In collaboration with technology and transportation clients, we initiated a project to look at mobile service opportunities around ‘van men’ – a group of mobile workers we felt had been overlooked. We also suspected that they were being ignored because addressing their needs properly might require collaborations between mobile device and van manufacturers, mobile operators, third party service providers and local governments.
We conducted eight in-context observations and interviews around London, talking to different types of drivers for small companies. It quickly became clear that most were mobile technology enthusiasts, but their usage was largely restricted to basic features. Even though they had burning needs around live traffic and parking information, van security and job information management, they found current solutions too rigid or complex. Instead they settled on manual work-arounds and mental juggling – their default was to pick up the phone and call someone.
We identified seven opportunity areas and focused on two: resource management and collaboration platforms. We then generated a vision concept for each, based on three interaction principles – fluid interaction, effortless input and minimal immersion – based on the van men’s preferences and use context. Both were based on voice services that went beyond voice recognition.
‘Working Notes’ used voice-based services to source and locate supplies, and stay on top of billing and expenses. ‘Banter Channel’, likened to a combination of CB radio and voice Twitter, allowed van men to plan and synchronise schedules, and share knowledge and resources in a natural manner. Each vision concept was communicated in a two-minute animation with voiceover. These were shared with collaborating clients, which in turn inspired follow-up projects.
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