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R&D rapid prototyping for RAD Propulsion

RAD Propulsion Ltd is a UK based marine electric propulsion business developing a range of smart, connected electric marine propulsion products targeted at all water sport participants from paddleboarders to large boat owners.

UX focused

With a keen eye for user experience (UX) and the potential of Internet of Things (IoT) for consumer products, the RAD Propulsion team approached Bluefruit Software to help with their initial UX research and software development work on a concept for a future product line. Bluefruit supported the RAD team to provide the high velocity the project needed to get the early results required to prove the technical feasibility of RAD’s product innovation.

Rapid iterations

In these early research and development stages, learning from prototype iterations was a vital element of the R&D work undertaken by Bluefruit. Taking a Lean UX approach to the work, which fitted well with our existing Lean-Agile practices, it took just one two-week sprint to achieve a working prototype.

The initial prototype was built on Raspberry Pi (using Python) for speed, while RAD decided on its final hardware mix in parallel. By the second sprint, the Pi prototype was out on the water and ready for user testing.

User testing early on

User testing safely in a live, in-field environment (alongside people from RAD), we gained valuable data early into the project. As a result, our team was able to gain user testing insights almost immediately and lay the foundations for robust device analytics and metrics based on sensor logs.

Also, due to the in-field testing setup Bluefruit developed, our software engineers were able to respond to user feedback lakeside, adjusting the software on the fly instead of taking kayaks and paddleboards out of the water and back to the office to adjust. Responding with such short feedback loops meant that we could maximise the time and conditions available.

Easy shift to an embedded environment

On a lake with a kayak based, hubless onboard motot prototype research and development.Once RAD settled on their production hardware choices, the team used the final sprints to write the production software in C++, making it ready for a true embedded hardware environment.

Moving the project to production hardware meant that the team could finesse motor controls that could not be fine-tuned using Python and Raspberry Pi devices because the prototype environment was not an actual embedded environment. It also had the added benefit of helping to test that the hardware was fit for purpose, essential when working in a Lean-Agile way with both software and hardware.

What RAD Propulsion gained

  • Rapid prototyping that quickly proved the viability of its product concepts.
  • An experienced team of software engineers, testers and UX experts invested in delivering a high-quality outcome for the project.
  • Detailed UX analysis that could be speedily fed back into the software development process.
  • Understanding of the user’s experience around motor control and its interface and how this impacted product UX.
  • The foundations for a consumer IoT experience ready for user expectations around metrics and analytics found in many of today’s personal IoT enabled devices.
  • Continued user insights into the use of their products, such as massive sensor and thrust data logs, to be analysed offline to drive future development.
  • Access to software development skills that support IoT, including MQTT, Bluetooth and GPS, plus embedded skills in C++ and motor controls.

R&D to market-ready

RAD Propulsion’s trust in Bluefruit Software enabled a fast-moving R&D project to benefit from a dedicated team that helped RAD discover the real potential of its product idea, ready for the next phase of development.

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