Fourteen years ago, I designed “AirTag” for Nokia

The author of this article, Tian Fei, is currently an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Design of Hunan University of Technology. He is committed to research on industrial practice and design related to interactive product design, new media, fonts and font libraries. He has provided design services or consulting for many companies such as Nokia, Geely Automobile, General Electric, France Telecom, Hunan Fine Arts Publishing House, and Shanda Innovation Institute.

This article is also the research data of 14YBA135 of Hunan Philosophy and Social Science Foundation.

In the early morning of April 21, Apple AirTag was finally released. As with all new Apple products, people are discussing what changes this new product can bring to our lives. For me, this is even more true. This is not only because I am a serious loser, but also because 14 years ago, I designed a whole set of anti-lost patch concept products for Nokia.

01 Past

Back in September 2007, at the foot of Yuelu Mountain, School of Design and Art, Hunan University.

In this courtyard filled with sweet-scented osmanthus, Dean He Renke is introducing the students from Nokia’s Global Design Experience Manager, Dr. Yan Qifeng. He is representing Nokia and is launching a forward-looking, two-way show in Brazil and China at the same time. The theme of this month’s joint workshop is "Mobile Service Design Based on Cultural Differences." This workshop recruited more than 30 people from the School of Design, the School of Film and Television, and the School of Business Administration at Hunan University. On the eve of the mobile Internet, these people tried to explore and predict the future of mobile life.

▲School of Design and Art, Hunan University

At this time, the king of mobile phones is Nokia N95 and its Symbian S60 system.

At this time, there are still 13 months before the release of Apple’s first-generation iPhone, 13 months before Nokia’s first full-touch screen phone 5800XM, and 48 months before Xiaomi’s first phone is booked, and Microsoft’s announcement of the acquisition Nokia's mobile business has 72 months left.

After the workshop started, Yan Qifeng divided all the members into several groups through gamification. As a graduate student, I am in charge of one of the groups, leading several graduate and undergraduate students to develop related designs. Since the members of the group are all "single dogs", this group is named "Single Group".

▲Workshop site record (September 2007, Yan Qifeng in the middle and the author on the left)

In the next period of time, all team members gathered in Professor Ji Tie's communication design laboratory day and night to do research, make plans, draw sketches, design prototypes and storyboards. Time is not enough, staying up late and the "handsome biscuits" on Fallen Street are commonplace, but after 11 o'clock in the evening, you have to fight the guard, Master Chen, before you can enter the academy.

▲Work record of team members (October 2007)

In two months, the project team discussed and implemented three sets of plans. I proposed a concept called "NeverLost": through a patch connected to a smartphone application (App), the function of finding the location of an item can be realized-the same as the AirTag released today.

02 plan

After determining the need for "no item found", we designed a tag for finding items. This is a patch with a built-in Sim card (there is a package with a monthly rental of 0). Each patch has a unique MAC address to bind to the item. The patch uses a light energy board to continuously charge the built-in battery.

▲NewvLost Finding Object Patch (2007. Concept video screenshot of Hunan University workshop)

In our imagination, this tracing patch can be connected to easy-to-lost items by hanging (key), pasting (wallet), magnetic attraction (folder), etc.

After the connection, the items can be bound to the Nokia mobile phone App and uploaded to the cloud database for searching.

▲ Tag binding process (2007. Concept video of Hunan University workshop)

When searching, select the corresponding item through the mobile phone, and the system sends information to the patch according to the MAC address, which causes the tag to beep and flash to help users track the item. Related needs can cover many scenes in work and life.

▲Item search process (2007. Concept video of Hunan University workshop)

▲Demand scenario storyboard (PPT printing data)

In order to allow the product to have a wider range of applications, we have further subdivided the issue of "item missing" into two states: one is "not found", the other is "lost", and for the two states, Different scenarios are envisaged.

▲Service process design

In order to make the behavior of "item return" more motivating, the team designed a "point reward system". The owner can set a reward to increase the chance of return. The picker can increase the points by reporting the lost item, thereby building a good social credit ecology. In order to prevent privacy and security issues during the key return process, the team also conceived a "return mode" based on the "Service Station" of NOKIA stores.

▲Set up a “reward'' to increase the chance of finding items

▲On behalf of the store

03 Expression

In 2007, we did not have a deep understanding of mobile product interaction methods, interface specifications and other things. The interactive prototype tools at that time were not as developed as they are today. While designing the UI based on the size of the Symbian interface, we also adopted the "image-based prototype" approach to scene and story the corresponding problems. Then intersperse the solution into the story film, so that "Gold Master Dad" Nokia can understand our design concept.

▲The concept interface of the Nokia version of "AirTag"

We imagined three story scenes and filmed them: The first scene was a white-collar worker frantically looking for documents before the meeting, and the second scene was that the housewife couldn’t find the wallet when paying for the courier (there was no mobile payment at that time). ), both of these scenes are "not found". In the third scene, a car owner lost the key, and the picker returned the key to the owner through NOKIA's social network search platform.

▲Scene 1: Finding files (photographed at the State Key Laboratory of Professor Zhao Jianghong)

▲Scene 2: Finding a wallet (photographed in the office of the Department of Industrial Design)

▲Scene 3: Return the car key lost by the owner (photographed on the parking lot in front of the School of Design)

▲The split-lens design of the concept video

In 2007, the video shooting capabilities of digital cameras were still weak. We can only use Sony tape camcorders for multi-camera shooting, based on the Intel Core-driven Windows Vista system, using Adobe AfterEffect7.0 to complete various video effects.

▲Scene video shooting of products and services

Similarly, due to the lack of interactive prototyping software in that era, we could not achieve fidelity prototypes. In order to make the project presentation interactive, we use Adobe Encore to make interactive DVDs, then package the DVDs into ISO files, and use the virtual CD-ROM software Daemon Tools and Winmap player to achieve clickable interactive image prototypes. Later, my master's thesis was based on interactive video prototypes.

▲Interactive DVD guide interface

At the end of the year, Totti Helin, senior design manager of NOKIA (China), and others came to Hunan University to check and release the results of Workshop. The team members organized the design plan into a series of materials such as CDs, books and posters for display. At the final release site, we won a special award jointly issued by Nokia and the school.

▲Group photo of project team members receiving awards

As project members, we are all excited about this idea. In the process of researching and demonstrating the project, through feedback from many interviewees, we truly feel that it is a project that can meet the needs. At that time, there was no such thing as "mass entrepreneurship and innovation". Of course, we expected it to become a landing project, but all of this can only be done by Nokia.

04 Follow-up

After that, the NeverLost project was sent to Finland, where it was exhibited at the NOKIA HOUSE (NOKIA headquarters) in Helsinki. Nokia’s researchers further improved it and applied for related patents. Design magazine also conducted relevant interviews and reports on the project in 2008.

▲The project was demonstrated at Nokia headquarters

▲Nokia related patents (searched from the European Patent Office website)

After the project, on the recommendation of my senior brother Dr. Wei Wang, I went to Beijing Yizhuang to become an interaction designer at Nokia China Research Institute, under the leadership of Liu Zhen and Wang Xia, and followed the scientists, engineers, and psychologists there. Work and study with a sociologist. That year, I personally experienced Nokia’s transition from a keyboard-based mobile phone to a touch-screen mobile phone. I also felt the internal hesitation to change. I participated in the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Nokia China Research Institute (NRC) and experienced Nokia as a global player. The peak moment of the partner’s Beijing Olympics.

▲Colleagues from Nokia China Research Institute

One year later, in 2007. Jobs personally released the first-generation iPhone product called "Redefining Mobile Phone."

Three years later, in 2010. In the last era before Nokia sold itself to Microsoft, it successively established joint laboratories with Tsinghua University, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, and Hunan University to seek technological and design innovations based on the Chinese market to change its destiny. But in this year, the global sales of iPhone reached 175 million units; this year, Lei Jun and his partners drank a bowl of millet porridge and founded the Xiaomi company; also this year, 4G mobile phones came out.

Since then, mobile phones are not only mobile phones, but have turned into "smart mobile devices." With the improvement of hardware performance, the popularization of mobile networks, the iteration of interaction methods, and the expansion of application scenarios, we have gone through the era of mobile Internet, and surpassed the era of mobile Internet, and further entered the era of Internet of Everything. In addition to PCs and mobile phones, our vehicles, electrical appliances, household items… have been connected to the Internet, and AirTag is the iconic product of this era. The design history of Nokia at Hunan University had a profound impact on every student who participated in the project that year. Many of these people are currently active in design positions in Huawei, Xiaomi, Tencent and Alibaba, and are involved in the ever-changing trend of design changes.

Over the years, as an Internet project entrepreneur who has been hammered and completed two rounds of financing in a row, and as a university teacher who continues to export students to enterprises, I have replaced several iPhones one after another, enjoying the benefits of AirDrop and AirPlay. Various conveniences. Living in a series of worlds changed by the Internet, such as Alipay, WeChat, mobile banking, online medical insurance, remote courses, etc. I sincerely thank Apple and all the great innovators who have helped them through large and small projects and products. The world is getting better and better.

Although, from a philosophical point of view, we cannot determine whether the world today and in the future is really better.

Reference and retrieval:

Website of School of Design and Art of Hunan University

Hunan Industrial Design Platform Website

European Patent Office website

Aifaner website

Tiger Sniffing Official Account

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