Halo - Augury's IIoT diagnostics solution

Augury offers an Al-based machine health solution for process industries such as the Food and Beverage manufacturing. Halo combines advanced wireless sensor technology with AI algorithms to alert and advise customers of mechanical malfunctions at their earliest stage. Among Augury's customers are one of the top 10 beer bottlers in the world and other Fortune 500 global enterprises.

Objectives and initiatives

The Top Company Objective was to enable installations at scale. From it derived the squad's key initiatives:

  • Streamline the installation operation process
  • Make it self-installed
  • Reach a satisfactory quality installation

TL;DR

A comprehensive case study, illustrating a major project I co-led and executed:

Bringing to life Augury's IoT solution: a mobile app and a complementary process and service.

OKRs

UX research

UI exploration

Analysis

Feedback

The challenge

Before we dive into details, let me give you the settings. Over more than a year span, a product development squad, me included, worked on this project as our main initiative. During that time, the sensors and related hardware were also being developed, and new stakeholder teams emerged.

The installation process, requirements and limitations were dynamic and gradually evolved as we progressed.

This was a very complex project, with many moving parts, literally. Let's overview the main challenges.

From a technical POC to human centered design

Augury's IoT components communicate with one another through several network protocols, including Bluetooth, Wifi and 3G. It needed to be activated and controlled. This is how a mobile app was born, "undefined" by engineers who created a flow for QA in the office, not for actual installations in real life settings.

Reverse engineering: I took screenshots from the developed POC app to understand its flow

The Internet of things

Bringing the internet to the production floor is not an easy task. There are dead zones, connectivity issues, power outage and signal interferences.

To top those physical problems onsite, there was a mindset challenge. Augury's previous product overcame the connectivity issues by supporting offline mode as a main use case. This POC was done in a similar way. It took me a lot of patience and convincing to get everyone in the squad aligned with an online mode as the main use case. For each tiny feature, I specified its online behaviour. Slowly but surely we transformed the app to be "online first".

How it works: A simplified illustration of the IoT communication flow

Digital twins

A digital twin is a replica of a physical entity. Adding machines was not even possible in the app. Bad UX could result in affecting the accuracy of data that goes in to the algorithms.

The physical world

Designing an IoT app is very different than designing any other app. There are many aspects to consider in the physical world, that affect user needs, behaviour and emotions.

How am I doing?

Low quality connectivity equals low quality installation: Malfunction hardware, no 24/7 data stream. Visibility, clarity and actionability were needed immediately after the devices were installed.

The design process

Double-diamonds are a girl's best friend

My design and PM process was a continuous "Double diamond" practice: From discovery to delivery; from diverging to converging. My squad mastered the MVP mindset: Short-cycle releases with a fast feedback loop.

But first, coffee. And some Embedded know-how

I had no prior knowledge of IoT firmware and hardware before I joined Augury. I had to understand the technical details inside out, so I could break it to pieces and reassemble it as a human centered product. How do I do that? I Question everyone about everything. And then some. It's kinda my trade mark.

I researched the IoT landscape, especially in B2B industrial and agricultural worlds. It was a great excuse for online shopping and I made my home a little smarter in the name of research.

Interviews and feedback channels

Halo installations took place moslty in the US. Luckily, when we just started, the installers were Augury employees, mostly from the IL office like myself. Thus, I had full access to users and I took advantage of it in a form of interviews, feedback surveys and obsession over Slack channels. Later on, end-customers and Channel partners were also involved in the process. I onboarded and trained them, and conducted well-planned scripted interviews with them as well. I also listened to recorded conversations they had with account managers and customer success reps. Over time, I knew EVERYTHING there was to know as if I was on site myself.

I became the go-to person for anything installations. I was notified on every internal conversation regarding the installation app and process. I developed a good personal relationship with installers, and they volunteered feedback, knowing that I respected them and listened: Some of their feedback found its way to the app, and I made sure to communicate it both ways.

Here's how I discovered WHY an installer didn't follow the steps we defined. Empathy stressed how important was enabling a flexible flow:

Installing the sensors on all machines is my number one task. People in this position could get fired for not completing the installation on time.

Ethnographic research

Unmediated studies are probably my favorite method for gaining insights and empathy. I joined several installations both in Israel and across the US and performed both Passive observations and Contextual interviews. I returned from each visit with tons of learnings which I always shared with my peers.

Design sprints and co-creation workshops

While many companies still see user research as a waste of time and design sprints as a no-work week - at Augury these processes are welcomed and encouraged.

I led multiple brainstorming sessions with the squad. Together with a PM, we also facilitated a few Design sprints and Co-creation workshops with internal customers from the US. These were a blast! Not only were they fun and creative, they also brought the developers into the process. At the end of a session I would take all the sketches, process them further and come up with solutions that incorporated ideas from everyone. We gained empathy, alignment and buy-in at the highest level. If you're interested to learn more, I wrote a blog post about this experience.

Yay, Visuals!

The installation app was the main focus area of the squad. We developed a new mobile app, which meant almost no constrains. The only challenge in this regard was to move away from bad patterns of older apps while maintaining the brand identity.

During the design process I probably created hundreds of screens and dozens of versions. However, I can't share online most of it for confidentiality reasons.

Analysis and Insights

The installation was quite the operation. We really needed a defined process in place. It was a classic case of Service design, and Customer journey mapping was the perfect tool for the job. We mapped away the entire flow - before, during and after. Internal stakeholders took part, both in the US and IL offices. The result was so monstrous, it wouldn't fit in one shot. We uncovered many opportunities for improvements, both in process and product.

This was done several times during the 1-1.5 years of development, helping in fine-tuning the roadmap based on updated OKRs and learnings. In the last round, I also took over establishing an onboarding program and a Help Center, for both customers and internal stakeholders. I merged the technical expertise I had as the creator of the installation app and process, with the customer-facing needs of Customer Success and Support team. I mapped all installation operation touch points and translated them to engagement ops. A win win for everybody.

1. Journey mapping: Step by step flow as described by Ops, Field & CS teams

2. Next: Journey digitized. The green squares are the new touch point opportunities.

3. Help Center content tracker, based on the new touch points.

4. I drafted a remediation playbook for the Field and Ops teams

Feedback and usability testing

Feedback is an essential part of my design process. Sometimes I'd show paper wireframes to check a general concept, but in most cases it'd be high fidelity interactive mockups. After establishing trust and open communication, I am able to get the genuine answers I am looking for. When I show 2-3 different options, I detach myself from the design, and a fruitful discussion usually takes place.

When Augury started discussing scale, it meant preparing the app for the early majority users. In order to improve core issues in the UI and make sure the app is easy to use, I organized Usability testing in an improvised lab. I didn't simulate environmental conditions like connectivity issues or a dangerous machine you had to crawl under, but I could isolate the main flow and make sure it was clear, which was more important at the time. I also introduced the app to a few early adopter customers, onboarded them and trained them. I was the contact person for support issues related to installations and the app. This was also very valuable in terms of learning what was intuitive and what needed to be improved.

Contextual inquiry with a customer at his work environment, Lansing MI.

The Rainbow spreadsheet: a lean UX research tool by Tomer Sharon

Correspondence with a customer I trained

Summary

I worked on this project for over a year. It was my baby that I created, watched it born, grow and develop. I hope you enjoyed reading about this process, and maybe even inspired to bring more UX research into everyday product management and design work.