Brenda Campbell

Making The Connection: The Bluetooth User Experience

We recently sent three L4 Digital representatives to Bluetooth World, a two-day event in California billed as the definitive place to celebrate the successes of Bluetooth technology while defining what’s next. Many of L4 Digital’s projects include an element of Bluetooth tech so we sent reps from product management, development, and project management to scope out the scene. Each brings a unique perspective to this week’s three-part summary of Bluetooth World 2017.

Napoleon’s favorite song comes on his playlist, and half way through the disco intro he decides he wants to listen to it on his new Bluetooth-enabled speaker. First he needs to enable Bluetooth on his phone, then he turns on his speaker. Nothing. He tries to pair the speaker with his phone, but doesn’t see the speaker name in the list. Confused, he plays with the speaker and can’t remember if you long-hold the button, or when to take out the batteries and re-insert them, so he tries everything. Nothing. Frustrated, he tries one more time by holding the side button down on his speaker — after a while it says “pairing” and starts to blink. He turns back to his phone and sees his speaker in the list. He taps on it, waits, and his speaker says “connected.” He taps the play button in his music app, and finally his favorite song plays through the speaker. He begins to happily dance to the beat.

Stories like Napoleon’s occur to many people using connected devices today. The user experience standards for device manufacturers and solution architects vary for the most important step…connecting. This causes confusion, frustration, and a fragmented perception of Bluetooth’s strong and valuable technology.


Making the Trip

This past week I, along with two of my L4 colleagues, attended the Bluetooth World conference in Santa Clara, California. The event was filled with innovations to help people connect to their world like Rowkin, developers of the “world’s smallest wireless earbuds,” and ReSound’s exceptionally tiny hearing noise reduction hearing aids. Also highlighted were the efforts of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which encourages developers to help shape the future of Bluetooth connected experiences. Even the show floor contained fun and uniquely engaging solutions such as Novalia’s conductive ink printed experiences, which used Bluetooth sensors to connect to multiple devices and applications to create something fun for their client’s users. An example is this interactive album cover Novalia created for DJ Qbert.

Interactive Album Cover

Making the Beat

The conference’s speaker sessions continued to  showcase products that shine a light on the needs and goals of end users. For instance, Arun Rajasekaran from Plantronics helped the audience to better understand the challenges product developers face when evaluating wireless options. He highlighted that the core user expectation is to be able to connect in any way that is efficient. David Bean from Teledyne Lecroy called out that even though Bluetooth is a great solution, “User’s don’t care which method is used, they just want it to work.” Throughout the conference, it was strongly apparent that even though improving the speed and efficiency of Bluetooth connections (and device selection) is important, there is an even more critical need — focus on creating exceptional user experiences that matter, that are easy to use, and that are frictionless end-to-end.

Marco Peluso from Qardio spoke about Designing for a hyper-connected world. He showcased applicable solutions in the health and wellness space like the company’s heart rate monitors.  He found that their solutions make a difference in the health of patients with chronic diseases who find it difficult to stick with a doctor’s requests to daily at-home monitoring. The users didn’t want to look or feel different by carrying around huge and bulky monitors. This is similar to what we heard at the Connected Health Summit in San Diego last September about connected devices in the health industry. Thus, they created a monitor that is as small as an eyeglasses case, and a scale that is tiny, flat, and highly portable.

Bluetooth booth

Making it Work

Now imagine if simply connecting a phone to that device was difficult. What would happen to the goal of improving the rate of daily monitoring? Anson Liang from Rowkin focused on how the future of connected devices depends on great products that look, feel, and work well that are also easy to use leveraging technology such as Bluetooth to help users get up and running quickly and wirelessly. Yet, with all great solutions Toyota’s Roger Melen reminded the audience that there is also a risk that as more real-world solutions are introduced, to have your car (or something else) react to the environment, using Bluetooth may require an entire nation’s infrastructure to be updated to support the technology. All great products, but what happens if you can’t connect?

With all of these wonderful solutions in the marketplace, we must remember that people want things to work — they want the experience to be easy as well as seamless. They don’t care if it’s Bluetooth or not, they care if the Bluetooth capable device they are using does what they want, when they want. As conscientious product manufactures and developers for connected devices designed for the Napoleons of the world, we must always focus on the most important part of leveraging a technology like Bluetooth… the end goal. Let Napoleon simply play his favorite song.


Part 2: Fifty Shades of Bluetooth 

Part 3: Bluetooth, Beacons, and Beyond  

Image courtesy of Meddi Huduti for Unsplash.

Brenda Campbell

Brenda drives strategic user experience and product definition for L4’s clients. Over the last decade, she and her teams have built product solutions for internal tools and services, digital advertising and monetization, payments products, and web and cross platform mobile solutions in various industries. When she isn’t working with her teams to build great products, she enjoys movies, camping, and gardening, and dreams of owning a dog.

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