Solace: Process

While designing Solace as a team we took part in creating multiple prototypes not only of the physical products but also the interface and the scenario.

Deep Dive

We began by fully emerging ourselves into Reconnaissance by speaking with different first responders and asking them to walk us through the recon process.

Generic GPS

Allows to input locations and tag them with icons. Must be manually downloaded once they get to camp.

Written Logs

To keep track of important details, will be passed down to the chief when they get to camp.


The only form of communication during a disaster while lines are down. Limited distance.

iPad or Tablet

Used to collect images that will help in the aftermath to keep records and proof of what happened.

Current methods are redundant, they must carry multiple tools to do the same thing.

GPS Exploration

We looked at the GPS, the main tool to record data, to better understand how it was used in the field and what could make it more efficient.

Mulitple Buttons

Many small buttons caused first responder to input mistakes which took a lot of time to fix.

Not Specific

Unspecialized GPS had a plethora of icons that were obsolete and made it difficult to tag locations.

Too Complicated

Using the GPS is so difficult that the firefighters created their own cheat sheets to make things simpler.

Small Screen

The screen is so small that they prefer to use their iphones to capture information and annotate.

Current GPS is not intuitive and does not satisfy the needs of Reconnaissance.

Creating the GPS

We focused a great deal on the ergonomics of the device as we wanted it to be easy to hold and use, so the first responders would be able to finish reconnaissance as fast as possible.

Creating the Command Center

For the Command Center our priority was it’s functionality, it had to be compact yet also be able to extend out to create a large projection.

Creating the Comforting

Our main goal with the comforting device was to give a sense of hope to the victims and support them in their time of need while being easy to use for the first responder.

Exploring Scenarios

We developed user scenarios every week and tested prototypes to see what user experience was most comfortable and intuitive for each stakeholder.

First Exploration

First responder has a GPS device on his arm to easily access map.

First Responder can input information by typing in notes.

Victim can gain comfort by speaking to someone.

Commander can see information on stand alone screen with analog controls.

Second Exploration

A GPS that expands to allow first responders to take photographs.

First responders can give their “hearts” to the victims they find.

Victim can feel cared for by feeling the beat of the device.

A digital screen for the commander to share information with others.

Third Exploration

A GPS that slides out and turns into photograph mode.

An add-on that allows volunteers to tap into the mesh network.

Victim can get some help from the CERT volunteer.

A suitcase like screen that folds and can be hanged anywhere.

We became aware of the C.E.R.T. program after speaking to FEMA first responders and thought they could play an important role in the Reconnaissance process.

The C.E.R.T. Add-on was created.

Fourth Exploration

We explored different ways to create an expanding screen.

Compact comforting devices that can be stacked.

Victim can feel comfort from indications of being monitored.

A large projected screen that can fit multiple people.

We realized that captains need to see information big and be able to share it with others to make decisions together.

The Command Center became a projected interface.

Fifth Exploration

Voice recognition and translation to input information fast.

Using the comforting device to expand the network as well.

A compact device that monitors the victim through indication.

A compact projector that is easy to set up.

It became evident that no matter how large a keyboard is, it still takes time to write. Why not use standard protocol radio speak which they currently use to identify incidents?

The GPS has voice recognition for emergency service response code and transcribes it automatically.

Final Exploration

A compact GPS that is intuitive and allows for voice data input.

The GPS opens to photo and annotation mode.

A comforting device that is compact and can be used as a network node.

A mobile projector that allows for large multi-team analysis.