The Making of a Best-in-Class Body Camera
Motorola Solutions has practised a human-centred approach to innovation for years. Many of the features of our public safety radios which make them instantly identifiable - from the control top designed for gloved hands to our highly visible colour combinations - are a result of human-centred research and design. It’s a design language that ensures a police officer who’s made countless callouts on their Motorola Solutions radio will experience the same ease of use when live-streaming an incident from our body cameras. Creating helpful products that address the needs of our customers is imperative to us.
To mark the launch of our latest body camera, the V500, we’ll demonstrate how human-centred design is at the heart of our innovations.
Today’s Mission-Critical Challenges Demand a New Generation of Body Cameras
At 95 years old, it would be easy for us at Motorola Solutions to rest on our laurels and not consider innovating, but that's not who we are. We see needs and we are committed to solving for safer every day. Wherever we see a problem in a school, a hospital, in retail, in transportation or in public safety, we want to create a solution that can solve it.
Satisfying the needs of our public safety partners is a significant responsibility. When a police officer reaches for our technology, it’s often in a life-threatening situation in which they’ll be held accountable, and the faultless execution of our equipment is essential for them to maintain safety and transparency.
“Our products can’t simply mirror the design of a consumer device such as a camera or phone,” says Dan Wodarcyk, our Senior Industrial Designer. “Mission-critical teams need devices that not only last an entire shift, but can withstand unpredictable weather and temperatures, and significant force. That’s why public safety devices are expected to have a longer battery life and be more robust than a device a consumer would typically carry.”
To gain an in-depth understanding of how a public safety mission unfolds and how integrated technology can support it, our Product Development and Human Factors teams partner with our customers to design innovative and award-winning solutions.
The Optimal Approach to Mission-Critical Design
It all starts with research. Our Human Factors team will approach a large cross-section of global public safety customers to understand their experience of our products, with the intention of identifying pain points and workflow consistencies. It’s rare to come away from these interactions without gaining an insight we didn’t have before. Whether that’s learning that customers use our products in an unexpected way, or being shown a problem we didn’t know existed. Being able to meet and chat with our customers is a highlight for our teams.
Together, our team will conduct 1-to-1 interviews, focus group sessions and surveys - both remotely and in person, joining customers in the field, observing them in their environment and absorbing their workflows. An action plan is based on the research insights - as well as suggestions from the team - and delivered to designers, engineers and product managers. They are then tasked with finding solutions for the points raised.
We adhere to an iterative design process - continuously improving the products we develop until they reach their intended outcome. We’ll produce a prototype of the product, test it, evaluate it, refine it, and then repeat the process until we've achieved a result that meets our high standards. The testing process includes regularly presenting the prototype to our subject matter experts. Many of whom are serving or veteran police officers with extensive experience in public safety - as well as our customer focus group. Their feedback will inform the next round of designs, and once the product is improved, we’ll present it back to the customer group for the final round of feedback.
Diving Deep to Uncover the User Experience
A recurring requirement we gathered from our customers when researching the V500 body-worn camera is their need for intuitive, straightforward technology that easily integrates with their existing products - an insight that informed the V500’s top display and multiple controls.
“As a team, we were initially looking at implementing an emergency alarm to help an officer in need,” Prabodh Sakhardande, our Senior User Experience Designer shares. “However, from discussions with our customers, we found that they’re trained to use the emergency button on their radios to escalate an incident, so the same feature on a body camera would be less beneficial. Instead, an emergency button which activates a camera recording that can stream in real-time, we were advised, would be much more impactful.”
Ergonomics and inclusive wearability were also fundamental to the V500’s design. The buttons and controls are configurable according to the user’s needs and are distinguishable by shape, size and texture. “An officer needn’t take their eyes off a scene to press a button; safety is never compromised by having to search for a function,” Ruiwen Fan, our User Experience Designer explains. “The body camera is designed to be easily grasped and operated from either hand - with any hand size.”
Saif Qaisi, our Senior Human Factors and UX Researcher was eager to learn about the different ways our cameras are carried in different regions. “The research process highlighted that their position can vary from the shoulder to the chest - depending on preference. That’s why the V500 can be securely mounted to various locations on an officer’s uniform and the top display can still be clearly read.”
Above all, our research reaffirmed that a reliable battery is essential to our public safety customers, and with that, they need an instant battery status reading.
“The most important thing to consider when we design body cameras is that we make sure that the technology we design is transparent to the user,” Chi Tran, Director of Industrial Design explains.
Driving Customer-Focused Innovation
We’re in a unique position at Motorola Solutions that we don’t just build radios, body cameras and video evidence software. We create end-to-end solutions for use across the entire public safety workflow. By listening, observing and developing solutions like the V500 that offer integrations designed to automate tasks, our customers can focus on the mission instead of the technology.
We also serve our customers with a portfolio that includes numerous devices, each speaking to their varying needs. Our body cameras incorporate different connectivity requirements: Wi-Fi suits situations which require secure and reliable connectivity, and LTE is available for those in external settings where Wi-Fi isn't always available - or there’s a need for dependable live-streaming.
By prioritising interoperability and having an innate curiosity about our customer’s workflows, there are endless opportunities for us to develop our products and continue to meet the needs of our partners. If you’d like to share your insights as a Motorola Solutions customer and help inform our next research project, we’d love to hear from you.
Stuart Boutell, Director of Evidence Product Management, Motorola Solutions.