Monographs: Design implications of “the internet of everything”

By: Scott Rixon

As part of our regular blog calendar our Monographs postings take an inquisitive approach, offering more questions than they answer in the hope that these questions can catalyze useful thoughts amongst our team and our industry. In this post we are exploring questions about the Internet of Things and asking, how will big data and environments in which everything is identified, catalogued, monitored, and controlled by computers impact the design of those environments?

There is much talk today of the future of work in the world, many economists and futurists predict the holistic integration of robots into the workforce, robots who cull data from everything in their environment as they make decisions and go about completing tasks. In order for that data from the physical environment to be available, there must first exist an Internet of Things, a network (or internet) in whose open forum even our toasters have a voice.

Will this result in the automation of some elements of design? As these sensors and networks permeate the walls, floors, and materials of the built environment, how will Construction Administration work be affected? Will this lead to the end of site visits? Will the outcome for architects be the allowance of more time for pure design while computer algorithms worry about technical elements? What will security for our data-filled (and perhaps controlled) environment entail?

In an article outlining the potential economic upside offered by the growth of the internet of things, Tim Fernholz mentions smart coffee pots and garbage cans helping humans do their jobs better, but what happens when (or if) machines are developed that are capable of design? Will these changes diminish the demand for human design, make it a luxury, or (optimistically) enable us all to design every element of our environments, right down to the architecture we inhabit? These are all questions that we ask in order to understand the skills and experiences required by our design-focused clients today as well as looking towards the future.

For more on the Internet of Things see the following links:
Insights & Publications: The Internet of Things (McKinsey)
The Internet of Things (IoT)
Forget Organizing The World’s Information, This Company Wants To Make Sense Of It (Quartz)

Scott Rixon is a Recruiting Consultant with DBI based in Seattle, WA. He blogs on the Architecture and Interior Design industries and recruiting best-practices for the DBI Blog. Connect with Scott on Twitter | LinkedIn.