Natural Choice Corporation is a leading designer, manufacturer, and distributor of drinking water appliances, bottleless water coolers, and filtration equipment. Their ION water cooler provides hot, cold, and carbonated water in retail, corporate, educational, healthcare, and hospitality settings around the world. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Natural Choice partnered with Rightpoint to design and develop a wholly new UX for a touchless experience that would protect users and provide peace of mind.
As it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be a long-term event full of uncertainty and constantly changing safety measures, essential businesses and organizations started looking for ways to retrofit the workplace so that they could continue to operate while simultaneously protecting their employees’ health.
During this time, Natural Choice received multiple requests from customers for a hands-free interface to operate their water dispensers. In addition to a quickly escalating demand for COVID-safe products and experiences, Natural Choice was also facing competitive disruption as rival companies prepared to launch their own WiFi-powered touchless products. These two factors drove the urgency of the situation, creating a time-sensitive need for a fast and effective IoT solution.
Fortunately, Natural Choice ION water dispensers were already equipped with the hardware needed to enable a connected experience. What they were missing was the firmware necessary to make that hardware operational and the app to connect it all. To remain functional, the hardware required frequent, hands-on updates that could only be accomplished via a complex process involving multiple steps and physical access. Natural Choice would make the necessary updates as part of routine maintenance, but this was not an ideal or efficient solution. To address these issues, Natural Choice partnered with Rightpoint, engaging them to collaborate with their IoT firmware vendor to build a connected experience that would be safer, more intuitive, more convenient for the end user and allow for seamless firmware updates.
Despite being a ubiquitous technology, Bluetooth remains somewhat of an unreliable standard. Users can have a wide array of experiences when connecting hardware over Bluetooth. Just because a device is Bluetooth enabled does not guarantee that it will be easy to connect or simple to operate. In addition to the general complexity of creating a reliable Bluetooth connection, there were some additional considerations such as how the solution would identify individual units.
The Rightpoint design team worked closely with Natural Choice and their firmware vendor to design an experience that would be easy to use – even if they were first timers that hadn’t used touchless access before. Early in the design and development process, Natural Choice provided unit components that the Rightpoint team used to build initial testing prototypes. These physical demonstrations of the UX helped Rightpoint to quickly iterate on perfecting the solution while also allowing the Natural Choice team to easily understand how the proposed solution would work.
In addition to designing and developing a simple operating UX and a stable Bluetooth pairing experience for both iOS and Android, Rightpoint enhanced the user experience by creating playful and instructive animations. Throughout the process, Rightpoint worked closely with Natural Choice and their firmware vendor to ensure a quick and efficient delivery.
By scanning a QR code displayed on the dispensers, the app allows the user to quickly pair their device with the water cooler and begin dispensing water without ever touching a physical button. Through careful architectural choices, the mobile app advances from onboarding to pairing without requiring the user to repeat any unnecessary screens. If a second time user opts to scan the device’s QR code from the camera app, deep linking delivers them directly to the pairing process. If the app is not installed, the user may pair with the device using an app-clip, bypassing the need to download the full application at all.
Designing an App for Right Now Using Apple App Clips
Native apps provide access to a wealth of powerful hardware embedded in modern smartphones including a rich suite of sensors like Bluetooth, and best-in-class user experience. The tradeoff is that they require downloading and installing an app – a cumbersome additional point of friction between a user and their objective. Rightpoint asked, can we do better?
Just a few weeks before Rightpoint partnered with Natural Choice, Apple announced Apple App Clips at their developer conference. Apple App Clips allow users to access a smaller, slimmed down “clip” of an application downloaded in real time. The user can select to use the app clip in response to a prompt – like a QR code – to make onboarding faster and easier.
The Rightpoint team knew that this feature would create an almost magical user experience. They also knew that their strong partnership with Natural Choice would support them going off the beaten path to deliver a next-level user experience. Although it wasn’t part of the initial project scope, Rightpoint took advantage of this emerging technology in real time, creating a prototype and including it as a complement to the core solution.
The Rightpoint team was able to deliver iOS and Android apps start to finish in only six short weeks. In addition, the iOS apps supported the just-released Apple App Clips so that users could have a one-step experience when they used the ION touchless feature the first time. By collaborating closely with both the client and their vendor, designing a seamless user experience based on best practices, and taking advantage of new technology, Rightpoint quickly delivered an experience that not only made users’ lives easier, it also helped ensure they were safe and comfortable during a global health crisis.
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