Solace is a full circle system for post-disaster situations that helps both victims and professional first responders during reconnaissance.


 Summer 2014 | 14 weeks


Team Solace
Shirley Rodriguez, Lawrence Chang, Patrick McCrory, Kei Yumino


What is Reconnaissance(Recon)?


Reconnaissance, or recon, is a rapid walk-about of an area to gather intel of a situation in order to make efficient plans and actions as quickly as possible after a disaster.

The goal of recon is to identify and report a variety of assets such as survivors, fatalities, potential hazards and more. Recon is the first step in the rescue process, no action can be taken before reconnaissance is completed.

First responders cannot move out until reconnaissance is finished and the information is reviewed.


SOLACE system

Solace helps first responders collect information, comfort survivors, and report back intel in a quick and efficient manner that helps them to save more lives.


All devices connected


In our research on current and emerging technology, we came across the use of a small wireless technology called mesh networking, which is used to provide internet access in underdeveloped countries. Since many post-disaster areas do not have functioning networks, we adopted this technology to create digital networks for first responders to relay data to and from the Command Center.


The dual screen device


It aims to streamline the process of recording and gathering information for the first responders in the field. 


Closed mode

When the device is 'closed,' its main purpose is to allow the first responder to input data as fast as possible through visual icons. They can mark locations and record their voice which will then be reported to the captain.

Open mode

When the device is 'open,' it becomes a high quality camera which can take, save, and send photos of interest. The first responder can then use their finger and voice to annotate directly on the image.


The node / comforting device


The Nodes are distributed by first responders to victims when they are found. They are also left in strategic locations to strengthen the mesh network.


For Reconnaissance

The node is part of the mesh network and is able to transfer information to other devices. It also helps C.E.R.T. members find and identify the correct victim.


For the Victims

The node monitors victims' vitals and glows in sync with their heartbeat to give them psychological comfort during their time of need. It also keeps track of time and how long they have been waiting.


The C.E.R.T. Add-On


The C.E.R.T. add-on aims to place trained volunteers in a more integral part of the process by allowing them to give support to victims left behind.


Offer emotional support

It allows C.E.R.T members to go to the nearest victims’ locations to offer emotional support to them.

Guide C.E.R.T members

A small device that volunteers can attach to their smartphones through the earphone jack. It connects to the mesh network and helps guide volunteers to the victims.


The Command Center


A small mobile short throw projector interface that allows the captain to set up in strategic locations anywhere. It visualizes incoming data that aid decision making.


Prioritize information

The system prioritizes the data that first responders have inputted into their GPS device by color, size and motion. This allows the captain to quickly assess the field situation and make decisions.

Encourages team work

The Command Center is mobile and can be set up anywhere. Its large projected interface encourages the team to review and analyze the data together.




A whole system solution was developed in 14 weeks, through scenario development, product, and interface design based on in-depth research.



Interview with search and rescue professionals 


We conducted research and interviews in multiple places ranging from local fire stations to one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) teams to discover common problems at different levels.


Problem Summary + Design Criteria



Firefighters can’t send and receive information during recon except through radio



Offer a way to quickly establish resilient networks in the post-disaster period for Recon


They use a GPS device, notebook, radio and iPad to gather data during recon



Help commanders to understand and organize incoming info intuitively and clearly


They can spend only 20-30 seconds during recon and find it hard to leave while victims feel abandoned 


Provide firefighters with confidence that someone will rescue the victim

Provide victims with the sense of being
monitored while waiting


Lack of network links force team members to wait for a few hours till Recon teams come back



Allow for information to be gathered and analyzed at the same time to take action as quickly as possible


Defined project goal


Help first responders to gather information, locate and comfort victims, and report back intel to create efficient action plans during reconnaissance.



Exploring possible scenarios


We developed user scenarios every week and examined products and user experience in context. During the process, we made major changes including;


  • Input information through keyboard and single screen for multiple task  
     Utilize voice recognition to input faster and dual screens for different tasks

  • Allow victims to talk with operators for a sense of comfort
    → Incorporate C.E.R.T member (trained citizens) into the process

  • Have command station with a large screen for analyzing incoming data
     Project images on the wall to analyze intel and discuss with fellow commanders


Professional Feedback


During the concept development stage, we revisited Station 88, FEMA Task Force 1 twice to get feedback from working professionals and incorporated it into the solutions. Feedback includes:

  • Right selection on focus

  • Authenticity of design direction

  • Need of extra durability

  • Concerns on network connections



Final Presentation

  • Shortens wait time

  • Reduces the guilt firefighters feel

  • Gives a sense of comfort to victims 

  • Provides intuitive ways to organize intel

  • Offer resilient network to transfer information 

Benefits of SOLACE


Sponsored by Dell