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Watson Internet of Things
IoT Platform Personas
The Watson IoT Platform is a for easily and securely connecting devices in the physical world, keeping real-time and history of device states and building IoT cloud applications in IBM Bluemix that analyze and learn from the real-world data from any device source. The Watson IoT Platform provides insight and transformations to organizations adopting connected and smarter products and services. This article discusses the design research on the Watson IoT Platform cloud service personas


Personas is a design tool to set focus and ensure the empathy of the user. It helps us deepen our understanding of the users of the IoT Platform and their usage of the platform capabilities outlined above. It ensures that the design objectives are focused on the person behind the problem.

Don’t confuse personas with roles. Personas are not Roles. A role is mostly a specific declaration of responsibility. A role description often includes

  • Tasks – The tasks the role performs
  • Workflows – The workflows the role is responsible to perform
  • Collaborators – The collaborators that interact in or depend on the tasks or workflows
  • Artifacts – The information items that are worked on or produced by the role in tasks or workflows
  • Outcome – The artifacts produced and the state of the artifacts


Personas are fictional archetypes of users created to represent the different stakeholders a solution. It empathizes by understanding and capturing their business and personal contexts.

  • Personas bring together the tasks, pains, needs, and priorities for key users.
  • Personas describe all the attributes that affect someone’s day.
  • Personas are based on user research from e.g. surveys, user interviews, focus groups, and customer support calls


Read more about Personas and how I develop personas below and in the Design Thinking section of the portfolio.

IoT Personas

When joining the IoT Platform team in 2015 I started to research and generalize the IoT personas. The objective is to get a code set of personas for IoT, extended for the platform and other solutions.

Personas is a living design document, continuously updated by research and validated by our clients and sponsor users. I find in our continuous research that the IoT personas are well representing the variability across industries and organizations adopting IoT and transforming their business.

The Personas for the IoT platform are focused on the fictitious ACME corporation, an enterprise-sized organization that is transforming its business to IoT by exploring, adapting, and running an IoT operation. The LOB organization depends on corporate IT services, has IoT operational teams, LOB analytics teams, and service teams dedicated to client operations. See the image below.

Organizational view of the IoT personas.

The IoT Personas are:

  • Bob is a Line of Business Manager leading a business of existing and new products. He wants to understand how to leverage the data and connectivity of devices to create new streams of revenue. He will discover industry content on and act on solution proposals from Archie. Bob is providing funding for IoT business application development.
  • Archie is a Solution Architect that proposes, proves, and deploys the IoT Foundation platform to the LOB. He decides on integration strategies and architectures for the new IoTF platform, existing business systems, and devices in production.
  • Oscar is a DevOps Manager that configures and operates the IoT Foundation platform, Bluemix services, and supporting IT services for LOB operations and development.
  • Chris is an Application Developer that works in the LOB, in IT, or with a 3rd party. He develops IoT industry applications for the LOB. He uses DevOps capabilities to develop, deploy and fix applications that integrate IoT Foundation device data and Bluemix services.
  • Dave is a Chip Engineer that develops silicon devices and sensors. He delivers chips, devices, and boards for industry and consumer products. Dave may work at an OEM that delivers chips to devices that ACME integrates into its products.
  • Devon is a Device Developer that integrates HW and SW into devices and appliances. He develops and maintains device firmware that securely connects devices to IoT Foundation. Devon may work at an OEM that delivers devices that ACME integrates into its products.
  • Ravi is a Systems Engineer with the chip provider integration partner, works with Devon to integrate chips and sensors into the product line.
  • Sally is a LOB System Operator. She handles the day-to-day system operations on customer IoTF organizations by onboarding new users and making sure that new device types and devices are registered, are behaving, and are up to date with recent secure firmware.
  • Adam is a LOB Security Analyst. He ensures security by proactively creating rules that detect threats and prevent breaches. He creates automation that acts on misbehaving devices and users. And he ensures compliance through audits.
  • Ryan is a LOB Data Scientist. He knows all about the industry data delivered from devices and the algorithms that provide meaningful analytics. He implements advanced algorithms as services to be used by the LOB analysts and LOB industry applications.
  • Marcia is a LOB Operations Analyst. She is responsible for the availability of specific assets in the LOB product line and uses deeper analytics provided by Analytics in the IoT Foundation platform and Ryan’s algorithmic service extensions.
  • Lester is a Service Delivery Manager responsible for an SLA with a client to the LOB. He, and his team of maintenance engineers, are on or near the client site and manage equipment and use the IoT Foundation platform and LOB industry applications to monitoring, plan, and service equipment.


The ACME IoT teams get set up or engaged at various phases in the adoption of the IoT platform and the provisioning of IoT services to the clients of the LOB.

Lifecycle scenario view of the IoT personas covering Discover > Getting started > Everyday use > Manage and upgrade.

Persona details

To date, key personas in our design are

  • Bob and Archie discover, play, and try IoT. Designs have been explored and delivered for ‘Try and Buy’ scenarios.
  • Oscar getting started and maintaining the IoT platform. The design has been explored and delivered for ‘Getting started’ scenarios including IoT platform configuration settings of integrated services and on-boarding of new users.
  • Sally for running day-to-day operations on registered and connected devices.
  • Lester getting providing services to his clients based on the IoT platform, connected devices, and instrumented assets.


For each persona, we describe the Role, the Motivation, and the Pain-points. The following sections call out some of the research outcomes on the key IoT personas

Sally the System Operator

Sally is one of the most frequently used personas in the design across the platform capabilities. Our initial research in 2015 focused on the ‘Getting started’ and ‘Everyday use’ scenarios covering the steps for Sally to in getting access to the platform, configure the IoT platform for the LOB on-board the LOB IoT team, supporting the everyday scenario of boot-strapping a service delivery team delivering an IoT project at a client site.

Empathy map for Sally from an IoT Platform design workshop.

Needs statements

Sally needs a way to

  • Easily identify issues – so that she – understand the priority and can act accordingly
  • Automate daily tasks – so that she – can focus on long term improvements
  • See all info in one place – so that she – can prioritize and assign efficiently
  • Evaluate system state – so that she – can identify if issues may be imminent
  • Way to assign work – so that – she can get things fixed
  • Collaborate with others – so that – she can effectively resolve issues

Stakeholder Persona

Sally’s tasks

  • Deliver LOB IoT operations to contracted SLA’s
  • Device management of connected devices in high quantities.
  • Wants to be able to quickly identify problematic devices and take appropriate action as soon as possible, without needing to consult the documentation
  • Also wants to perform, and monitor progress, of management actions (such as rebooting and updating) on devices centrally, without needing physical access to devices
  • Add organizations, users, devices, data, and access
  • Add devices
  • Update firmware
  • Monitor device errors
  • Monitor system behavior


Sally’s motivations

  • Getting things done efficiently, is only a part of her job
  • Making sure things are running smoothly
  • Not get paged at the weekend
  • See status and act on issues
  • Monitor from the mobile device


Sally’s frustrations

  • Overworked, impatient, fed up with callouts, too busy watching stuff
  • Pressured by developers
  • Overwhelming dashboards
  • Flickers between multiple dashboards
  • 1000’ds of devices
  • Not finding problem devices
  • Bricking devices in the wild
  • Too much complex technical documentation
  • New technologies and terminologies
  • Having to ask developers for help
  • Worried about hackers


The high-level steps in the initial ‘Getting started’ and ‘Everyday use’ scenarios

  1. Sally is added to the platform by Oscar as a user with an Administrator role
  2. Sally configures the roles and permissions required by the LOB
  3. Sally on-boards the LOB team to the platform
  4. Sally defines device types and registers devices. She confirms that devices are connecting and sending data events to the IoT platform.
  5. Sally configures a dashboard with boards and cards to monitor device state and alerts
  6. Sally configures users and access permissions for Lester’s service team

Other IoT personas

Bob the Line of Business Manager

Bob is a key persona discovering and leading the organization in leveraging IoT in the line of business

  • Bob understands where the market is heading and sets the product strategy within his business
  • Bob is creating new streams of revenue through IoT by managing a product line of new IoT innovations and instrumentation making existing products starter
  • Bob needs to understand how a new IoT product is being consumed by his users
  • Bob needs to know what data to measure and how analytics on the IoT data to gain the new insights

Archie the System Architect

Archie is a key persona in discovering, playing and trying the IoT platform.

  • Archie is responsible for deciding strategies on the technologies and architectures for the new IoT platform
  • Archie needs to present a proposal for transforming the existing business solutions into an IoT solution
  • Archie needs to present a proposal for extending the value of existing devices and data through analytics Archie needs to present a proposal for the right solution and make the right choices on system scale, security, cost, and operational efficiency for the team

Lester the Service Delivery Manager

Lester is a key persona in setting up and providing services to his clients based on the IoT platform, connected devices and instrumented assets. Lester is a part of the LOB and managing a team of engineers ensuring the delivery of an SLA to a client. He and his team is on- or near-site of the devices and equipment that are managed.

  • Lester has a team of Reliability Engineers
  • Lester is responsible for operations for the client services
  • Lester is manages the users, resources, and access for his team
  • Lester is responsible for proactively monitoring the state of equipment and plan service actions
  • Lester needs to operate his team efficiently. He knows that time is money when systems are down


Meet Sally the IoT System Operator. 

Sally is one of the most frequently used operator personas in the design across the platform capabilities.


Also, meet Chris is the Application Developer and Devon is the Edge Device Developer. 

Chris and Devon are the most frequently used personas in the developer experience design across the platform capabilities.

IoT Platform Developer Experience
Design research on the developer experience in the Watson IoT Platform.