MHCI Capstone Project with Eaton Corp.

Designing a safer, data-centric future of interacting with Eaton Corporation's switchgear products.

SEER: a mobile, remote switchgear monitoring system that helps electricians locate problems and safely fix them.

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Switchgear and electrician

Our focus was switchgear: large commercial, grey power-distibution devices, located in universities and hospitals.

The main people who operate switchgear are electricians, much like this man.


My Role

UX Design Lead

Other Teammates

Lena Malkhasian

Rohan Singh

Tugrul Yuksel

UX Techniques: Research

Contextual Interviews

Literature Review

Business Origami

Affinity Diagrams

Journey Maps

Cultural Maps

UX Techniques: Design


Low to High-Fi Prototypes

Usability Testing

Card Sorting

Report Design

Client Presentations


Jan - Dec 2014

Problem Context

Switchgear are machinery that distribute power at large facilities such as universities and hospitals, and at even low-voltage levels a shock could be deadly. As of today, the safety technology around switchgear is minimal at best.

So, we were asked: how can switchgear be improved in the future?

What we Did

Partnering with our client Eaton, we focused in on university and hospitals in the United States. Next, we spent 3 months researching the switchgear and safety industry, learning market trends, and talking to experts such as electrical specialists at universities and hospitals and other engineers who deal with switchgear daily. Our research lead us to several insights, which we used to craft a direction for developing and testing our prototypes in 5 iterations with target users over the next 2 months.

We spent 3 months observing and interviewing 35 domain experts to learn the painpoints and empathize with users' perspective on the problem.

Talking with Switchgear Stakeholders
Talking with Switchgear Stakeholders Talking with Switchgear Stakeholders

We consolidated over 600 datapoints by creating multiple maps and diagrams to unearth patterns in the data and inform our designs.

Analyzing our research through diagramming cultural maps
Analyzing our findings through affinity diagramming

Key Insights
All of our research synthesis pointed to 4 core design insights.

Core Findings from 3 months of user research

During 2 months we iterated 5 times to refine our design from low to high fidelity.

Prototyping from low fidelity to high fidelity

User Testing
We user tested each iteration with at least 5 electrical personnel to ensure our solution would work perfectly for electrical professionals, specifically in hospitals and universities. Based on the feedback in each session, we then worked as a team to define how to improve our designs.

User Testing with a switchgear operator

After each iteration we reviewed our findings and discussed changes.

Outcome and Why SEER?

Through all our user research and design, we developed SEER: a notification-based, mobile remote monitoring system that pinpoints and predicts problems. SEER also provides suggested steps to fix a problem, and has additional safety features for remotely troubleshooting and manipulating switchgear. SEER constantly tracks your data for you and uses this to predict, locate, and solve problems more efficiently, meaning the days looking for the cause of problems are a thing of the past.

Out of Harm's Reach
With SEER, authorized electrical personnel can remotely switch off and rack out breakers and perform other operations out of harm's reach. SEER uses a proximity sensors to block remote activities if anyone is close to the switchgear.

Answers at Any Time
Whether checking on switchgear or locating issues, SEER gives holistic live-tracking data on all aspects of switchgear, including switchgear sensor activities, smart graphs on electrical surges, and downstream information of affected systems to help locate any problems and give you all the tools to effectively fix the problem at its source.

Active Data
Beyond notifying you when something is wrong, SEER uses system behaviors and tracked data to predict problems and give insights on how to prevent issues based on data patterns.

SEER gives insights into future problems and how to prevent them.

My Contributions

Work side-by-side my teammates to perform user research, synthesize our data, brainstorm solutions, iteratively prototype our ideas, conduct user testing, and document our progress.

Oversee that our designs are informed by our user data and ensure our designs foster good experiences.

Lead designing both 110-page team research and design report books for our client, which are what Eaton will refer to in the future if they decide to carry out the development of our designs. [NOTE: these reports cannot be shared online due to confidentiality]

Process Details

Research Process

  • Documenting our processes, findings, and designs for Eaton.
  • Reviewing literature to get familiar with the switchgear domain and industry trends.
  • Interviewing 35 key stakeholders, representing all levels of switchgear interaction.
  • Working with stakeholders to visualize on-the-job processes and needs.
  • Affinity diagramming 600+ data points to give meaning and structure to our user research.
  • Journey mapping to break down the experience in various typical switchgear events.
  • Cultural mapping to map the influencers for key stakeholders.
  • Insight generating to define areas that need to be addressed by our designs
  • Visioning multiple innovative solutions based on research and industry trends.
  • Holding a visioning session with clients to inform our designs and foster client ownership.

Design Process

  • Brainstorming potential solutions while revisiting our findings and insights.
  • Creating scenarios and conducting speed dating to gauge usefulness of multiple ideas.
  • Wireframing and refining our design over multiple iterations.
  • Iteratively designing low-fidelity to high-fidelity prototypes over 5 rapid iterations.
  • User testing our design with switchgear operators and facility managers.
  • Crafting a design report, presentation, and concept video for our clients.

About Me

With a background in human-computer interaction, design, and computer science, I like the challenge of meeting the needs of real people through the power of technology. My goal is creating great experiences, and leaving problemspaces smaller than I found them. When I am not designing, I am playing outdoors, doodling, or thinking about tacos.

Questions, opportunities, or want to say hi? Contact me, I'd love to chat.