Lisa Rotzinger: Why using a VP as your guinea pig is a good idea!


Jon Pittman is the Autodesk VP of Corporate Strategy. Jon has also been a Lecturer at the Haas School of Business of the University of California at Berkeley. Jon is also "a connected guy" in that he is an Internet of Things (IoT) enthusiast.

Lisa Rotzinger is a Designer for Network-Shaped Matter. Trained as an industrial designer, her focus at Autodesk is on how Autodesk products and services need to evolve to equip Autodesk customers with the ability to design, build, and use things in an internet of things world. Lisa's also considering what students need to learn to be able to use products and services that offer such capabilities. So it's only fitting that Lisa filed this report.

Let's say you have a complex problem and can't solve it without a solid case study — and as we know: no good case study without a really good test guinea pig!

These are your two options:

  • Go with a big industrial partner who takes forever to confirm meetings or give feedback and might always tell you only half the truth.


  • Find a guinea pig inside your organization that will provide you with immediate feedback, allows for a hands-on experience, and will explain to you every little detail you need. And if this test guinea pig is a VP or any other important person: even better. No pressure.

So recently, members of the Complex Systems Research Group in OCTO (Office of the CTO) that includes Alex Tessier, Senior Principal Research Scientist, and Architect and UX Visual Designer, Hali Larsen, went to visit Autodesk VP of Corporate Strategy, Jon Pittman, to capture his IoT universe — his smart home with 130 smart devices and sensors — to help him map and organize this system of systems in an efficient and intuitive way.


This effort is related to their current project, called Dasher, a BIM-based platform to provide building owners with greater insight into real-time building performance throughout the life-cycle of the building. Project Dasher acts as a visualization hub where collected data from various sources is intuitively aggregated and presented in 3D to enhance one's ability to infer more complex causal relationships pertaining to building performance and overall operational requirements.

But back to our guinea pig: Jon is the sole author and active user of his system of numerous smart devices including countless interconnections, temporal modes, and routines. To do so, he must have an impressive mental map of all this. But besides the occasional instances where he has to justify to his wife that he wants to enlarge his IoT universe, Jon has never really had to explain his complex system before. His system is one that doesn't only have to function in terms of hardware and software, but most importantly, must fulfill its purpose of making the life of his family easier.

The problem: There is no tool that lets him capture and organize his system of consumer IoT devices to make it truly purposeful and efficient. This is no small feat as, for example, Jon's system has 43 controllable lights that can be turned on, off, or dimmed via remote control. In all, there are 154 addressable devices.

The first step to solving this problem is to build a 3D model of Jon's home. Why? It is needed to provide the context to visualize the system. One way to organize the information is spatially.


Therefore, the exterior and interior dimensions of the house were measured by Alex and Hali, using traditional tools, like measuring tape, pen, and paper but also a drone for the exterior of the house. The 3D model that is going to be built from these measurements using Revit will then be fed to their platform, Dasher, to visualize all 130+ sensors, their locations, and the large amount of data that is pouring off them — in context of the space they are in.


In the meantime, Jon had to undergo hour-long interviews and guide us on a tour through his home to cover all of the details about the system that are currently captured in his head — and in his giant spread sheet:

"I am trying to explain to Alex my cataloging system for my devices and explain how it works, how I derive it, and what it shows. One of the hardest challenges: explaining all the interconnections between things."


After having captured all the disjointed information about all of the devices, Alex and Hali will tackle this challenge. To say it with Alex's words:

"Ultimately, it is a really large... graph with nodes having different connections to each other, and each connection having a different meaning to it... Therefore, we have to develop different ways — different User Interfaces — to slice [this IoT universe]."

Watch for more news about the latest IoT case study — and our VP guinea pig.

Thanks, Lisa.

Connectivity is alive in the lab.