USER INTERFACE: CONTINUED & SIMPLIFIED

Joe launched a Tomahawk missile into all of our brains last week. So, I thought I would bring things down a few notches. After he finished explaining the Theory of Relativity (of course I am kidding), he wrote about why we (Kopis Mobile) incorporate a simple User Interface with our products.

What you don’t want to have is something that looks like this:

Confusing Interface

Simple is always best. I am sure you can imagine all of the things a soldier or First Responder have going on during a real world situation. The last thing they need to navigate is something like the picture above, especially under fire.

What you really want to see is a clean, easy to use and uncomplicated screen. Apple hired over 800 engineers just to work on the iPhone camera. How many do you think they have working on what everything looks like on the screen? That is why iPhone looks the way it does. Clean and simple to use.

iPhone Home Screen

In the course of participating in many different exercises, we have come across a number of government designed mobile applications. As with many things the government does, they completely overburden the User Interface with too much information. When you try to make one app do more than it can handle, it ultimately fails to work properly.

I have already referred to Einstein, but he knew the importance of the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). He said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This means that one should simplify the design of a product and success is achieved when a design is at its maximum simplicity.

Every product we make is purposely designed to learn how to use in less than 10 minutes. All of our products come with a manual. There are more pictures than words because, who reads manuals anyway?

We pride ourselves on our simplicity. If you can’t put it together in the dark or figure out how to use without getting an engineering degree, it is worthless to those folks keeping us safe everyday.

ENGINEER VS OPERATOR: USER INTERFACE

Rocket Telemetry

Joe – The Engineer

I have been an engineer, a geek, and a human long enough to know where my area of expertise is. I also know where it is lacking. Engineers have different desires from the rest of the world. We don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t see the world like we do. I will flatly admit to not knowing anything about the subtleties of User Interface.

To prove this point, let me introduce the quintessential engineer’s game, Kerbal Space Program. Your job is to build rockets and using orbital mechanics, somewhat real gravity and somewhat real aerodynamic forces. These are used to explore the solar system surrounding Kerbal. An Earth like planet in that system. You basically become NASA.

If you’re not a “gamer,” you also likely don’t know that some games can be modified thru external programs to add new aspects of the game. Therefore, I will admit that my Kerbal addiction is so bad that I run over 30 of these modifications.

These modifications make the game harder and more realistic. They add part failures, real life antennaes, and astronauts that go crazy in confined spaces. All of this adds to the joys of space travel.

This requires that I have sub screens showing me various data points. Thrust to Weight Ratio tells me if I have engine failure options. Remaining Delta V tells me if I can make it home. Finally, electrical charge to know if my momentum wheels can properly orient my spacecraft… data, data, data! I need it all!

Then one day,  my wife walks by and says, “I don’t know how you can enjoy a game that requires so many numbers.” It’s at that point, I hope you realize, there is a hopeless disconnect between an engineer’s ideal User Interface and virtually everyone else’s.

We can even point to historically bad examples of User Interface Design. The Honeywell Kitchen Computer (H316) comes to mind. This thing was actually sold in Neiman Marcus for $10K. That’s $77K in today’s dollars. It expected the home-maker of the late ‘60s to deal with switches and binary light read-outs to assist in meal preparation. You even got a free two week training course with it.

Kitchen Computer

Luckily, we now live in a world that has massive computer power and unbelievable graphics. Kopis Mobile was, in a way, actually founded to tackle this exact problem. We use smart devices with advanced touch-screens that enable us to keep things super simple for the user. As a result, we have an engineering knack for interfacing differing items to these smart devices.

Differing screens, hidden debug menus, more graphically rich displays, all help improve the user experience and provide the adaptability that differing people need in a User Interface.

Hugh – The Operator

Wow! My head hurts so much I am going to continue this discussion next week. I suspect most of you need a drink and an aspirin as much as I do. Stayed tuned for my response…

 

 

 

 

THE REAL MEANING OF MEMORIAL DAY

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial overlooking Omaha Beach in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy

Another Memorial Day has come and gone. Although, I feel most Americans understand its true meaning, I think a lot of younger folks only think of it as a day to stuff their faces with hotdogs and drink beer. Don’t get me wrong, I did the same thing. However, I remembered all of my friends who are no longer alive to share a drink with me.

Instead of going on about what Memorial Day means to me. I want to do a cut and paste job from an email my mother sent yesterday. I think it is a fantastic message not only for young people, but for everyone.

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a History teacher at Robinson High School in Little Rock , did something not to be forgotten.  On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks in her classroom.  

When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.
 
‘Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?’

She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’

They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’  ‘No,’ she said.

‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’  She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’

And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period.  Still no desks in the classroom.  Kids called their parents to tell them what was happening and by early afternoon television news crews had started gathering at the school to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.

The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the desk-less classroom.  Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he or she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. 

 Now I am going to tell you.’

At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.  Twenty-seven (27) U.S. Veterans, all in uniform, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall.  By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned.

Martha said,

 ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks.  These heroes did it for you. 

They placed the desks here for you.  They went halfway around the world, giving up their education and interrupting their careers and families so you could have the freedom you have.  Now, it’s up to you to sit in them.  It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens.  They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education.  Don’t ever forget it.’

 By the way, this is a true story.  And this teacher was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Teacher of the Year for the State of Arkansas in 2006.  She is the daughter of a WWII POW.

This in fact a true story.

ENGINEER VS OPERATOR: SWaP

Engineer

vs

Operator

We are going to kick off our new series by discussing SWaP. In a DoD environment where any human carried electronics are discussed, it won’t take long to hear the acronym “SWaP.”  It often follows the word reduced as in “reduced Swap.”  So what does it mean?  The acronym stands for Size, Weight and Power.  Lately, the letter C has been added at the end to represent Cost.

The Engineer:

When I hear SWaP, I hear, “Hey Joe, design the smallest, lightest device and maximize its power efficiency (like I wouldn’t do that anyway). I get it. I have seen all of the crap a soldier has to carry.

I will never forget seeing a video of airborne troops waddling down the ramp of a C-130 on a combat jump with so much stuff on; all I could see was their head and feet.

An engineer has many tools at their disposal to design smaller electronics. When I started my career, the smallest passive I was allowed to use was a “1206” size. They would be capacitors, resistors and inductors that are 120 MILs x 60 MILs (MIL = 1/1000th of an inch).  Today, the smallest I use is 0201 although, 01005 (10MILs x 5 MILs) is possible. That is 1/144 decrease in area size. Passives can even be embedded into the printed circuit board reducing board area cost further.

The frequently quoted Moore’s Law has spin-offs that result in decreased chip voltage, physical size and process improvements for silicon wafers. These spin-offs all translate into smaller, less power hungry electronics that do more.

Silicon Chip Packaging is also changing. As speed of digital signal increases, old wire bonded packaging technology breaks down. This has forced innovation like flip chip packaging that solves the speed issue and results in smaller packages with better thermals.

Once exotic, the use of rigid flex PCBs has greatly increased. These are PCBs allow for unique stacking options because part of the board is rigid and part is flexible.

I have frequently seen unrealistic requirements for a wearable device like this:

– Size 1”x2”x.33”

– 1 x CR123 battery

– 0.5 ounce

– Capable of transmitting 100km

– 10-hour continuous operational time

When I read a set of requirements like this, my mind instantly starts pointing out the conflicts. The size of the wearable is not big enough to house the battery. The system weight exceeds the battery weight. The range requirement and time between battery changes likely exceeds the battery’s ability to power the system.

The Operator:

What my mind starts doing is asking itself, what the @$#& did he just say? True, we are demanding and you can’t get a group of us to even decide on one type of boot to buy. One thing we operators all agree on is there is already way too much to stuff to carry.

I think reducing the load of equipment soldiers of all services have to carry is critical. I also think making them as efficient as possible is equally important. Given the technology available today, there is no reason to overburden folks with heavy and complicated to use gear.

All too often, a piece of kit is thought of, designed and procured without ever involving the person who is ultimately going to use it. If it has more cables than an octopus has tentacles and it takes a 40-hour course to learn how to operate it, it will sit on a shelf forever.

Electronics are getting smaller, batteries are getting better and more things don’t require wires. Today’s operators are pretty smart and dialed in with technology. Working closely with engineers is a win-win for everyone. Don’t avoid them like they have some incurable disease.

The SEAL and the Engineer are at SOFIC 2017

Your regularly scheduled blog post has been interrupted by SOFIC 2017.

Hugh also uploaded a short video to Kopis Mobile’s Facebook page showing just a bit of the crowd. We will be back on our regular schedule next week with some word on how the show went. The operator vs. engineer series will start in earnest next week as well, so stay tuned. Thanks for your continued support at these trade shows and of the company in general.

New Product Development – Engineer vs Operator

New product development diagram

Over the next few weeks, the blog is going to focus on new product development. Primarily, it is going to take a look at things through two different sets of eyes. The engineer and the operator. By operator, I mean the guy or girl out on the pointy end of the spear.

The diagram at the top is what operators think is swirling around in an engineer’s head most of the time.  As a result, when you ask an operator to describe the perfect engineer, this is what you get:

Engineer on the computer

At the end of the day, the operator only wants something that is super easy to use and actually works. Often times, what an operator gets is not what they wanted or ever asked for. The new product development process rarely involves any input from ‘the field’. Therefore, a new product is conceived, tested and developed in a vacuum.

It also takes way too long to get a product to the field doing things that way. I mentioned in past posts, the bad guys are not concerned with budgets, approval processes or multi layers of red tape. Products have to get to operators as quickly as possible and this happens with their input from the start.

Over the next few weeks with a lot of help from one our Co-Founders and lead engineers,  I will write about SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power), user interfaces, ruggedization of equipment and training. Especially relevant, the battle between the engineer and the operator will be highlighted throughout the posts. It will all revolve around new product development.

We always want to hear from our readers. I am positive there are stories out there from both sides of the fence. Probably more from the operator side than the engineer. Especially since the operator is on the receiving end of the engineer’s creation.

I believe you will quickly come to realize just how “hard headed” both groups are. You will also read about success stories when engineers and operators work together to make some really innovative stuff.

WHAT EXACTLY IS CBRNE…KEEP READING

If you see the above coming at you, you may considering heading the opposite direction. CBRNE stands for Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives. Some of this stuff has been around for a very long time. In fact, there are ancient plays dating back to 404 BC that mention how characters were poisoned by arrows during the Trojan War.

I don’t need to describe each one, however here are two examples. Biological weapons are the use of biological pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins derived from living organisms to kill or incapacitate people.

From poisoned arrows (Scythians, and later the Viet Cong guerrillas) to poisoned wells (Sparta, Persia, Rome and others) to bombs with nasty bugs (Japan, United States, Soviet Union and Iraq), the intentional use of biowarfare has been around for an exceptionally long time.

The first wide spread use of chemical weapons was during World War I in the trenches of Belgium. During the war, 124,000 tons of chemical agents were dispersed resulting in 90,000 deaths and over 1,000,000 casualties. I think you get my point. Nothing related to CBRNE is pleasant.

There is one good thing related to this subject. Kopis engineers were recently able to partner with first responders up in Massachusetts. It proved to be a great opportunity for us to operationally test one of our newest products.

ERSA or Environmental Reachback Situational Awareness is a communication system that enables CBRNE sensors to send real-time readings. The readings provide situational awareness to incident commanders or Hazmat leaders.

Typically, a first responder turns on a sensor and it takes a reading to alert if there is any bad stuff around. The information doesn’t go anywhere for on scene commanders to analyze and track.

Our team participated in an exercise involving over 30 first responders located at an industrial training site. For the exercise, radiation samples were hidden in various locations. Individual teams had to find and identify the samples.  The teams successfully used the Ludlum 9DP and FLIR R300 radiation detectors with the ERSA dongle.

Because ERSA also has GPS in it, the exercise leaders were not only able to see the sensor readings, but they were able to keep track of where the reading were coming from.

All in all, it was a great event. We always welcome the opportunity to work along side the folks who keep us all safe. What we learn from them, helps us build better products.

ADS WARRIOR WEST IS IN THE BOOKS

ADS Warrior West Expo 2017 wrapped up last week. This is the fourth year in a row for us at the show. This year’s show was much larger with added events like training classes, capability demonstrations and giveaways. Shows like this really provide us with a fantastic opportunity to connect with current and hopefully future customers.

During this type of focused customer show, we are able to conduct short interviews with folks to find out what their daily pain points are. More and more, we’ve discovered the worst part about person’s day is having to deal with unending paperwork. All to often, paperwork is a real time killer.

From these interviews, our engineers have developed super easy to use products that often cut in half the time it takes to do paperwork. No one likes to sit at their desk for hours hammering out mind numbing spreadsheets or forms. The time saved gives a military member or first responder additional time to hone their skills in their respective fields vice wearing their fingers out on a keyboard.

Additionally shows like the Warrior Expo, provide an excellent opportunity to network with other companies. It is amazing what can be accomplished over a few beers. Every year for Warrior West, ADS provides all the vendors with tickets to a Padres game. This year, the company rented out a party deck with an impressive view of the entire field. It was really a great idea from a business development perspective. Vendors weren’t sitting in individual seats and were able to speak with one another in a casual setting.

Every year, we discover more companies that are really developing some innovative products that help our military and first responders. Those folks already have a tough enough job. Being able to offer them top of the line products that make their lives just a little better is one of the most rewarding things we do. Everyone should offer up their deepest level of respect and gratitude to those working hard everyday to keep us safe.

As always, we welcome your ideas for improving what you do every day. We pride ourselves on listening to problems and try to discover ways to solve them. Once again, thanks to ADS for another well run event. We hope to see everyone at the Warrior East Expo at the Virginia Beach Convention Center July 13th and 14th.

 

 

 

TRADE SHOW SEASON HITS HIGH GEAR

https://kopismobile.com/
Kopis Mobile at SOFIC 2016

Funny how trade show season comes in about the same time pollen season does. Both can cause irritation. Actually, we look forward to hitting the road every year. Trade shows provide us with the opportunity to meet potential new customers and reconnect with current ones.

If you have been following Kopis, you already know we attended the Las Vegas SHOT Show back in January. We met some amazing folks out there specifically law enforcement officers from around the country. The worst part about SHOT is the amount of time you spend on your feet. If anyone has been to Vegas, you already know there is no easy way to get around and it is often faster to walk to where ever you are going. Friends of mine who wore fitness trackers were walking between 10 and 13 miles per day during the show.

Next week, we will be at the San Diego Convention Center 19-20 April for the ADS Warrior West Expo. This is one of our smaller trade shows, but it always has a very focused group of military, law enforcement and first responders. We will be displaying some new products in booth 1136.  You know, it just never sucks to be in San Diego.

Next month,  we will be in Tampa 15-18 May for SOFIC. A reunion of sorts always happens at this trade show since it is Special Operations focused. This year, we are sharing booth 454 with one of our great partners, Tactical Electronic Corp.

Later in the Summer, we will be back in Virginia Beach for the ADS Warrior East Expo held at the convention center 13-14 July.

In order to branch out into different markets, we decided to add two trade shows to our schedule. This year we have added the National Guard Association of the United States (NGUAS) held in Louisville 7-10 September and the  International Chiefs of Police show at the Philadelphia Convention Center 21-24 October. We are always super excited to meet new people and hopefully venture into new markets.

 

 

Building Trust in a Fake News World

Awe yes, it was so easy back in the day to know “Fake News”.

But today, you don’t know what is real and what is fake. Each source of “news” has managed to put it’s own spin on information, so the normal everyday person can not discern fact from embellishment from flat out crap. And, this is coming from major news outlets.

I will not even get into the numerous websites that have popped up on the information superhighway feeding us “facts”. I mean if you read it on the internet it has to be true, right!

Granted, this is nothing new. Various spins on information to get agendas out to the public have been happening since ancient times. It was just slower to get the word out back then. But now, this opinionated “news” gets shot out in a blink of an eye to millions thanks to technology.  And believe me, it can spin up the masses faster than Kim Kardashian showing her ass…again.

It’s as if the news organizations have developed some odd, incestuous relationship and the information they are putting out is the cross-eyed kid picking the banjo. You probably have to be my age to get that joke.

Here’s a tip.. give honesty and integrity a try. If more and more people demand this from their sources of information, the news would be reported and not created. Be responsible and do a little research.

Most people take 15 seconds to read an article. They get some of the key points in their head and move on. Either way, humans find it is easier to jump on a bandwagon then stand apart and think for themselves. They refuse to utilize technology to research information and instead use it as a crutch.

The internet is a great tool, but sadly is starting to get a bad rap and for good reason. I have an interesting concept to present. How about reporters report the facts and just the facts. If we wanted your opinion, we would ask for it. Let us, the people, form our own opinions based on the facts.

If we don’t stand up and demand true information, we are going to continue to run in a never ending circle of BS. I am frankly tired of scraping the *hit off of my running shoes.  Honestly, I just want to know the “5 Ws”; who, what, where, when and why.