Designing the IoT Life: Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino in the Hive


(Part of our Series on Women in IoT)

Every great product and service today starts with design, including the most technically and technologically advanced – especially those.

With over a decade of vision and innovation in the world of connected things, Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino has worked with organizations spanning the real and imagined IoT, from the BBC, Bosch British Telecom and Proctor & Gamble.

Leading London-based strategy consultancy, designswarm, she enjoys working with clients who want to envision the “end-state” of better life experiences when things and people are more creatively connected, then work their way backwards from that vision to the practical, tactical means of manifesting that reality.

There is not a single moving part in the beautifully complex world of the IoT – and IIoT – Deschamps-Sonsino has not made it her business to grasp, as is evidenced in the wide variety of products and programs she has led. From the sensor to the edge, from the gateway to the cloud, from the application to the analytics, it appears her mind simply works more completely than most.

This may have something to do with the way Queen Bees intuitively organize worker bees, orchestrating their ability to harvest pollen and produce honey; amazing connected things and systems don’t happen by themselves.

The level of curation required in bringing any connected device, sensor, edge computing and application together into a simple and intuitive experience is extensive, but the rewards at the end of the process, for the end-user and the provider are substantial.

“Great connected product experiences come from a multi-disciplinary approach and cross-industry collaborations which businesses are starting to think about and it’s a pleasure to help them plan their journey in this space.”

Deschamps-Sonsino is a strategic consultant with a background in interaction designer and industrial designer, with her own product on the market and a global public speaker. She has helped drive a lot of the innovation the UK has become known for as a first mover in the IoT.

She naturally weaves together all the clockworks necessary to unlock the real value, from economics and regulation, to culture and innovation, asserting that the contextual nature at the intersection of people and things means ingredients beyond traditional “products” into engineering software and real time communications into those products, including opportunities to leverage web, social media, customer service and support and ongoing marketing engagement enabling brands to stay connected to consumers, literally selling more services to them through the products they buy.

designswarm has taken hundreds of teams to school on what’s possible in this brave new world, turning great ideas into very straightforward roadmaps – advising companies to keep it accessible, affordable and flexible, and to think through the real economics that will drive successful business plans and growth in a market which is still quite nascent.

Creating a connected product isn’t the job of one department or team, the whole business has to get behind the effort. Isolating this development from the rest of the business can become toxic and we find that working with all stakeholders from the beginning, in small bursts of a couple of days or a week makes a big difference to an idea making it to the market.

designswarm also works to grow the startup ecology in the UK which is very rich. designswarm is currently developing a business support program CAST, that helps a broader group of people to train up to understand what the internet of things means and what it might imply in terms of entrepreneurship journeys. Starting a startup in the connected product space is very different than for digital only businesses. Participants in the program are given support planning their journey from a basic idea, functional prototype, manufacturing and business plan, partner network and potential investors all the way through more advanced prototyping, testing, business modeling, beta programs, attracting investors and ultimately commercialization through a comprehensive go-to-market strategy. This will streamline and increase their chances of success in more formal incubators and accelerators around the world.

“We’d love to see this model adopted elsewhere to encourage a wider variety of people to look at building a career and a business in the internet of things.”

A highly regarded designer in her own right, Deschamps-Sonsino was named 1st in a list of 100 Internet of Things Influencers (Postscapes, 2016), 2nd in Top 100 Internet of Things Thought Leaders (Onalytica, 2014) and in the Top 100 Influencial Tech Women on Twitter (Business Insider, 2014).

Her work is part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the London Design Museum. She has also showcased work at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Dublin Science Gallery, the Vienna Technical Museum.

She was part of the Mozilla Leadership Network Advisory Group, is on the advisory board of the Virt-EU project. She is also an advisor to many startups.

Most recently, she is steering an international community-led effort to build a certification mark for the internet of things, Open #iotmark.  She has also completed The Good Home, a two year events-driven collaborative exploration of the future of home living.

They have produced countless reports on the impact of IoT for insurance companies, smart city landscapes, precision agriculture applications and trends, applications in education, and more, and have been actively influencing in areas of security, policy and regulation.

They also have commercialized consumer care product “Good Night Lamp” in the UK, soon coming to the US and utilizing the latest GSM technologies.

Women working in technology pay less attention to traditional boundaries than some men, which we will continue to explore in this series of leading women driving IoT generationally forward.

“There are really no limits to what areas you can work in when it comes to the internet of things as the field is still quite young, so it’s a great time for women of any age to jump in and create their own opportunities.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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