Whether on land or sea or air, the logistics industry is the connective tissue that links manufacturers, makers, and suppliers to customers. It is an enormously challenging industry that has a very real and critical impact on people and businesses, and keeps the globalized economy moving.
Agheera and frog bring design-driven innovation to the logistics industry
Built a powerful supply-chain management tool with tailorable real-time logistics data on-demand, including a scalable web application and mobile app
A software development kit and marketplace for secure integration of 3rd party services broaden the application while maintaining a seamless user experience
From vision to market
frog worked with agheera across the complete development process in 16 months - from concept, to user experience design, all the way through engineering and testing
Up to 42 frogs across 6 studios worked simultaneously in 4 interdisciplinary teams and with an agile process
When German logistics startup Agheera approached frog about how to create a powerful gateway to managing shipments, assets, and related business processes, frog recognized an opportunity to apply the latest communications and mapping technologies to provide a new and more efficient, accessible, and user-friendly service.
Working in close collaboration with Agheera, which was spun off from global courier company DHL, frog envisioned, designed, delivered, and deployed a multilayered tracking and data collection system called Pulse. An online tracking portal for real-time logistics business management, Pulse offers powerful notification systems and dynamic reporting and analysis tools. In addition, Pulse features a software development kit and marketplace of extensions; this allows third-party developers and companies to create and sell their own applications and broaden the application's horizon. Finally, Pulse includes a mobile app called Moogli that transforms any Android or iOS smartphone into a tracking device.
With four interdisciplinary teams of interaction and visual designers, technologists, strategists, program managers, and quality assurance experts, frog helped Agheera bring an idea to market within 16 months. Using cutting-edge technology and intuitive design applications, Pulse brings design-driven innovation to the logistics industry and provides an unmatched user experience and access to essential data.
1No Ordinary Map
TechWise – 4 Key Tech Challenges
No Ordinary Map
The Pulse portal's map interface design called for customized functionality and user interface controls that don't come off the shelf. frog transformed a basic Bing map into a high-powered extensible logistics management interface through the development of custom HTML5 controls, intelligent clustering and zooming, and carefully-designed third-party layers.
2Scaling Big Data
TechWise – 4 Key Tech Challenges
Scaling Big Data
Pulse users required highly interactive interfaces to quickly view, drill down, and act on a flood of live data, and make sense of incredibly dense clusters of data points. From a technical point of view this meant dealing with bandwidth, memory, and processing constraints that could seriously hurt performance. frog's interdisciplinary teams tackled these complex issues by iteratively honing in on solutions with rapid prototyping and user feedback.
3Open But Secure
TechWise – 4 Key Tech Challenges
Open But Secure
The system needed to be flexible enough to let users and developers augment the system's capabilities with additional data sets. At the same time, it had to maintain the quality and consistency of the user experience, and above all protect the privacy of the end user's data. frog enabled the secure integration of third-party services with a successful implementation of Access Control Service with Single Sign-On and centralized authorization in the cloud application.
4Tailoring App Fabric
TechWise – 4 Key Tech Challenges
Tailoring App Fabric
To develop a cutting-edge enterprise logistics system as a Web application, the architecture had to include a combination of new technologies like AppFabric with limited support and documentation. frog managed the risks and challenges to work with such moving targets with a progressive set of proofs of concept and extensive testing.
“frog's interdisciplinary end-to-end skills and their extremely professional and proactive attitude made them the perfect partner for us and fun to work with. The team was able to quickly immerse themselves and develop a holistic understanding of user needs, business models, and overall processes.”
A Deep Understanding
The frog team began with a “what if” vision that built on Agheera's existing software. The proposed solution was not only a tracking portal but also a data-driven revenue model with a platform and marketplace. Moving into the design process, it was critical to understand how the existing system operated and who the users were, as well as the individual needs of the different clients in the industries Agheera serves. frog designers went into the field to visit dispatch and distribution centers, observing how tracking is accomplished and how people interact with the system. What they found is that many of the tools being used today were not living up to modern usability expectations. “It was like using any online website circa 1999,” says Justin Maguire, Executive Creative
Director in frog's Munich studio, which led the project.
Agheera employees added to this detailed perspective, and shed light on the pain points of the existing solution and internal barriers to innovation. Armed with a deeper understanding of the people and processes within this industry, frog collaborated with Agheera's back-end provider, Tata, to pinpoint technical requirements and a roadmap for developing the new system.
Giving Data Meaning
The main tracking tools currently used by the logistics industry are sensors. Sensors can supply a wealth of basic factual or textual information - about a shipment that has, for example, left the factory or has arrived at a warehouse. What sensors can't supply, however, is information about what is actually happening to that shipment in real time. The kind of raw data that sensors provide can be compared to a spreadsheet with columns of numbers, explains Kalle Buschmann, a Senior Interaction Designer at frog. “You have the data from the sensor but it's all in hindsight and there is no translation or interpretation of the data,” he adds. “What they were missing was the user's point of view as they follow a shipment.” You would want to know, for example, if a shipping container is being banged around on a freighter crossing stormy seas, if the container has been compromised in some way, if it has cleared customs, or if the final delivery truck has made a wrong turn.
frog's design research uncovered the need to address both short and long-haul shipping. Short-haul mainly involves trucks making local deliveries. These shippers need a variety of data, such as traffic conditions or if an empty truck is available to pick up another shipment along the way. Long-haul shipping, by comparison, involves more time and cost and many more stakeholders. Sending a container from Shanghai to Los Angeles might involve as many as a dozen different parties and take up to a month to complete. Yet either operation depends on access to data and end-to-end visibility of the shipment, whether it is making its way across town or around the world. And access must be available to all parties involved in the operation so they can use that information to manage the shipment and react to any situation that arises, to ensuring the shipment leaves on time and arrives safely.
Pulse accomplishes that by providing the right data at the right time to the right person. “We have enriched the old system by providing better and more transparent information and being able to map that reality into the software,” Buschmann explains. For example, real-time global traffic or weather conditions affecting critical shipments can easily be monitored. Various other lenses can also be applied to track, react and optimize logistics.
Big Data is the real value generator behind Pulse, both for customers and Agheera. Tracked data allows the system to become smarter in the moment it is being used and over time, and also enables Agheera to sell raw data sets and reports. All data can be embedded through rich applications which again can be monetized by third parties through Pulse's marketplace and developer portal. “There is much being talked about the potential and importance of Big Data and the 'Internet of Things', but often in an abstract way, like how your fridge will tell you that you are running out milk,” Justin Maguire says. “What really excited the team at frog was the chance to do something with data that is real,
with a critical impact on people and businesses in the globalized economy; something that would allow professionals to move goods - no matter what the distance or mode of transport - safely and confidently to their final destination.”
Keeping The Edge
Agreeing to step into a development relationship where the product and overall business model designs had not been finished required deep trust, focus, daily communication and willingness to deal with ambiguity. A constant exchange between all studios and disciplines was established. Client representatives spent around 20 percent of their time working on site at frog, immersing themselves into the work culture of a global innovation firm. At a very early stage, frog and Agheera established an open, honest, direct and clear dialogue that would become the hallmark of this trusted relationship over the next year.
From a technology perspective, developing an enterprise logistics system as a web application presented a host of challenges. For example, the solution needed to address legacy systems, third-party back-ends, cross-browser issues, maintainability, and scaling. Inevitably, the architecture had to include a combination of new technologies (e.g. Azure, AppFabric), custom systems, and third-party APIs that then needed to be turned into production code by a development team. frog's global network of design technologists and software engineers, combined with agile methodologies and a strong QA team, made it possible to quickly ramp up, refine, and reliably deliver on a state-of-the-art solution. With up to 42 frogs working in peak times across six studios in Munich, Milan, Kyiv, Vinnitsa, Austin and Johannesburg simultaneously on the project, Scrum – an iterative and incremental agile software development methodology – was used to provide a framework for organizing and managing work across a large, distributed software development.