As a software start-up in 2018, Boundary Technologies was seeking a design partner to offer a turnkey hardware development solution to rival some of the big players in the home security market. i4 Product Design was selected due to its experience in managing the development of complex systems with challenging briefs.
Following the success of its Kickstarter campaign, earning 100% of its target in less than 48 hours with over 150 backers, the launch of the Boundary Alarm System is in 2021 has been highly anticipated.
Here’s how the i4pd team approached the design.
Boundary Technologies always had the ambition to revolutionise the home security market. When i4 was approached by Boundary back in 2018 and was briefed with supporting its founders to develop an accessible smart home alarm system, the team collaborated to create something innovative in this slow moving and highly regulated market.
The Edinburgh-based company were looking to create a more attractive, interconnected, convenient, and affordable option compared to other traditional systems. As well as providing an intuitive user experience, Boundary wanted the alarm to provide a certified Police response and have a raft of unique features, such as geofencing and integration with Alexa and Google Home.
At the start of the project, i4 collaborated with Boundary Technologies to discover what the requirements and the target manufacturing & development costs were for the alarm system, plus what standards & environmental requirements should be considered. It was specified that quality was paramount while being at an affordable cost that can be accessible to the average home user.
In order to provide the optimum solution, the design team conducted a feasibility study exploring what factors were known, what was unknown, and how these knowledge gaps could be resolved. Competitor products were researched and studied in detail; two key challenges were the alarm system's installation, and how to achieve the world's first grade two alarm system in such a compact design.
Both teams were keen for a screwless finish on the product's internal architecture, and with this in mind a great deal of testing was done to ensure that the hub, door window sensors, and PIR sensors were all clipped together. For all electrical components, our electronics team focused on fitting them each within the right area of the compact shell while ensuring that the touch screen had full functionality.
Boundary were keen to collaborate in-house with the i4pd team, enabling them to make decisions and changes on-the-fly aligned with the vision for their product. A variety of competitor products from the home security system market were studied in-depth to understand what works and what had the potential to be enhanced. The research highlighted that various smart home products were moving towards an aesthetic that complements interior design. The aesthetic language blending into the home and looks more like an ornament than a piece of technology.
User group personas were created and presented to the client to gain an understanding of the potential market — careful consideration was given to both the users and the people installing the product. User scenarios were then created to understand how people will interact with the alarm system during the activation/deactivation phases.
Before considering the exterior form of the product, a range of interior architectures were generated to understand how the product's components would fit together. This presented itself as a particularly challenging element of the design process, as it was important to make the architecture work within the space and size constraints - keeping the product's dimensions minimal.
Boundary was presented with fourteen dynamic concept sketches of the main hub by Jonathan Pearson, Design Principal at i4pd, with the aim of encasing the different discovered interior architectures. These encompassed a wide range of discrete forms with varying geometries, plus different materials to help the client choose the best fit for its target market.
From the initial concepts it was decided that the designs with the most unassuming forms would lend itself best to the project, as it matched the profile of the defined user groups whilst suiting many home interiors. Additionally, they were some of the most practical to achieve from a manufacturing perspective.
With a clearer design direction, a second series of refined concept sketches were generated based upon the first round of ideas. These carried across the preferred features with a more refined approach, while also including the additional components; the key tag, contact sensor, motion sensor and window sensor. Each of these components were given a discrete, slim line form so they would be part of the user's home and appear stylish.
The interior architecture of the central hub was the first vital piece of prototyping the team undertook. Utilising in-house 3D printers, a series of internal layouts were created to test the product's overall functionality. A great deal of time was spent on the external warning device, with the final form also 3D printed with exact areas for internal components to be tested in the layout. Parts were then CNC machined with a higher accuracy to understand the fit and function of design features, plus the sizes of parts to understand their mechanical fit and function.
Once the final details had been conceived and agreed upon by the client, aesthetic model prototypes of the hub, key fob, window and light sensors were created by an external partner. These were created with maximum precision and handled with gloves to ensure they were in pristine condition. Each replica component offered true-to-life details and specifications of the product’s final outcome for the Boundary team.
The final design is a sleek intruder alarm system that comprises of a central hub, contact sensor, key tag, and motion sensor. A minimalist colour palette of white and warm greys allows the product to fit into the home environments interior design seamlessly. Simplicity was at the core of Boundary's brief to i4pd, and the team achieved this across each individual component of the product and their installation by the end users. The accompanying key tag has a diamond form with soft edges, so it can be easily found and slip into the user's pocket.
At the system's core is the central hub comprising a touch screen and a solid set of buttons that connects all sensors located throughout the home and allows people to remotely set and unset their alarm.
The motion sensors feature an unobtrusive design and are pet-safe, featuring pulse-counting technology to effectively guard day and night. The magnetic window sensors also have a discrete finish, allowing them to slot seamlessly into the home.
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