It’s not often you come across a Design and Make company like SEAM. Based in Toronto, Canada, this tightly knit group of young and seasoned designers alike decided that their first product to market should tackle the issue of personal safety in the modern world, no biggie right?
We first were exposed to SEAM in Toronto at a design fair, and the Fusion 360 team was so blown away by their ability to not only design and make stuff, but most importantly, manifest the desires and needs of a customer through a physical product, the transference of a phenomenological concept into a physical product, is about as difficult to achieve as it is to say that sentence back without taking a pause at the word “phenomenological”.
Personal safety is one of those things that most of us just never think about, chances are, based on demographics, if you’re reading this, you probably never think about personal safety and security, most of us live out our lives in such a way that this never comes up, but it’s a topic much closer to home than you might think. Less obvious than that, there are hundreds of thousands of people globally who have jobs, routines, and/or commutes that are unsafe or could put them in harm’s way.
SEAM, and the Lotus, their first personal security device, decided to take this serious issue head-on. Designed to be compact, discreet, and reliable, the Lotus device works with a persons cell phone, to communicate a series of different things. It enables you to do a variety of things, in response to your environment. Using the app, you can define a series of guardians, whomever you choose as the closest people in your life, who will be notified about various things as you choose to.
Let’s say you’re commuting to work, maybe you ride a bicycle to work? You can launch the broadcast and your guardians will be notified that you’re on the move, and you can share an audio live stream as well as video captured by your phone to your guardians so they know you’re on the move. If something happens on that commute and you feel unsafe, your first activation will notify your guardians and you can speak to one of them as though on the phone, a simple technique that’s proven to reduce the likelihood of attack! Maybe the unthinkable happens and you need emergency services, well Lotus has got your back, you can get connected to emergency services straight through the device!
That’s a lot of power to pack into a tiny device! It’s a simple yet deeply elegant solution to an everyday problem that a lot of us are challenged with, but typically have no solution to help us deal with.
Not only is the product itself really impressive, but so is there way of working. If you saw the blog we wrote about NXT Factory, you know we think of them as representative of the new way of working: nimble multidisciplinary teams, leaning on each others expertise, focusing on delivering a product to market as efficiently as possible. Unsurprisingly, we think of the team at SEAM in the same way.
Led by Drew Henson, SEAM’s design team is just 3 people, Drew included. They’re able to leverage one another particular skillsets and experiences in industry to maximize output, and focus their tasks into what each one of them is best at. This manifests as collaborating on the single dataset used to create Lotus, with Drew and Jasmine, the other designer focusing their skills into experience, design architecture, and strategizing how you imbibe the concept of security and safety into something no bigger than a lapel pin! Working into the mix was their mechanical engineer Nishoake ensuring everything is manufacturable, works, and will be able to deal with the usual knocks and wear and tear that products through in everyday use.
Well wait a minute, that just sounds like a regular workflow right? Well on the surface, yes, but in actuality, SEAM was able to work concurrently, meaning that in a team of 3, tasks can be constantly cycled in feedback loops, as one designer completes a task, it is passed onto the engineer, so that the first designer can work on task 2, and then task 1 goes to designer 2 to work on the changes. This cycle means that the product is continuously progressing its development through milestones, as opposed to being stuck on a certain milestone while it churns. This enabled a small team of 3 people to develop and manufacture SEAM in less than a year.
Really let that one sink in, if you’re an avid reader of this blog, or paying attention to what the big news in manufacturing is talking about, it usually boils down to speed, you’ve heard things like “cut lead times down” and generally its perceived as something for major companies, not something attachable to smaller practices with less staff, but SEAM, like so many other small nimble companies out there prove that with the right methods and the right tools, you can build something really beautiful, useful, and successful, no matter how few people work with you, so long as that vision and dream are still big.