For both groups, when the technology distracts from the mission, there can be serious consequences.
It's not just by chance that a product or solution is intuitive, it's by design. Key ergonomic and functionality requirements must be considered early in the design stage, incorporating not only user requirements, but a complete understanding of how the user will use the technology. Even the simplest omissions can create a frustrating or distracting experience.
Ergonomics, usage, ruggedness, interoperability, reliability, coverage and instant real-time communications suited to the environment are just a few of the factors that must be taken into account.
Products should be designed and tested for non-equilibrium stress situations. Typically, products are tested for how they perform and operate during a normal working day. While much of an officer's time is spent on routine tasks, he or she also needs to count on the technology in the event of a high-stress incident, when one's ability to function may be impaired.
Another key aspect of design is ensuring the product or solution has an interface that adequately reflects the mindset of the user. Is the use of this product self-evident, or does it conflict with how an individual wants to use the product? Does it work like other familiar devices used at home or in other aspects of life?
In the past, these considerations have been dealt with separately or in a partial way. For instance, interoperability is a high priority for agencies all over the world and the industry has rightly been challenged to deliver against this objective. Yet interoperability on its own will not deliver intuitive communication tools.
An interoperable device that is hard-to-use is of little value in an emergency situation.Intuitive design drives measurable benefits
When a mission-critical product is well-designed, it delivers various advantages, including:
- More effective training — If the product is intuitive, the training required for its use will be minimal.
- Quicker adoption — Dependable and easy-to-use technology that is comfortable to operate leads to higher and quicker adoption rates.
- Ownership — If the system is truly second nature, users will take "ownership" and become the technology's greatest advocates. This not only improves its effectiveness in the field, but also bolsters the internal relationships between support staff, such as IT or radio managers, and front line officers.
- Mission-focused — In an emergency, first responders will instinctively use the technology without hesitating or being distracted by its features.
Mission critical design is essential for any technology or solution deployed in the public safety arena. A failure in communications can have dire consequences for the officers involved and the public they serve.
Public safety equipment, such as radios, data terminals and video cameras, need to be easy to use under any circumstance or situation a first responder may encounter, from the routine to the life threatening. Recognizing the role that stress plays in an officer's ability to operate technology makes its design, testing and selection even more critical.
Getting technology right the first time is imperative for first responders. It requires considerable up-front planning, commitment, user engagement and collaboration to get it right.
Bruce Claxton, who holds a master's in industrial design, is a senior director with Motorola, where he's been for more than 25 years. He has 30 years experience in industrial design and currently directs the industrial design and human factors innovation teams for Motorola's Government & Public Safety Products & Solutions division.Thomas Quirke, who has a doctorate in telecommunications, is also director of Motorola's Government & Public Safety Products & Solutions division, and has more than 15 years of experience in the industry.