PROJECT: Asset Tracking System (ATS) for firefighters and safety personnel.

Project Overview


Create an asset tracking system that will improve the safety of firefighters and safety personnel and make it easier to track items critical to the safety of themselves and others.


The client needed help integrating their line of breathing and life support products into a tracking system that could also incorporate other third-party products. They had a theory that they could make a useful utility for the industry and have superb brand alignment along the way by creating a tracking experience that supported all equipment, not just their own branded products.


The place where this utility was found most useful initially was for daily vehicle-level inspections. We set out to study and later simplify the inefficient process of daily inspections to make it easier for firefighters to start their shift and maintain their equipment. This enhanced readiness and efficiency would lead to safer conditions, and more adoption for more assets over time.

Project Plan


We set out to learn about the life-cycle of their own products and the people involved, their physical environments, and their future state they all sought. 


User studies, day-in-the-life studies, product life-cycle studies, idea modeling, and a lot of valuable team collaboration throughout.


We refined a single scenario and tested it with users. In this case, the most important use of the experience is to enable accurate daily inspections and make them easier. We found that most daily inspections for firefighters began with their vehicles. So the scenario we focused on first as making the daily vehicle inspection as friction-less as possible.


Rough sketches and wireframes, user interviews and scenario testing.


For this project the aim was to have a testable prototype, and a vision of where things can go from that initial product offering and framework.


Vision deck, final designs and a web-based mobile prototype for users to test via their device of choice. 


Team collaboration and user studies.


We brought along a member from product marketing, production, maintenance, and sales to witness the stages their product goes through first hand. We observed production, shipping, deployment, maintenance, and retirement. They saw how both their own products along with other unrelated products shared similar traits in how firefighters perceived them. 


From here we mapped our findings and moments in time to discover patterns and areas of opportunity. This task lead to us to maintaining an active SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) evaluation that we would check in with at the end of each day during the discovery phase. The team was motivated as we turned some originally perceived weaknesses into strengths. One win was getting buy-in from smaller stations without having to sell the idea to them. We thought new technology would be seen as a burdensome lift. Firefighters see this as a chance to make their lives easier and safer and they want to be connected to useful technology.


Mission and strategy

Mission and strategy - Long term vision and near term realism needed.


Halfway through our first day of site visits as the founding team, a member pulled me aside and said, this alone was the gift of my time with them already. They'd never traveled together with this lens on before. The moment we mapped this all out for each other we collectively saw the light and the mission was clear. 

MISSION: Make this process more safe, efficient, and usable for everyone!


It was the ultimate designer war cry... Make this Better... However, this project was so huge, that in order to show the vision and test the idea to see if it even made sense, we needed to pick a simple and universal scenario to design first. We decided to prove that we could usefully and reliably track an item in a way that makes the firefighter's lives easier and safer.

STRATEGY: Design the user experience for a primary scenario to test and show the value of the idea.


Crew level daily inspection

Scenario description: The crew arrives at the station for their shift change. For each shift change they need to perform a daily inspection on all vehicles and their load plans. The crew may also need to inspect items that are not on the immediate vehicle but could be deployed for specific scenarios.

During inspection, if they find missing or damaged items, they know to remove them from service and begin a repair request. If possible, they may also replace a damaged or missing item with a placeholder from a common pool. Also, during larger events where numerous vehicles are used, equipment can get misplaced during clean up. Backboards are a common item that get misplaced, since many times they go with a patient to the hospital.

In this specific scenario: We focus on the vehicle's daily performance check. We wanted to see how easily a firefighter could get to the moment where they are validating the vehicle's condition. How logically can we organize that for them, and how much of the experience they'll find useful.



It's a go. A small go.

Despite the small sample, and low-tech quality of our early wire-frame tests, what we learned was that there was a warm reception to the idea of digitizing inspections, and that our approach was on the path to making firefighter's lives safer and easier. Later prototypes and demos fared even better.

What did the client do? 

The client took the findings and write-up to their own leadership to let them see what was possible and how everything could work in the future. After our brief time working with them, they felt they had developed a greater understanding of the project. The had learned enough to begin assembling an internal team to complete the design and build it themselves. Our continued role would be to mentor those designers and developers on the user experience.

A long term vision was ignited by zeroing in on its most valuable primary interaction.