We are moving into a world with more devices, not less. A world swamped by a wide range of always-connected devices and sensors. However, we still have not figured out how to manage state across all of them.

Last week, I wrote a post exploring the possibilities of modularity and convergence in the search for the ultimate device. Unexpectedly, the team picked it up and it became the recurrent theme over several lunches at iomando. It also made me realize that I was probably missing the point by ignoring how the IoT could shape the tech landscape over the long run.

In this “round-two”, I’ll attempt to go beyond the ideas surfaced during our conversations, but first, let me extract the signal out of the lunchroom’s noise by giving you the executive summary and the right context to frame the upcoming paragraphs.

Despite synchronization and sharing data between devices has become easier than ever, multiple devices can still add undesired complexity. […] The minimalist in me wants to believe that, in a not so distant future, we might have multi-purpose devices that will outperform each task-specific device at any given job. A device that, no matter the task at hand, will always be the optimal choice.

There is beauty behind this idea of having one device to rule them all, however, with the advent of the IoT, they might be at risk of missing the point. In an uber-connected world, the war won’t be just about replacing devices. Instead, it might well be in their ability to transfer state and how “aware” they can become of their surroundings.

A month ago, during WWDC, Apple introduced Continuity. A step away from any modular or convergence trend. A bold statement around its conviction that each device exists to enable the best experience at any given situation.

I’m no fool though, I understand their incentives. At the end of the day, they want to sell more devices. Period. Yet I’ve heard so many times their execs emphasizing this idea of “not different devices, but unique experiences”, that one starts thinking that it might be something there worth exploring.

To put it in other words, their vision is that each device enables a certain experience. It solves a particular problem and outperforms a multi-purpose device in a way that the UX delta is worth paying for.

Regardless, in the same way, it is true that dedicated devices better suit each use case, it is also true that syncing and transferring state between devices is a problem that remains unsolved.

But going back to the IoT world. At iomando, we’ve been struggling for months with this idea of making our devices context-aware. How can we make our hardware seamlessly understand that you are actually “there”. How to convey an intention to a device that has no way to tell you apart or communicate back with other devices.

We are moving into a world with more devices, not less. A world swamped by a wide range of always-connected devices and sensors constantly generating data from its environment. The opportunity to create a new data layer that can network this new breadth of devices will become synergetic to a point we can’t even imagine. Unfortunately, nobody has figured this one out, and in my opinion, we are farther than we think we are.

That’s the reason why our team has been so inspired by Apple’s Continuity feature. If you can’t transfer the device, we might well be transferring its state. A first attempt in the direction of devices able “sense” each other and understand these transitions from one to another.

Again, Apple is not releasing features because we can do “more” stuff. They really thought about what problems could imply their way to address a multi-device environment and gave a clear and direct answer to that. They looked for the problem and then figured out a good solution, not the other way around.

So, until we are not able to deliver a device that can perform the best on several spaces (and for sure this time hasn’t arrived, yet) Continuity seems to me a great approach to managing data flows in a multi-device environment.

First published on July 31, 2014