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Beacon is an EMT navigation app, providing the fastest routes to the patients through a unified outdoor and indoor navigation system.

Providing EMTs a unified indoor and outdoor navigation system

This project was a part of Interaction Design Fundamentals course at CMU. The goal is to explore and design a mobile application for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs).

My Role
Interaction & Motion Prototyper

Project Type
iPhone App / 4 weeks

Juan Corzo, Zack Karrasch, Landon Paik

Saving Lives by the Second

A top priority for EMTs is to transport patients safely and as fast as possible — because every second means life or death.


EMTs Faces Navigation Obstacles Indoor and Outdoor

No Driving Directions from GPS Systems in Ambulances

GPS systems in ambulances are used to keep track of rigs. EMTs resort to using paper maps or their personal mobile devices for driving directions.

Hard to Navigate Indoor or Complexed Locations

After arriving at a reported address, EMTs still have to navigate inside building complexes or the parking lot of a strip mall to locate patients.

Assigned to Unfamiliar Neighborhoods

EMTs, particularly in urban areas, sometimes have to pick up patients in neighborhoods they don’t usually cover due to shortage of resources.

I bring my own GPS system from my car, but you can only use that on non emergencies because it takes too long to punch in the information.

— a New York City EMT

Beacon is a mobile app, providing a unified outdoor and indoor navigation system for EMTs. The app guides EMTs to the patient’s exact location, including the floor of the building, eliminating time wasted trying to locate the patient.

How It Works

Beacon retrieves emergency call information from the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The app sends a push notification and loads the pick-up location. While en route, it provides outdoor and indoor navigation. The patient’s exact location is confirmed through a text message by the emergency caller.


A simple onboarding process to calibrate voice for commands.

Outdoor Navigation

EMTs can quickly see the route to get to the patient as well as call details. They also have an option to switch to a satellite view to get more context of the surrounding.

Patient’s Exact Indoor Location

The patient’s exact location, including where on which floor of the building, can be retrieved once the emergency caller confirms the location through a web link.

Indoor Navigation

In case of fire, EMTs can switch from an elevator route to a stair or escalator route. EMTs can also choose a first person view to confirm what they see in front of them.

Automatic Route Back to Hospital

Once the EMTs got the patient, the app shows the route back to the hospital from the indoor location.

Research & Design Process

Reducing Cognitive Load for High-Pressured Situations

To aid EMTs in making decision under emergency, we worked on reducing cognitive load by minimizing visual clutter and added automated address upload to the app. The section below showcases iterations of visual elements to reduce clutter.

Minimizing Visual Clutter

To surface the necessary information required for EMT’s decision making, we reduced the visual weight or eliminated irrelevant information. We also put emphasis on critical visual elements.

Iteration 1

Iteration 2

Iteration 3

• Use the default Map visuals provided by Google Maps.
• ‘Call for Help’ button is in red to indicate urgency.

• Replace the thick orange store outlines with light brown lines.
• Change ‘Call for Help’ button to ‘Call Dispatcher’; the green signifies positivity and calm.
• The dotted path is more dense for better visibility.

• Increase the darkness of the store outlines for more distinct separation between walkways and stores
• Remove the store category icons.
• The elevator icon is less complex.
• Change the ‘+’ FAB to blue to show relevancy with the dotted path.

Uncovering EMTs’ Pain Points

We conducted online research and field research to explore the pain points EMTs are facing and to uncover any efficiency in the system. After our research, we created a feasibility vs. impact map, which led us to designing an application to optimize EMT response time.

Field research at UPMC Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA

We learned about the ambulance features at UPMC.

A feasibility vs. impact map of possible applications to design

Tab images for more

Design and Feedback Process

We iterated through one round of lo-fi prototype (Post-it’s) and 3 rounds of hi-fi prototypes (Photoshop). We made sure to consider how different users (EMTs, patients, and emergency callers) would interact with the app.

Building a lo-fi prototype flow map from post-its

Hi-fi prototype flow map

Hi-fi prototype flow map and feedback

Tab images for more