Bresslergroup and Nexus Design LLC
In 1 minute or less, the HazMatID Elite optically identifies and categorizes thousands of possible chemical warfare agents, explosives, toxic industrial chemicals, narcotics, and suspicious powders, among other dangerous chemical classes.
The product helps first responders keep people out of harm’s way and reduce the social and economic impacts of chemical incidents and attacks via a clear and intuitive design.
The Smiths Detection HazMatID Elite is a portable chemical identifier used to detect hazardous chemical and biological substances. The product is used by military and civilian first responders to quickly and accurately detect health and safety risks in the field. In 1 minute or less, the HazMatID Elite optically identifies and categorizes thousands of possible chemical warfare agents, explosives, toxic industrial chemicals, narcotics, and suspicious powders, among other dangerous chemical classes. The product helps first responders keep people out of harm’s way and reduce the social and economic impacts of chemical incidents and attacks via a clear and intuitive design.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Users range from highly trained military personnel to novice volunteer first responders, all of whom wear bulky chemical protection gear that obscures visibility, sound and tactile sensitivity. Impediments from gear that affect interaction design include: • High physical effort to do basic tasks (holding, reading, typing) • Tactile feel and control diminished (3 layers of gloves) • Mask / face shield get foggy, impairing vision These obstacles make user interface elements challenging to use. Couple that with the stress of potentially dangerous outcomes, and creating an easy to understand and use system is a tall order. Another given when operating in hostile environments is durability. Performance targets including military spec requirements included: • 1 meter submersion in water for 1 hour • Wipe down w/ bleach • External access to batteries • Metal enclosure to dissipate heat generated by RF optics • Wifi antenna outside enclosure to avoid interference • Compact / light weight3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The intent of this product development was to design a ground breaking device that rivaled its predecessors. To do this we focused heavily on usability. Previous versions used stylus-based touch screens that required precise motor control and accuracy which are not appropriate for the hazardous material environment. This was addressed by moving to an interface that tightly coupled large physical buttons with a bright, high contrast display. Taking it a step further the team introduced the asterisk “*” button as a wildcard key for the interface design. A contextual option, the asterisk provides a shortcut to useful information based on the context of the task. In addition to addressing readability via font size and contrast, the device has been designed for both a table-top and handheld mode to allow maximum flexibility based on the context and location of use.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Keys to success in the field hinge on accuracy and speed. Accuracy was assured through the development of the clients’ advanced detection technology. And speed is enabled through an easy to understand and use physical and digital interface and workflow. Usability was a key factor that informed the design of the HazMatID Elite. Through various onsite visits, user interviews and research we examined user concerns and identified opportunities for workfolk and usability improvement. The initial research phase focused on gaining an understanding of user needs and tasks, competitor device strengths and weaknesses and design constraints. Ethnographic research was conducted with representative users including the New York City and Philadelphia fire department HazMat teams. We developed and tested several iterations of interactive mock-ups to gather feedback on interface navigation and physical interaction. Testing was conducted with users wearing full chemical protective gear. Based on this research, the design team explored various iterative concepts that focused on key areas including: • Increased display size/replacing button area with larger (touch) display • Large, simple display of text • Icons as secondary cues • Clear visual communication of highlighting, selection and status changes • Large, shape-coded buttons with tactile cues • Design buttons to support use of both fingers and stylus Preliminary concepts were designed focusing on several different approaches to organizing the physical buttons and the on-screen information. These were designed iteratively and were tested with users to make sure that we not only met the project requirements set by the client, but that those decisions allowed for effective usability.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The HazMatID Elite is a life saving device that quickly and accurately tests for hazardous material. The new design creates a paradigm-shift in the industry, creating a device that is not only rugged and is MIL-STD-810G certified for use in harsh conditions and high-temperature operations but optimized for high performance with simplicity and ease of use. The robust product design of the HazMatID Elite offers large visible buttons and interface that offers a sturdy, but approachable device that novice users can feel comfortable with. Novel Features: • Integrated pressure device for analysis of solid materials, plus direct touch-to-sample capability • Automated analysis of mixtures with priority alerting for explosives, CWAs, TICs and narcotics • unparralelled dual measurement system via ‘point and shoot’ as well as traditional ‘press’ sample presentation. • Long-range, embedded RF wireless transmission Human Factors • Optimal size for handling • Significant weight reduction. • As the user may be wearing a Hazmat suit that reduces visibility and tactile feel of keys the keypad has large illuminated buttons and icons and enhanced click response from the keys at the same time meeting the environmental requirements of the design.