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GSE Industrial Design: GSatSolar Part 1, Introduction to the Process
As you have no doubt seen by now, we are very close to launching the GSatSolar, a tracking terminal we have been developing for low-intelligence-requirement applications across multiple markets. GSE has historically applied its engineering expertise to intelligent hardware, placing emphasis on behavior tracking and telematics. This terminal gives us a new offering for "limited data matters" customers who do not necessarily need the full functionality of intelligent terminals like the GSatMicro and the MCG-101.
This is the first hardware product that has been developed entirely during my tenure with GSE, and as such, I have been able to experience the entire design and development process from end to end. After some consideration, we all feel it would be cool to peel back the curtain and share that process with you. This six article series will dive into the way we work, our decision and iteration processes, and the specific design inflection points that led to the GSatSolar being the way it is. The following list will be updated to have links to the other articles after they go live.
- Part I: Intro and POD Framework
- Part II: Shape and Aesthetics
- Part III: Designing for Proper Use
- Part IV: Mounting
- Part V: Materials
- Part VI: Final Considerations
Problem Oriented Design (POD) Framework
The POD framework allows us to focus our efforts on designing a solution for real market problems instead of creating a solution in search of a problem simply because we have the ability to do so. This ensures that each of the hundreds of decisions that go into the market-ready version of the product pivot around the goal of delivering on the specific demands of the end users so that they have a solution that perfectly achieves their goals. Keeping the end user and their needs at the heart of design is the best way to always deliver the best products.
POD: Design Scenario
The design scenario is the initial problem to be solved, in the most narrow niche it can be defined. Typically these problems have poor existing solutions or no solutions available on the market, and there has been a missing piece required to bridge the gap between possibilities and solutions. Also involved in a design scenario is identification of solution requirements, which will dictate the viability of all potential solutions. These are typically parameters within which any proposed solution must operate, and they can be exceptionally specific or incredibly vague. They are very often flexibly theoretical (ie: being cost effective), but can also be incredibly speficic in their requirements (ie: operating temperature ranges). Solution requirements for other GSE products have included must-have feature functionality, compatibility requirements, cost considerations, and even regulatory compliance measures.
The design scenario for the GSatSolar was to develop a product that would service the livestock tracking needs of ranchers. After consideration, we expanded it to include other off-grid low-intelligence tracking, but to maintain the primary focus on satisfying demand for livestock movement tracking.
POD: Solution Parameters
Solution parameters for the GSatSolar were numerous, and ranged in specificity.
- Off-Grid: GSatSolar would need to be able to be deployed and function in remote locations for long periods of time
- Low Cost: GSatSolar would be used to track assets with an average value of $1000-$2500, so it should be inexpensive
- Durability: GSatSolar would be used outdoors, so it would need to be rugged and environment-proof
- Small Size: GSatSolar would be mounted to smaller assets than most tracking terminals, so lightweight and compact size
- Intuitive: GSatSolar's primary demographic tends to favor lower technical expertise for setup and operation, get close to "slap and track" if we can
- Low Reporting Interval: GSatSolar applications would not typically demand high frequency reporting, but the device should support up to 1 report/hour at a minimum
Solution Design Process
After we have a framework and requirements for our solution, we begin an iterative process that involves multiple design decisions that we tackle by assessing a series of different options for each. These design decisions differ from product to product, and are the variable factors after we have identified the immutable product requirements. Anyone familiar with product design will tell you that product requirements very rarely restrict design to only one means of achieving design goals, so this is where industry expertise and engineering talent shape a product's final user experience.
Our collaborative process has a few very simple steps, which we repeat across various design decisions individually until we have a product.
- Identify the goal: understand how a design requirement affects end user experience
- Propose ideas: brainstorm, crowd source internally, or look for examples in the market
- Narrow options: holistically rank the best ideas, and then narrow the list to those options
- Flesh: apply the ideas to the design requirements, and come up with a proposal of a user's version
- Eliminate: eliminate the weakest option(s)
- Iterate: if suggestions for improving remaining options exist, iterate and present the new version
- Finalize: decide on the final version and move on to the next design decision
We work with a number of talented engineers, designers, and industry experts during this process, and that level of insight helps us guarantee the best possible product goes to market for the people who will be using it. We keep those end users at the core of every decision in the steps above, and this series will be a great opportunity for us to show you how that problem-oriented design focus allowed us to make the perfect low-cost tracking terminal.
As mentioned above, there will be five more articles in this series that will bring you through our entire design process for the GSatSolar, with a focus on the major inflection points in the product's history. We encourage you to keep an eye on the blog and our social media as we bring you those articles. For more information about the GSatSolar, we invite you to read more about specs, features, and applications on the product's official website, and sign up for the newsletter as well.