Somoii

Design Project

Collaborators: Jip Haarsma and Bart Versteeg

2016

Download process report →

Somoii is a watering pot that fills itself with the amount of water that your plant needs. A moisture sensor tracks the amount of water that the plant uses, and this data is translated through a very simple interface: water. This water can then be used to water the plant, ensuring that the plant gets exactly what it needs.

Somoii was designed as a response to the technology push surrounding the domestic Internet of Things. Many connected devices are being designed from a technological departure point, resulting in connectivity that does not always make sense and systems that keep growing more and more complex. In order to deal with this complexity smartphones are turning into remote controls and access points for all the abstract data that is being generated.

The design of Somoii is not based on technology, but on a deep understanding on the context of everyday life. Rather than creating new complexity Somoii builds on complexity that already exists: there is already a strong relationship between the plant and the watering pot. From this departure point an attempt was made to explore a new paradigm for the design of conencted products.

Somoii consists out of a watering pot with two resevoires, and a sensor that registers the moisture level of the soil.

The sensor registers how much moisture is being lost, and sends this data to the watering pot. The watering pot fills a removable resevoir with the same amount of water.

As the resevoir is being filled it provides visual and auditory cues to the user, unobtrusively reminding them to water their plant.

Yet, the user is respected as a practioner and left in complete control of how and when he waters his plants.

Somoii is the result of an explorative design process, in which an attempt was made to find an approach for designing connected devices for an everyday context. Somoii is based on this approach, which is built on four principals:

1: Embrace everyday complexity

Everyday life is rich in complexity. There is an abundance of objects that are implicitly connected with each other. By using this complexity and these relations as a starting point, connected products can be created that make sense in everyday life.

2: Understand practices

Everyday life consists out of practices. A practice is not merely a behavior or an action, but also includes objects and tools and requires a certain set of skills. Furthermore there is a component of meaning that drives someone to perform a practice. By exploring and understanding these practices a context is created in which products are implicitly connected. For instance, when we look at the practice of watering plants the relation between the watering pot and the plant is obvious.

3: Make meaningful connections

Now that we have identified a context and the complexity that is already there, connections can be made. What could be a meaningful exchange between a watering pot and a plant? The only significant thing a plant can tell a watering pot is how much water it needs, and when. So how could the watering pot respond? By filling up with the amount of water the plant asks for.

Although this connection is simple, it communicates a lot of complexity: it notifies that the plant needs water through sound, it communicates the amount of water that the plant needs in physical form, and it provides the tools necessary to perform the practice.

4: Respect practitioners

People are practitioners. They don’t simply use products, but the products become part of practices. It is important to understand that these practices are part of the fabric of everyday life. When practices are automated they are taken away from people, and thus cease to be part of their everyday life.

In order for connected products to become part of everyday life they need to allow people to remain practitioners, and stay in control of their practices.