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Chapter 1 — The Phenomenon


Sensing wearables

This field consists of wearable devices that measure characteristics of the human body and/or the environment by means of sensors. The accompanying web element often consists of data visualization and analysis of what has been measured.

Ambient intelligence

Intelligent systems that operate in the background (hence the term ambient) within an environment without people noticing it. These systems often consist of multiple sensors and actuators communicating with each other.


The world of Ubimedia is all about tagged objects, mostly by means of RFID tags, AR tags or QR codes. Readers must be used to retrieving the information within the tags. These readers can be mobile phones, RFID readers, etc. The information that's being retrieved is mostly URLs, linking to rich internet content, mainly for entertaining purposes. The great thing about Ubimedia is that almost any existing product can be enriched with an information shadow, adding a layer of information that was not possible before. In this way products that up till now have just had ornamental or aesthetic value, now get extra value as a result of this online domain.


Retrieving the identity of an object (for example, tracking and tracing packages in transit) is increasingly being done with the help of web databases. Typically through RFID tags, an object is scanned and matched with an online database to retrieve its identity. A spin-off group of this field consists of so-called 'digital business cards' such as Poken, which are able to swap contact information and identities of social accounts between persons.

POKEN courtesy of Poken, SA.

Navigation and location

Navigating while on the road involves GPS and physical interfaces for pinpointing your location. Dynamic information such as traffic info is downloaded directly from the web, which makes these systems true Meta Products.

Monitoring and tracking

Monitoring and tracking systems often consist of a combination of sensors that measure the condition or state of certain objects. The results are uploaded and plotted in a web interface. These are much like the sensing wearables, with the difference that these systems focus not so much on the human body, but more on objects and their environments.


An ever-expanding group in meta land is the one of toys and games. Combining physical products with the web in whatever kind of way will likely open up great opportunities for optimizing the experiential element of play.

You might now be wondering how you can design these information streams and the levels of automation of your Meta Product successfully. Well, we suggest that you start using a reflective practice to identify the aspirations and the motivation of the people that will use the network, avoiding as much as possible a technology-push perspective. In chapter 5 you will make acquaintance with a method that will guide you through this reflective approach. In the following chapters you will learn more about what's going to be possible in the future, the challenges you will encounter as a designer, and our ideals behind designing for our connected world.

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Meta Products - Meaningful Design For Our Connected World

Same contents, but complemented with a more detailed description of Network Focused Design, summary insights per chapter and even more cases and Q&A sections.