What is a Hardline?
Hardline is a dead simple push-to-talk button that attaches to the back of your smart phone. Users can transform their device into a lightning fast walkie-talkie. 
This product works with a dedicated SaaS base iOS application.
What are the problems we are solving?

• Two-way radios (walkie-talkies) are expensive investment
• With walkie-talkies the users have to carry an extra weight on top of their phones
• Despite today's technologies, walkie talkie communication isn't very effective as users could potentially miss a message
• Existing alternative solutions are too cumbersome (requires users to unlock the phone and opening the app before being able to communicate)
Hardline's primary objective
We had to think of a cost-effective solution to improve how people can communicate on the job.
• Our main target audience are blue collared trade occupations such as construction workers, building inspectors, HVAC installers, and iron/steel workers. 
• Other secondary users include event planners, supervisors, team managers, dispatcher, officers, etc. Essentially any professions that require constant communications.
User Research
• We initially visited few construction sites to gather some insights from potential users, but due to COVID-19 we had to stop and pivoted into remote research instead.
• We gain some insights about the user's habits, frustrations, and goals. As it turns out, the helper, apprentice, and journeyman usually don't get a communication device. Only line managers and higher positions are equipped with a walkie-talkie.
Build, Test, Iterate (MVP)
Task:
We thought there's no better way to learn directly from the users. So we devised a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) by hacking together a quick functional prototype and showing it in front of the audience to get real user feedback. (Click here to learn more about the MVP product)
Result:
The concept was well received and the users offer plenty of suggestions to improve the prototype. Some critical issues discovered include:
• PTT Button accessibility
• Overall product durability in the type of working environment the users are in
• Audio quality

Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product (after several design changes)

Big Hurdle (Back to Square One)
Mid way through the product development process, we learnt that there's a big hurdle that we couldn't jump over.
We encountered some technological barrier from the acoustic requirements. As of today, our team wasn't able to find off the shelf speaker drivers that could reach over 110dB and maintain great quality audio given the design requirements I was provided with. We needed a large internal volume that would have made the hardware 4x as thick as our current solution.
The Pivot
Our team had already invested quite a significant amount of resources in the development and we weren't ready to throw in the flag yet.
We still see great opportunities and potential to introduce this  type of solution to the market so we decided to take a step back and re-evaluate all of our options.
The team finally decided that we could still continue the development by taking a different route and shedding off some of the previous product capabilities. However, we do this while still making sure that the problems we are trying to solve remain consistent.
Ideation
I used my knowledge from prior experiences in designing small portable Bluetooth devices to visualize the internal stack up and tolerances. 
• After calculating the internal stack up, I modeled them in 3D to use it as a sketch underlay.
• In these preliminary sketches the goal was to capture the overall accessibility and usability of the product. Keeping the design at a very low profile is paramount.
Prototype, Test, Iterate
In this stage of the design process, I conducted multiple iterations using Formlab SLA 3D printers to test several concepts and to get validations from all stakeholders. 
Since I was also responsible for the mechanical design of the internal enclosure, I made sure that every modifications made would bring the product closer to a functional prototype.
Design Validation
Through user interviews conducted via phone calls, usertesting.com, and stakeholder feedback/review, our team was able to pinpoint the direction of the design aesthetic. 
By presenting all the various versions of the design iterations, we learnt that users typically prefer a clean aesthetic that complements their iPhone.
I originally thought adding some ruggedness to the design would convey the product as being tough and durable. However, that was a misconception on my part but I'm glad our team conducted user interviews to get feedback from real users.
Final Deliverable
Hardline is an extremely cost effective solution that enables its users to have a quick way to communicate effectively and efficiently without having to purchase an expensive radio equipment.
Hardline offers the following features:
• Unlimited distance and automatic transcription
• Ultra lightweight and portable hardware solution
• Low-latency communication device
• No more missed calls or intercom messages
For more information about Hardline product visit www.hardline.io
Reflection

• Bringing in engineering experts that specializes in acoustic early to validate the feasibility of this type of product is paramount in determining whether if we should continue to pursue the idea.
• I learnt a great deal of knowledge in designing acoustic enclosure. Having large internal volume is necessary in producing quality audio output. The speaker driver is only one variable in the equation.
• I also learnt that nano-tape adhesive doesn't work well on rubberized surfaces such as silicone.

• Any type of user feedback is still valuable information even if they're lacking the physical prototype to feel and touch.

• We were still able to get plenty of user insights later in the process, but I learnt that this could have been done much earlier in the design process.
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