Build the Industrial Internet of Things. Smart infrastructure used to be a pipe dream, but working with some of the best in the industry, we set out to redefine what it meant to connect the very world we live in.
One of my first projects at GE was to imagine the future of their mobile experience ecosystem. The original concept came from a prototype for health care field engineers who fixed MRI machines at hospitals. Our goal was simple—everything you need, exactly when you need it.
The problem was we how to scale this concept to the tens of thousands of field engineers employed by the company.
Step 1. Go there. Next stop, Paris.
I left at 10 in the morning from San Francisco, and 11 hours later, arrived in Paris the same day: 10AM. But without my research team who would come 24 hours later, I spent time reviewing our assumptions up to this point (over a few glasses of wine at a cafe outside the Sacré-Cœur, of course). We’ve spent a year designing an app based on so few personas, how could we possibly have predicted all the pain points and design opportunities without ever having gone there?
In order to be successful—to have the app be ‘sticky’—we’d have to:
- Understand the context of use within an engineer’s work and his/her environment.
Identify common issues the engineers run into.
Understand the critical moments that needs potentially mobile support.
Know who engineers collaborate with the most.
Understand how human-machine interface (HMI) screens could be potentially used in tandem.
Identify characteristics of users that would accept or refuse the mobile devices.
In general, the process we use is as follows (it’s a mix of traditional user research, lean startup, and agile methodology):
Returning from two week field study, what we found was fairly simple: people don’t want distractions. Especially when operating machinery that powers 25% of the country. The exchange value of adding yet another item to someone’s list of things they carry needs to be more than greatly obvious. It must augment their life. It must blend into their workflow. It must fit into a coat pocket.
However, we didn’t expect the how absolute and strict regulations were when it comes to industrial applications and the environments they live in. For instance, why aren’t smartphones allowed at gas compression plants? One word. Capacitance. Who would’ve thought the charge between a human finger and a computer touchscreen would be enough to set off a plant explosion.
And so we iterated. Again. And again. At one point, we took every element apart and put it back together. The more we learned, the more refined and powerful the app became.
While doing all this, I also helped architect the framework for which the ecosystem would live on. Predix Asset would map a machine’s layout and monitor KPIs. A design template tool generated ‘Cards’ that would feed into Predix Mobile; this allowed field engineers to receive assignments on mobile devices, connect to machines to troubleshoot and monitor them, and fix problems without ever having to go on site.
The end result was a rich and powerful experience, blending visualization, modern UI design and data science for the boots on ground; our beloved field engineers who work to keep our lights running through the night.
Oh, and I also made monthly birthday posters for the studio and bought everyone cronuts and beer.