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The Noti Story

Update #
7

Final Prototypes

Ben Lindsay
September 7, 2020

The last six months have been a rollercoaster. COVID has flipped the whole world upside down and we’ve all had to adapt in strange and different ways. But that hasn’t stopped us from working through and building Noti, because we believe this product is so important, now more than ever! Having spent so much time at home or in isolation over this year, returning to work, school, and public places is going to be more daunting than ever for some of us!

Which makes writing this post both very exciting (and a little bit scary), because this will be our last update before we finally release Noti for pre-orders!

After months of design and testing we finally have hands on our last iteration of prototypes, and they’re everything we wanted them to be and more!

We’re no longer working with plastic 3D prints here, we finally have the precision machined brass bodies that have been coated in a gold vermeil. These casings are gorgeous and give a really nice quality feel and weight to Noti. They even click nicer with a lovely responsive feel so you know when you have pressed the button.

Putting the beautiful fit and finish that we’re so overly proud of aside, we’ve also got a chance to test Noti’s functionality, and everything is working as expected with messages or fake calls being triggered to our test phone as and when required. Our phone even gives us a reassuring vibration as a nudge reminder to let us know a message has been sent.

These prototypes are the final step in our process and we’re finally ready to go! It has been a crazy six months but the fun is only beginning. Watch this space as we’re super close to our release date now!

Also, be sure to keep an eye on our site over the next few weeks!

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Update #
6

Chains

Ben Lindsay
August 24, 2020

Chains are a big part of Noti. They affect how the jewellery sits against your chest and can even change how it looks depending on the link size, length, and gauge of wire used. There is also some personal opinion in what looks best, for example, I’m always chasing minimalism and simple shapes, whereas Emma prefers a bit more flair or even a more classic look.

But personal opinions aside, the most important decision we needed to make in choosing the main accessory in the box (or tin) with every Noti was the material.

Chains come in a range of different materials at different price points. With pure 24ct gold at the higher end of the scale, and a mish mash of metals that are coated or painted at the other end. Obviously there will be a huge quality difference in the look at feel of these materials, but there are other side effects such as skin irritation and durability that come along with cheaping out on chain material.

A note on plated materials - Plated jewellery generally has a pretty bad rap, and for a good reason. We automatically think of the green fingers or itchy ear lobes that are caused by our skin being exposed to the cheaper metals below the plating once it has worn away. However, pure gold or even pure silver jewellery is actually quite rare; because it is extremely expensive. Most jewellery manufacturers, such as Pandora or Swarovski, actually coat or plate their jewellery. The reason these more expensive pieces don’t wear and cause the same irritation or durability issues is due to the plating thickness. For example, a cheap plating is usually fractions of a micron (one thousanth of a millimeter) thick. Once you begin to go over one micron in thickness the plating becomes much harder to wear. If the plating is between 2.5 and 5 microns, it then becomes classified as a ‘vermeil’ which is a very high quality coating that is very hard to wear. For Noti, we have used the best possible coating at 5 microns thick!

Noti itself is a precision machined block of brass which has a vermeil (very thick coating) of various precious metals. We’ll get into this in another update, but the result is a piece of jewellery which not only looks and feels great, but is very durable! For us, this needed to be replicated in whatever chain material we were going to choose, and there was only one way for us to decide, we had to order a whole load of chains and check them all out. So below we’ve broken down what we learned by looking at chains made from three different materials;

  • Steel plated - These are the cheapest chains we looked at, however, we didn’t look at them for very long. Although steel is quite strong and has a nice weight to it, it has a very ‘bright’ tone of colour which comes through to the plated material on top. This completely threw off the colour matching between our smart pendant and the chain. On top of this, steel is a very cheap material, and because of this, we saw a lot of corner cutting in the manufacturing methods used and the plating thickness. Overall a very easy no for us.
  • Brass plated chains - We had quite high hopes for this type of chain as brass is the same base metal we have used in Noti. However, there is one key difference between Noti and the plated brass chains we saw - a nickel layer. You see, when some metals are plated, over time, the core metal and the surface metal will diffuse into one another. Nickel does not do this, which is why sometimes materials like brass are first coated with nickel and then coated with the final precious metal; such as gold. The brass chains we got did not have this nickel layer and it made a real difference. The coatings wore off very easily and the chains began to look dirty and corroded. On top of this, brass is a lot lighter than some other materials, which caused the chains to have a ‘cheap’ feel when held. Overall, again an easy no.
  • Sterling silver plated chains - By the time we had gotten to testing some plated sterling silver chains, they felt like a godsend! Here the base material is sterling silver, which is a mix of metals, but around 90% silver. This is a much more expensive option, but it really shows. The look and feel of the chains were exactly what we wanted. I think that this is probably also helped by the material cost, because the loops seemed to be cut much more precisely and the plating was considerable thicker. This was the one!

If you want to see some more about plating and how we tested the coatings used for Noti itself keep an eye out for our next update!

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Update #
5

Packaging

Ben Lindsay
August 17, 2020

Packaging can often be overlooked as a small finishing touch in product development, but in our opinion, this is a huge mistake. A product’s packaging is the first physical experience a customer will have with it, and for something as intimate as jewellery, it is extremely important that you pull on the right heart strings.

On the other end of the scale, a lot of startups try to replicate the extremely premium (and very expensive) packaging experience we see in a lot of apple products. The problem is, this just isn’t possible without a very large order quantity, which often isn’t possible in the early days of a product. Ben Einstein wrote a great article on this which is well worth the read if you’re interested in this sort of thing.

So when we set out to design our packaging we had a pretty big challenge. Design something that gave our customers a little moment of ‘wow’ and an opportunity to fall in love with their Noti, without breaking the bank and Wasting money we could be using to make our smart jewellery better. On top of this, we have a pesky little environmental conscience that urges us to minimise plastic waste and if possible, ensure our packaging has an alternate use after its life as a Noti taxi. We love taking the easy route...

Anyway, when we starting looking at this, we played around with card boxes and even standard jewellery boxes, but could never find the correct mix of premium feel/custom experience and price. Plus a lot of the jewellery box options felt a touch too regal for us.

Then one day, I’m not quite sure why, we started to play with tins. I think we may have come across a brochure or website for tin packaging, but not like we had seen before. Tins are normally associated with cheaper products and even food, but these tins had [wonderfully poppy vinyl](wonderfully poppy vinyl) stickers and wraps that completely flipped that narative. Like when someone takes an empty factory loft and gives it a home makeover.

We loved them. And the more we started to play with the idea the more we liked it. I even wanted to add a peel back top like you see on cans of tuna....but Emma informed me that this may be a touch too far.

As it turns out, tins are also a great fit for what we needed. They are fairly mother nature friendly being fully recyclable (or re-purposable if you wanted to keep it as a box for something) and with the addition of some laser cut foam and card inserts we could achieve the very custom ‘wow’ moment we were chasing at a price point that made sense to us.

Unfortunately, this experience wouldn’t exactly be the same if we showed you now, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until the first Noti’s are in the wild to see what we’ve come up with. But worry not, we’ll have some more update pictures in the bank next week!

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Update #
4

3D Printing

Ben Lindsay
August 10, 2020

The virtual world of 3D CAD allows us to do some amazing things, but creating completely virtual versions of a piece of jewellery can only ever tell us part of the story. In order to get a proper feel for the size and shape of an object, a physical form is required. During the prototyping stages of our product development, we use 3D printing to create these physical forms of our jewellery iterations.

There is often a lot of hype around 3D printing and how it is the future of manufacturing, however, this is not entirely true. Basically, 3D printers are able to manufacture objects by printing them layer by layer. This is very time intensive and can take hours, if not more than a day for some very large models. Compare this to an injection moulded piece of plastic which can be produced in a matter of seconds for a few pence and you start to see a large time difference, and time is money.

But where 3D printing does make a lot of sense is when your designs are not final. You see, most manufacturing processes only become affordable when you can place a large batch order of hundreds or thousands, but 3D printing prices remain pretty much the same regardless of volume. For example, the pieces you see below cost around £15 combined when 3D printed, but when we placed an order for the first set of mental Noti prototypes (which were CNC precision machined) they cost more than £230 each. That's a massive difference, especially when you know you're going to make multiple changes to your models at this stage of the design process.

This is why we opt to use 3D prints as our physical reference along side our CAD models when iterating through different jewellery design changes. These physical models let us see problems that virtual models often cannot, like part walls that are too thin and flexible, or clearance issues that stop pieces from going together correctly. They also let us fine tune things like how a button clicks so we can make the most enjoyable products to look at and feel in your hand.

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Update #
3

CAD

Ben Lindsay
August 3, 2020

In our last update we talked you through our process for sketching new products, and how we use it as a quick and messy medium for roughing out the early details. This week we’re going to explore the next step in our design process, where we take the 2D shapes we put on paper and bring them into the virtual 3D world of CAD (Computer Aided Design).

CAD is truly amazing. It’s used in a multitude of industries to manufacture products, create realistic animated movies and games, recreate historical sites, make custom medical implants and much much more. In fact, a lot of the things that we use today may not even have been possible without the innovations brought along by CAD and the simulation tools that come along with it.

The type of CAD that we use (Solidworks) is targeted more towards the design for manufacture end of the scale. We use it to take our rough shapes and ideas and put them into more exact and matter of fact dimensions. This is pretty different to how normal jewellery design works; usually much more traditional methods are used. But hey, we’re not making traditional jewellery, we’re making smart jewellery! Anyway, here we can start to bring in internal components and connectors to see what clearances, wall thicknesses, and overall dimensions a piece will need to have. Often times designs that are thought out in the 2D world don’t naturally transition into a 3D design, which can lead to a bit of a transition period where we quickly play with a few of our 2D sketches in 3D CAD to make sure they’re going to work before piling many hours into refining them. Sometimes here we’ll also make some very quick physical mock ups using card or paper to get a feel for the ‘real’ size and feel of the jewellery.

Once we’ve settled on a shape we liked, (in this case it was the circular pendant style you see in Noti today) we start the long process of iterating through, sometimes very slight, design changes to get to what we feel is the perfect final product. These would range from trialling different attachment methods for chains or the back casing to very small adjustments to improve button feel.

As the designs started to get more complex and complete we would order a round of 3D prints (which we’ll talk about a bit more in our next post) to test the fit, feel, and size of the jewellery. These real world physical objects always bring so much room for improvement to the forefront (and a lot of work to be done). For Noti, we went through four sets of 3D prints and many more variations and changes before moving to the vermeil plated, precision machined final prototypes we have today. All of these changes and iterations were refinements we felt that we had to make in order to bring the highest quality product to life, that would not only look and feel great, but also be reliable and long lasting.

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Update #
2

Sketching

Ben Lindsay
July 27, 2020

As a product designer, I’ve always loved to sketch. I use it not just as a medium to get my ideas across but to think. This can apply to the design of physical parts and how they fit together, how people will interact with each other in a system, or how someone will interact with a web page. Whenever you put a pen to paper (or a stylus to screen if you try to be paperless like me), things become much clearer and you can spot opportunities or flaws you couldn’t see before. It’s an awesome medium.

Sketching also allows you to fail early, which is what makes it a great tool for thIs idea stage. If you mess something up, or figure out that it could never work, all you have lost is a little time and paper. You can experiment with crazy features and shapes without any major consequences and REALLY get those creative juices flowing.

I try to sketch most days but when we started to design Noti we took a full day to play around with ideas and shapes; it was great fun. We knew from our previous research that people like very different types and style of jewellery. In fact, in one of our surveys, there was almost an even split among people whose favourite jewellery pieces were earrings, necklaces or bracelets. So bearing that in mind we wanted to make something fairly universally liked and versatile.

We also had a very clear idea of how we wanted Noti to function, and mainly how discreet and accessible it needed to be. It needed to look like a regular piece of jewellery and seamlessly blend in with what a normal person would wear. This is where so many devices like rape alarms fall down; you can immediately tell that they have some function outside of being worn, making them super obvious. They also often get left at home or at the bottom of your bag meaning they can be hard to get to when you need them. We also wanted Noti to be extremely accessible so that it is always there when you need it.

Jewellery fits in here so well because most women tend to wear some form of jewellery, so a pendant designed to look like jewellery doesn’t really stick out, and necklaces and bracelets are always on your body meaning they’re very quick and easy to get to.

So with this in mind we got to sketching. These first ones are super rough and ready basic shapes that help you get a feel for the physicality of an object. Figuring out how something might hang, where holes may go, or how you can use the geometry in an interesting way. These shapes take no longer than a few seconds to get onto the paper and are the most basic representation of what you have in your head. This stage can be quite freeing as there are really no bounds to what you can put down. You could even just let your pen go wild to see what comes out the other side.

After this, you pick out some of the more interesting shapes and start to develop them a bit. Here they get a little more life breathed into them with some more detail and a little more care and attention. They still shouldn’t take very long, less than a minute or so, but the careful placement of lines, or using different weights and shading can let you play with appearances and functions of these 2D products.

At this stage, our designs were staring to fall into some basic shape categories; squares, circles and hexagons. They had all remained pretty plain and basic because that’s what we were going for. Squares and hexagons were interesting to play with but we were much more drawn to the solid yet simple and elegant circular shapes. Circles also work a lot better from a manufacturing point of view as a lot of parts like batteries come in standard circular sizes, plus as Emma constantly reminded me ‘circles are in’.

Once we had a basic design in mind, some (still rough) sketches helped us work out sizes are where parts would lie. Again this is just how sketching helps you to think and figure things out. Normally at this stage if I were designing a product for a client I would do a more detailed ‘for show’ sketch to validate what things would actually look like, and maybe even story board it out. I won’t lie, we didn’t do that here because there wasn’t really anyone to convince on the design. Me and Emma both loved it and were super psyched to keep things moving!

In the next post I’ll talk more about how we used 3D modelling to take these sketch and turn them into a virtual 3D representation of our product for imagery and manufacturing. But I hope you can see why we don’t skip straight to that. Sketching is quick and dirty and it lets you develop ideas really quickly without spending lots of time on them!

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Update #
1

How It All Started

Ben Lindsay
July 20, 2020

Before I tell you how Emma and myself ended up starting STAND and building Noti, it seems appropriate that I first tell you a little bit about what we do.

Our mission at STAND is to help people live their lives fearlessly! In basic terms - we want to remove fears that stop you from doing what you want to with your life.

This may seem like a big goal, but we’re big dreamers and we’ve got a plan to help us get there, starting with a product called Noti. But anyway, on to the story of how it all started.

Emma and I met at university, or more specifically on a university trip to China. This was an amazing opportunity and I made some great friends out there, including Emma. We came back the next semester into our final year of an Engineering masters and ended up working in a group project together. The class we were working together in was called professional studies, and it was based around expanding our skillset outside of the world of engineering.

The class revolved around a basic concept; come up with a product idea and build a business around it. This is a fairly broad task to be handed so we decided to first look for a big problem in our lives and try to solve it. We started off with lots of problems and ideas, but in the end there were two in particular that we just couldn’t pass.

For Emma, her problem was extremely closely related to what we’ve tried to do with STAND and Noti. In university we would regularly spend late nights in the library or at our friends’ houses, which would inevitably lead to a dark walk home. And even though Belfast is a pretty safe city (especially in the student area) Emma described an overwhelming sense of nervousness and insecurity (she speaks more about this here) when she would have to travel home at night by herself. It didn’t take long for us to find a trend in this that most of our peers shared these feelings.

As for me, my grandmother has, for the last six or seven years, worn a personal alarm. Well, when I say worn, she has only in the last two or three years really worn the fall button. This is because she absolutely HATES it! In fact, it got so bad that there had actually been a few occassions where she had been left on the ground for a few hours after a fall, because she was unable to get back up by herself or call for help. It was clear from the moment she was first given the alarm pendant that it was a sensible decision for her to wear it, so why wouldn’t she? Well really, why would she?! If you think about it, being handed a big ugly red button to wear which screams ‘I’M NOT OKAY TO BE BY MYSELF!’ can be extremely embarrassing, especially for a strong woman who is as proud as my grandmother.

Although these situations may seem to be at different ends of a scale, Emma and I saw a trend. People change their behaviour based on fear. Whether it was Emma taking a longer route home to avoid a dimly lit street, or my grandmother not moving from her chair because she was afraid she may fall and not be able to get back up. And to top it all off, devices that try to fix these problems are CRAP! They seemed barely functional to us and not just ugly, but in a lot of cases, embarassing; and what good is it if it isn’t being worn at all?

Putting these two together, we saw an opportunity where we could make something better than the fall alarms my grandmother hadn’t used and the rape alarms that Emma our other friends had never carried. We wanted to build something that would provide the peace of mind that people craved, without the embarrassment associated with a lot of safety devices. Actually, we wanted people to LOVE wearing our devices. Which is where our smart jewellery was born from.

So we were already really into the idea of helping people be a bit more fearless and do the things they love, but we wanted to dig a bit deeper into what we were getting into. This led to our first trip to Nexus; a charity that works with survivors of sexual assault. We spoke to other charities too, like Women’s Aid and the Lucy Faithful foundation who do equally brilliant work, but Nexus is the one I’ll always remember. I won’t go into detail but it was both shocking and terrifying to hear some of the stories the councellors had to tell us. Things that were happening just around the corner from where we were sat, just around the corner from where we lived.

It’s sometimes easy to remove yourself from what you see in the news about sexual assault cases, maybe it’s because we don’t want to think about such horrible things, or because we don’t want to believe that they happen so close to home, but our journey to Nexus brought things to our front door, and the front of our minds. We left with a new perspective and a new drive to help make things better. Needless to say, the university module got left in the dust and building STAND became our main focus.

After this trip, we did some more research and found there are a lot of similar situations where some type of fear motivates a different behaviour in people; causing them to change how they live. We see a few main areas where this happens, like young women and elderly people living alone, but also parents with young kids, people who do lone sports like hiking and cycling, and even lone workers. But we have decided to start with young women. Partly because of Emma’s first hand experience, and partly because we feel this is one of the most under represented of these segments.

Of course men and children (and countless other demographics and types of people) feel fear when they travel alone, but we’ve found a lot of evidence that shows these fears can be much more prevelant and more consistent in women - for example, this study on fear of crime and sexual assault.

We also used facebook advertising to test responses to a blog post of women's safety tips. The results showed that younger teens (13-17) had little interest in reading this type of content, but interest spiked around 18-24, then dropping off again with age. We think that this is because in our later teens we start to spend more time by ourselves or move away from home.

So, we still want to help as many people as possible life their lives fearlessly, but we’re starting here.

So rolling with this, we started our journey into making Noti. We know that a physical product can never fully fix a huge issue like this, and actually, we hope that some day Noti isn’t even needed, but for now we want to help and in our own way, help fix things in the long term. At the same time, we didn’t want to make just any product that seemed to help on the surface; like the cheap and cheerful plastic siren alarms that are passed out to young girls and never used. We want Noti to be one of your favourite pieces of jewellery that you love to wear because you feel safer wearing it and love how it looks.

If you want to follow along with our story and hear more about our journey of building Noti, make sure you subscribe to our mailing list for content like this and more Noti news and offers.

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