20 Years of Apress: Interview with IOT Author Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Apress is officially 20 years old. To celebrate, we're interviewing authors from Apress' past and present to get their valuable insights into both how their industry has changed and what they predict for the future.

Interview with IOT Author Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino

Apress: What macro & micro ways has your area(s) of expertise in tech changed since Apress was founded 20 years ago?

Deschamps-Sonsino: The internet of things as field of practice wouldn't really develop until the 2010s but the ground was fertile, in face, the hadn't even been coined! Kevin Ashton would only do that in 2001 so the sector was still describing itself as 'machine to machine' or 'sensor networks' and experiments to control the physical world with the internet were largely relegated to the industrial sector.

In a home context, people had been talking about domotics since the late 1980s but the market was very limited. Domotics implied you were prepared to rewire your home completely for some simple 'ah ha' moments when you opened a closet or a complex security system few could afford.

The field of human computer interaction (HCI) was established and academia started talking about 'interaction design' instead.

The Interaction Design Institute Ivrea where I would eventually study was started in 1999 and that same year, a workshop on smart spaces was hosted by DARPA.

Apress: In your personal professional journey, how have tech books factored into your work? Have they become less relevant over the years? More relevant? Stayed the same?

D-S: Books about technology sadly didn't feature massively in my education or my profession as I remain a generalist in my technical knowhow. I discovered Don Norman's 'The Design of Everyday Things' by accident in my university library in 2003 and it was a revelation. I couldn't believe it wasn't required reading as part of an industrial design education. Later, in my master's degree, John Thackara's 'In the Bubble' and Jonathan Chapman's 'Emotionally Durable Design' were the pillars I built my ideas of 'good design' on. Victor Margolin's 'The Politics of the Artificla' and 'Open Design Now' edited by Bas van Abel were very important to me in my first years of work. More recently Marshall Berman's 'All that is solid melts into air' has been incredibly enjoyable if a dense and slow read.

Apress: Smart tech & IOT is a particularly interesting area. As an expert in it, how do you see it changing & growing over the next decade? Any predictions of the what the future user base will be, if any different from now?

D-S: I've always thought we were far too interested in each other (with wearables and the likes) instead of nature where our biggest challenges lie. I've seen so many amazing ideas die on the vine because they can't find funding, simply because they are addressing a need which will intensify. Conservation of endangered species, tree numbers, preventing flooding, preventing food rot, all these problems are massively underfunded today. I suspect this will change soon. In line with my book, I see the emergence of more control structures for domestic life , in line with climate change mitigation strategies we'll have to adopt. Since World War II, Europeans have built homes which are very hard to insulate and harder still to naturally ventilate so we'll need to innovate our way to doing this with little carbon impact. These will be incredibly challenging engineering problems but we can do it. We just need to turn our attention to them.

Apress: Lastly, what are some of your favorite interactions you’ve had with readers of your Apress books?

D-S: A friend of mine who teaches in OHA (an Oslo-based design school) sent me a screen grab from a message she received from a student who had borrowed the book from their library and told her how much it had changed her outlook on the role of designers. That pleased me no end as I'd love to think my book can end up shaping someone's career in design.

About the Authors

Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is an interaction designer, product designer, consultant and entrepreneur. She 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). She is the founder of the Good Night Lamp, connected lamps for your global friends and family. She was co-founder and CEO of Tinker London, a smart product design studio. Tinker was the first distributor of the Arduino platform in the UK. Her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the London Design Museum and galleries around the world.