI sends and receives data with the cloud on a schedule, users expect to know how current the information is.

In either case, communication across networks must be seamless. That means embedded GUI developers must understand various protocols and technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee. Interfaces with broad compatibility will win market share.

2 – Multi-Modal UI

Many IoT devices still need a physical user interface. For example, a smart refrigerator or smart lamp still must work when the Wi-Fi goes down. The following features and capabilities help embedded GUI teams balance UX, aesthetics and battery life:

  • Voice search and voice control for intuitive, hands-free operation
  • Touch-based interfaces for precise control over scrolling, typing or drafting
  • Haptic feedback to provide tactile cues and alerts

Including multiple modalities allows users to control the device according to their needs. Alternative ways of input and output increase accessibility, decrease product failures and empower efficient user experiences.

3 – Simplicity

Users aren’t used to navigating steep learning curves when buying new refrigerators, watches or doorbells. Devices that offer visual representations of only the essential information are simple to use and understand. Clear, concise language and intuitive UI design make a device easy to use effectively without additional training.

Testing and validation ensure that connected GUIs work as intended and meet user needs. Thorough testing also helps squash any bugs or issues that they arise. Altia’s model-based   development enables teams to test with users early and confirm that the GUI is easy to use.

4 – Performance

Even with efficient IoT data processing, too much information can hurt the scalability of the UI. Users don’t want to wait for interfaces to load and respond, so the GUI must be responsive and fast. Efficient data processing also conserves battery and processing power.

Presenting information in graphs or dashboards can help draw simple meaning from massive amounts of data. When showing many events or messages is unavoidable, pagination allows loading the data in manageable parts.

The best devices have GUIs that are optimized for performance and efficiency. For example, the Tandem Diabetes Care T-Slim insulin pump can run for a week on a small rechargeable battery.

5 – Security

As IoT adoption expands, so does the attack surface. Security vulnerability has become one of the most critical challenges for IoT device manufacturers. Security features like machine-to-machine authentication, biometric logins and AI-powered security practices can help.

Awareness and training go a long way, too, but users don’t want to carry the burden of protecting themselves alone. Embedded GUIs should be designed with security in mind, as cybersecurity concerns can destroy a product’s appeal.

Recognizing the Threats

Unauthorized access or manipulation can cause significant harm to the IoT infrastructure and users. Successful hacks compromise user privacy, safety and business operations. Secure GUI design can prevent vulnerabilities such as buffer overflows, injection attacks and other exploits that attackers can use to gain access to the system.

A secure GUI design goes beyond preventing unauthorized access to the system’s hardware, firmware and software. It must also include intrusion detection and prevention mechanisms to ensure appropriate responses to suspicious activities or attacks. Avoiding security incidents spurs user confidence in IoT systems and drives widespread adoption.

Privacy and Security Solutions IoT Devices

Trust is non-negotiable for connected devices, which means embedded GUI teams must steer clear of common IoT security challenges. IoT device manufacturers can build trust with any or all of the following:

  • Automatic security updates
  • Customizable privacy settings
  • Transparency in data collection
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA)
  • Secure communication protocols
  • Enforcement of strong passwords
  • Encryption of sensitive information

Addressing security and privacy concerns is vital during the GUI design phase. Embedded GUI teams should also commit to ongoing efforts to keep the device’s software and firmware up to date, preventing security breaches.

6 – Personalization

Few UX design trends among IoT offerings are more pressing than personalization. Sensors, beacons and adaptable technology make it possible to deliver customized experiences in industries ranging from retail and automotive to healthcare and edutech.

Modern customers expect products to meet individualized needs and personal preferences. This also ushers in a golden age for marketers who want to deliver more impactful experiences. Customizable settings and functions boost satisfaction, loyalty and adoption.

Personalization of features also benefits data collection. Product teams can see how users interact with devices, which guides future enhancements. For now, personalization is considered a premium feature. Soon it will be the cost of admission into the IoT market.

7 – Incorporation of artificial intelligence and machine learning

Collecting data used to be the hard part. Now the challenge is in making sense of mountains of data. Machine learning and artificial intelligence make big data more useful for IoT devices. Advanced analytics will empower everything from preventative security enhancements to predictive maintenance, thus reducing downtime, maintenance costs and energy consumption. ML and AI also serve other UI trends for IoT devices, such as advanced security features, voice control and customization.

Embedded GUI Design for Successful IoT Products

As UX expectations continue to rise, project managers should equip their teams with the skills and resources required to develop connected GUIs. This includes expertise in networking, software development and hardware integration.

Innovation and continuous improvement are the keys to success in the rapidly evolving IoT market. GUI developers and project managers who stay ahead of new trends and technologies will come out on top.

Altia’s end-to-end GUI solutions help developers create embedded displays for the IoT with confidence. Contact our team to get started today.

Top UI / UX Trends for Medical Device Design

Medical device manufacturers are feeling a massive paradigm shift. Their products are being measured against smartphones, VR headsets and similar consumer technologies. As a result, medical devices must deliver a pleasant, intuitive and engaging user experience (UX). It’s not enough for medical device user interface (UI) to look sleek and advanced — every aspect of the interface must be fine-tuned to optimize usability and safety.

Current Medical Device Design Trends

With market expectations at an all-time high, medical device manufacturers are eager to meet those expectations by adding new features and improving their products. The following nine trends cover some ways medical device manufacturers can design experiences to meet and exceed rising standards.

1 – Interactive Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) allows people to experience real things in a virtual environment. Immersive, interactive, simulated environments provide excellent opportunities for training and learning. For example, a doctor can prepare for an advanced surgery using VR training exercises.

VR training is a safe way to practice procedures and get repetitions before seeing a live patient. Beyond the educational and surgical planning applications, VR can stimulate mental and physiological processes for patients. As medical device manufacturers identify additional use cases, VR is becoming more common in university research and hospital settings.

2 – Skeuomorphic Design

Improving medical device user interfaces has been a focus for years, particularly relying on recognizable visual cues to enhance the user experience. For example, a stethoscope icon or EKG readout symbol might replace the words “heart rate” on a medical device screen.

One of the primary benefits of such visual cues is that they empower language-agnostic designs. Text-based designs might require you to translate the phrase “heart rate” into numerous languages for potential users. An icon of a stethoscope or an EKG readout is clear regardless of whether the patient speaks English, Spanish or Chinese.

When conceptualizing visual design elements, medical device product teams can choose between flat and skeuomorphic designs. Flat design results in a simple, two-dimensional representation of an object. Adding skeuomorphic qualities like shadows and color variations can give elements the appearance of being shiny or existing in three dimensions.

Choosing a skeuomorphic design is one of the most prevalent healthcare UX trends today because it makes for visually appealing interfaces. However, skeuomorphic design isn’t always the answer. Flat design is still ideal in some situations:

  • For secondary and non-critical controls
  • When the device only contains one or two buttons
  • When on-screen cues help users differentiate interactive controls from static text

Skeuomorphic design touches like subtle gradients and drop shadows can give controls a more nuanced appearance. However, being too heavy-handed with it can do more harm than good to aesthetics and usability.

3 – Data Visualization

Visualizing patient data helps doctors and medical researchers gain valuable insights. Clear visualizations strip the complexity away from the data and bring the most helpful information to the forefront, allowing healthcare professionals to work more efficiently to provide fast and impactful patient care.

Instead of poring over a spreadsheet or writing database queries, patients and healthcare professionals can identify trends and outliers at a glance. Simple, straightforward data visualization also has a place in patient-facing medical devices. For example, Tandem Diabetes Care leveraged smart technology to transform their medical device UX.

4 – Interactive Chatbots

Interactive chatbots help patients access information and support with minimal friction. Providing instant answers to routine queries makes self-service easier for patients. People prefer that healthcare UI software to be interactive, and chatbots introduce a simulation of the human element. When chatbots handle monotonous and repetitive tasks, employees can focus on the work that requires human intervention.

5 – Voice Interface

Voice interfaces are becoming more useful — in your phone, at home and, now, in medical devices. Like interactive chatbots, voice interfaces provide patients and healthcare professionals with yet another way to access information quickly and conveniently.

Hands-free usability is especially valuable to patients who may not have full use of their hands. Voice interfaces give these patients the option to access application functions without help. Similarly, healthcare professionals can use voice interfaces to control technology without putting down their scalpels, needles or forceps.

6 – Customizable mHealth Apps

Mobile health apps are yet another way to increase the accessibility of information and functionality. Patients can use mHealth apps to take control of their healthcare from just about anywhere with email access. Customizable apps make the user experience more convenient, especially for patients who aren’t by a desktop or laptop all day.

mHealth apps increase patient engagement in a number of ways:

  • Sending reminders and allowing changes to appointments
  • Providing updates related to drug recommendations or other resources
  • Personalization of notifications and other features
  • Mobile tracking of health and fitness metrics
  • Offering video chat capabilities for telemedicine

Flexible customization makes mHealth apps easier to use and understand.

7 – Patient-Centric UI Design

Most of the growing healthcare UX trends share something in common. It’s all about putting patients at the center of the interface. From text size and typeface to the speed of screen scrolling, there are countless opportunities to make medical devices more pleasant and intuitive. When the device is created with the patient’s needs in mind then it’s likely that the patient will be more successful using it—less time and stress trying to figure out how to use the device, for example.

Ease of use is paramount, and not just for patients. For example, when Medtronic developed an FDA-Certified Medical device, they did so with the mindset that physicians and clinicians don’t have time to specialize in all kinds of different devices. Rather than putting the onus on healthcare providers to study the device, they created a simple touchscreen design with multi-language support.

8 – Flexible BOM Built In

Medical device OEMs have learned a lot of hard lessons during the chip shortage. When their device GUIs are limited to a single chip, production ceases when that chip becomes unavailable. This is a hard lesson that many device manufacturers have learned in recent times.

Designing flexibility into a GUI is a smart new strategy for keeping medical device production going for now and for the future. Selecting GUI design tools that support a wide range of hardware is key to that flexibility.

9 – Cloud-Based Design

Even beyond the chip shortage, the post-pandemic world creates challenges for all types of design teams and device manufacturers:

  • Dispersed teams
  • Supply chain issues
  • Shipping and labor costs
  • Disparate hardware-software stacks

All of these challenges can mean costly delays for GUI projects, so GUI teams are looking for ways to speed their development and reduce costs. Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) solutions like Altia CloudWare™ enable cloud-based design workflows to shrink or solve those problems.

Optimizing UX for Medical Devices

These nine trends are related as parts of a user-centric design philosophy. In the same way, every feature in a medical device must work together to create a cohesive user experience. Adding elements can help a product stand out and add more value for patients, but it’s also vital to implement features safely.

To see how Altia responds to medical device UI trends without increasing the risk of product failure, request your live demo.

Medtronic Develops FDA-Certified Medical Device with Touch Screen and Multi-Language Support

To improve the usability, appeal, and marketability of their RF generator for surgical ablation, Medtronic decided to update their hardware and a new GUI – including multi-language support and a touch screen. Developing custom graphics code for an FDA-certified Class II device was a significant part of their engineering challenge. They also wanted the market to determine what the new interface should look and feel like.

Because Medtronic chose Altia’s software, they were able to prototype and test multiple versions of their interface for the best user experience for their end users. Medtronic’s engineers found that using simulated devices before they had real hardware really helped compress the schedule and, ultimately, get to market faster. Moving forward, Altia and the base library of components that were developed by Medtronic for their RF generator teams could be leveraged to quickly create other GUIs with the same Medtronic branded look and feel.

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