Internet of Things for Social Impact with Chris Parlato from Essential design on Vimeo.

The 2015 Design Exchange Boston, a conference hosted by AIGA, featured a talk and workshop led by one of Essential’s design researchers, Chris Parlato. Chris’s talk, titled “Internet of Things for Social Impact,” discussed the tendency of connected devices to be superfluous and the challenges of designing connected objects to produce meaningful change in modern society.

In the workshop, participants were asked to consider macro-level societal issues ranging from environmental to human rights and identify specific problems within those categories. The audience was split into smaller groups in which they identified the actors impacted by their defined problem to better understand the actors’ contributing problem behaviors. From there, each group generated and evaluated design ideas, working to develop a connected solution that sought to resolve a targeted aspect of the problem. The solutions included independent connected devices, as well as connected ecosystems, with storyboards to represent the system experience.

Through careful consideration of all direct and indirect influencers of a social issue, the participants were posed with a challenge that many designers face daily—how can I leverage advances in technology to drive sustainable systemic change?