I founded Light Minds in 2003 to help companies translate new ideas into commercial products and services through consultancy work and training programmes. My work at Light Minds addressed the persistent problem of businesses not having a detailed understanding of their customers’ needs when developing new products and services. My approach included, but went beyond traditional market research, resolving differences between customer needs and new product solutions through the application of ethnography. I undertook work for companies such as Motorola, University of Glamorgan, WISE KIDS, UWIC, Cardiff Business School, ibbd and reMODEL. An example of one project I undertook at Light Minds was the design and development of a wound and pain assessment device for nurses based on a new set of wound and pain assessment tools developed by a team at the University of Glamorgan. The work also involved collaborations with several hospitals in South Wales.
While at Ericsson, I was responsible for spearheading a new product innovation process at Ericsson Research together with the mobile phone product unit at Ericsson (now Sony Ericsson). The new process took a holistic view to product innovation whereby core product creation teams of experts were formed from key disciplines including industrial design, interaction design, engineering, marketing and anthropology. The formation of multi-disciplinary teams and the critical inclusion of anthropologists in the teams were instrumental in gaining a deep understanding of customer needs and technical solutions and as a result developing new and innovative mobile devices for the next generation networks.
Examples of projects I undertook at Ericsson include:
Ericsson – BuddySync
While at Ericsson, I developed a new type of mobile service, based on ethnographic research, involving young people in Asia, Europe, and the United States. The application created from this research, BuddySync, supports teenagers’ unique and complex communication patterns. Rather than just making existing PC applications mobile, BuddySync creates an interactive experience that centres around the teenagers themselves. The goal is a people-centric design that connects to the culture of being young, mobile, independent, and socially active. Some of the specific new features in BuddySync are:
- Expressing emotions remotely
- Sending handwritten notes
- Providing friends a shared writing space
- Finding information on movies, events, bargains, or acting as match-makers using specialized agents
Ericsson – 3G Mobile Device
While at Ericsson, I led a team in the development of a third-generation wireless product concept with a range of features, allowing users to make voice and video calls, compose scribble and email messages, listen to music, and send still and video images. Based on product discovery research in Hong Kong, Tokyo and London, the team created storyboards and on-screen simulations. User feedback on the initial concepts led the team to develop feasible UI solutions that integrate pen and camera elements into the design of a mobile device.
I was Programme Manager and then Deputy Director at KRDL and in charge of a 20-member research program focusing on dialogue systems and information retrieval for Asian languages (using speech and handwriting technology). At that time, KRDL was the Singapore government’s main technology research institute. The program was a continuation of the work undertaken at the Apple-ISS Research Centre (see below). We collaborated with several companies (including AsiaWorks, Hitachi, Star+Globe and SpeechWorks) to commercialize the speech and handwriting recognition technology developed for Chinese and Japanese. We were also pursuing a longer-term research effort in the area of dialogue systems and integration with information retrieval for Asian languages. I was in charge of planning the longer-term research direction for the program, the everyday management of the staff and the collaboration with companies and research partners. I also spent time helping in the day-to-day research activities.
In the mid 1990s I worked for Apple Computer at the Apple-ISS Research Centre in Singapore. I was initially part of the speech recognition research team. The research work undertaken on Chinese speech recognition was so successful that a new product development group was established to work alongside the research centre and to commercialize the speech recognition work. As a result Apple Computer launched its first Chinese dictation product (Chinese Dictation Kit 1.0) in 1995. The Chinese Dictation Kit 1.0 won the best product prize at COMDEX Asia ‘95 and the NSTB National Technology Award in 1996.
In July ‘95 I became project leader of the handwriting recognition research team, due to my success in developing a new Japanese and Chinese on-line handwriting recognition system. This work was also transferred to the development team for commercialization and Apple Computer launched the Chinese handwriting recognition system as part of the Advanced Chinese Input Suite (ACIS) Product in September 1996. This second product integrated the speech, pen and keyboard interface for Chinese text input. During the ACIS product development my team was also responsible for the overall technology integration and product design as well as the handwriting recognition technology. The Advanced Chinese Input Suite Product won a top international design award in 1997. Subsequently, the handwriting recognition technology was licensed to several companies including Star+Globe, AsiaWorks and Hanwang. AsiaWorks was a new company formed by key members of the team at Apple.
Leicester University (Sep ’92 – Dec ‘92)
In this short research project led by Professor David DeBono, Head of Cardiology at Leicester University, I was responsible for designing a solution for the classification of foetal ECGs without the use of invasive procedures for the mother and foetus. The foetal ECGs were recorded from the mother during the late stages of pregnancy using non-invasive abdominal transducers. This work required the design of data acquisition electronics and new data analysis techniques. The data analysis techniques used signal processing and statistical pattern recognition methods. The work was done in collaboration with Leicester Royal Infirmary. A working prototype system was created showing that you can extract foetal ECG data using non-invasive techniques that will provide valuable information to the doctors on the health of the foetus without performing difficult and painful invasive procedures.
I was a system design engineer at Cegelec and was involved in two major projects in the area of industrial plant modelling and process control. His first responsibility was the design of a power management system for three north-sea oil rigs. I designed a simulator for the power plant and a prediction simulator for fault detection, both by numerical analysis methods. The simulator was installed on the Marathon Oil rigs in 1992 for use by the operators of the power management systems. The second project was the design and development of an automatic gauge (thickness) control system for steel produced from hot strip mills to improve the steel sheet quality. In addition to designing the control algorithms I installed and tested the system at Llanwern and Port Talbot Steelworks during 1992.
After graduating in Electrical and Electronic Engineering in 1988, I stayed on at Leicester University to undertake a Ph.D. My Ph.D. research involved the knowledge based decomposition of electrical activity recorded from human muscles (EMG signals) to aid the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders. The work required the design of signal processing and pattern recognition methods in conjunction with an expert system to aid the classification of pathological features in EMG signals. The work was undertaken in conjunction with the Leicester Royal Infirmary and sponsored by Medelec Ltd.
Ph.D. Degree (1991):
“Advances in Knowledge Based Signal Processing : A Case Study in EMG Decomposition” Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, UK.
B.Sc. Degree, 1st Class Hons. (1988): in Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Department of Engineering, University of Leicester, UK.
IEE Prize (1988) – Top student in the B.Sc degree of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Taylor Hobson Prize (1988) – Best final year project in B.Sc degree in Engineering.
SERC Case Award and Medelec Ltd. (1988) – Sponsorship for three years postgraduate education.
COMDEX Asia (1995) – Chinese Dictation Kit 1.0, Best Software Product Award, Best of the Best Award.
Singapore National Technology Award (1996) – Chinese Dictation Kit 1.0, NSTB.
Silver award at the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (1997) organized by the Industrial Design Society of America for the user interface design of the Advanced Chinese Input Suite
Bronze award at the Industrial Design Excellence Awards (2001) organized by the Industrial Design Society of America for a mobile communication device/service (called BuddySync) for teenagers.