LEGO invited me to its headquarters to participate in what it called the Mobile App Challenge, a weeklong workshop with students and recent graduates from Denmark, Poland, Austria, and even China. We were split into three teams and each given a “dilemma” that LEGO IT was facing internally. During the week we met with the stakeholders to understand the needs, designed a solution to meet those needs, and created prototypes and mockups, all with special attention towards the user experience. In the end we were awarded “Most Innovative App” for our solution.
My team was tasked with addressing the needs of LEGO’s Evironmental, Health, and Safety division. We were presented with several different pain areas, but chose three to focus on. We started with incident reporting, a task that was bogged down by an antiquated web portal that required extreme amounts of information and actually discouraged people from reporting. White collar employees would have to pull out their laptop or re-enter the building to report an incident, while blue collar employees would have to find a kiosk computer. LEGO needs serious incidents reported, but also needs things such as loose cables, spills, or close calls as well. Needless to say, incident reporting rates are not what they could be due to this process. We developed a prototype for an android application that would allow users to capture pictures or video of an incident, geotag the location where it happened, and write a short description, all from their phone or tablet.
The second pain point we addressed was chemical identification. A company like LEGO has many chemicals used on a regular basis and also has many chemicals left by various vendors. It is important to understand the toxicity of these chemicals, so LEGO has all chemical bottles labeled with a red, yellow, or green dot. Every single bottle that enters a LEGO facility must be labeled with a sticker. This can tell you if you will be seriously harmed by drinking something, but hardly says much about the toxicity, corrosiveness, etc. For that information an employee would have to find a very large book and look up the chemical by name, or be one of the few people with access to the computer database. We developed a barcode scanner that would allow instant look-up of the full chemical information with a smartphone camera so that any chemical could be identified and evaluated for safety, even the ones without dots.
Lastly, we addressed concerns about repetitive strain injury and too much time at a desk during the day. The idea was to use a combination of technology and techniques (including the Google Activity Monitor API) to determine when employees spent too much time at the desk without moving and using the phone to encourage them to participate in collaborative activities and useful exercises. This is where we were able to get creative and incorporate LEGO’s culture of play and meaningful physical interaction with digital products. In fact, we even promoted the use of LEGO’s own Life of George product as well as friendly competition to help break up the work day and spur intra-office communication.
In addition to our smartphone solutions, we also paid attention to the needs of LEGO employees who are still using feature phones. For those users we developed a USSD solution which would allow employees to input the barcode number of a chemical to receive the most critical product information, or to report an incident quickly.
The combination of our comprehensive approach to the various areas, our inclusion of the physical world and LEGO products, and our consideration of both smarthphone and feature phone users earned us the “Most Innovative App” award.