The Emergency Response and Rescue business is an old and conservative industry, but even it is changing quickly. New technologies – in transportation, building materials and structures and emergency response equipment and techniques – are changing the nature of emergency response and rescue. A company with a long and trusted history of serving this industry had identified an opportunity for a disruptive product offering. The issue facing the company was how to design the product that would achieve the desired effects and experiences that firefighters and rescue personnel wanted.

What We Did Together

The firefighting and rescue community is close-knit. Knowledge spreads quickly and new products are tested in extreme conditions and get a reputation quickly, for good or bad. It is critical for a new tool, especially one that provides new capabilities for firefighters and other first responders, to ‘get-it-right’. An initial bad reputation in the first responder community is virtually impossible to overcome.

The requirements for the new tool, and the specifications that derive from those requirements, came from a close examination of the jobs the firefighters needed to accomplish and the technology effects that could implement those jobs. An extensive effort was undertaken to engage with the firefighting and first responder community to understand their experiences and how these experiences were changing. Translating these needs and desires into practical design criteria was critical to the engineering team as they built the first mock-ups and then prototypes of the new tool.

The Outcome

Critical to this project was the use of a structured ‘test and learn’ process in which the firefighting and first responder community is engaged with at each step of the way. Even the initial mock-ups, produced using 3D-printing technology, were put into the hands of practicing firefighters to get their feedback and input. As a result of going through these early stage design iterations, the company is assured of a positive response when the new, disruptive product is introduced.

I haven't seen the I-Council as excited about a group of well-formed concepts... ever. We literally couldn't sit down when we were deliberating about which opportunities to fund

Brandon Rowberry , Director Innovation Council

United Health Group