Collaborative Design Thinking for the Industrial IoT


Intel Software’s Developer Relations Division fosters innovation across our network of partners and the software developer community at large using an innovation model called design thinking (d.thinking, for short) to translate ideas into meaningful user experiences through these iterative steps:

  • Generate a lot of ideas
  • Test them with potential users
  • Turn the most promising ideas into proofs of concept (POCs)
  • Prototype them
  • Test again
  • Repeat until a solution emerges

Ultimately, we assist our partners in solving business problems and bringing amazing experiences to life on Intel technologies.

Rethinking design thinking

We’ve been using d.thinking to come up with promising use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT), and more specifically, industrial wearables. Imagine if you had a “smart” helmet, jacket, or vest that promoted worker safety in industrial settings. What if these wearables help keep you safe —looking out for dangerous objects, fire/electrical hazards, or detecting when you’re doing something that might result in injury? These scenarios not only are good for workers, but solve persistent business problems as well.

After identifying use-cases/problems, the next step in d.thinking is to iterate a solution with the user until you get a product that fits their needs (and hopefully a marketable solution). We asked ourselves how we could be faster and help our ecosystem better. We decided to partner with a startup building a business in this space. Our team could help them get to market faster, introduce them to bigger customers, and help support them as they innovate on Intel architecture and Intel IoT modules.

But who was already working in this space that could benefit from our assistance? To answer that question, we turned to our network of startup accelerators (we sponsor R/GA Ventures, Startup Bootcamp, and NASSCOM among others). We learned KINETIC, a startup out of New York City, was developing a wearable solution designed to reduce costly lifting injuries in the workplace. With PhDs in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computing Engineering, they had the right qualifications, but they were also deeply knowledgeable about the space, having spoke to hundreds of workers and companies. They also had started a design for a wearable that used sensors to detect motion, orientation, acceleration, and elevation to discern whether someone was lifting an object in an unsafe manner. But collecting data from workers and giving them immediate feedback when they’re performing high-risk lifts meant the device needed to handle computations in real time.

In other words, KINETIC needed a small-form-factor, low-power CPU that could handle heavy on-device processing. The Intel Edison Compute Module with its dual-core Intel Atom processor, integrated dual-band WiFi*, and Intel Quark microcontroller was just what they were looking for. It was the right solution and form factor to connect sensors, collect and store data locally, and then process it in real time. We readily agreed to work together.

In less than two weeks, Intel software engineers were able to help KINETIC’s team migrate their wearable to an Intel Edison design suitable for a warehouse environment. With Intel’s help, KINETIC was able to push the limits of the Intel Edison module, achieving power savings that extended active battery life to nine hours, while supporting additional sensors on a belt-worn device. With our help, KINETIC went from idea stage, to active pilots with large customers,, to gearing up for production inside of one year. Their wearable system, a belt-worn device and an optional wristband.

Intel’s support of KINETIC is ongoing, spanning everything from software assistance to helping them review hardware board designs and manufacturing processes. You can learn more about KINETIC’s wearable protection against lifting injuries by reading this case study.

For those of us in Intel’s Developer Relations Division, we learned that an essential element of design thinking—namely, listening to users—applies equally to our startup partners. We gained a new use case and velocity in bringing it to market.  Are you a startup interested in working with Intel IoT technology? Learn more in the Intel Developer Zone.