systems design for IU landscape services using GE Predix

  • Two-week design challenge for GE; we researched data inputs that could benefit IU's landscape services department and designed a system to assist with their workflow.
my main roles
  • Stakeholder interviews
  • Running participatory design session
  • Mapping & analysis of data inputs
  • Comics-style walkthrough of design (Sketch, Photoshop)
team members
  • Evan Russell & Bhavesh Anand

client details & prompt

GE asked us to identify issues on IU's campus that could be assisted through data tracking and analysis, then design a system that would improve the quality of life on campus; we designed this system taking into consideration the capabilities of Predix, GE's cloud platform for the Industrial Internet.

initial research

We began by interviewing stakeholders across campus — students, professors, staff in various departments — and after discussion and cognitive mapping of the possible avenues we could pursue, we settled on landscape services, as it seemed to have the most potential for large-scale change and overall improvement of campus life.

Mike Girvin, the manager of landscape services, was a compelling person to talk to and had a great depth of knowledge about his work, which is complex and involves a number of ever-changing variables. Weather, unexpected human behaviors, traffic flows (vehicular and pedestrian), parking lot use, bureaucracy, moisture content in the ground, trash can use – the information that has to be considered for the work is significant and requires the department to have both long-term vision and strategy while being adaptable on a day-to-day basis.

"We have 2,000 acres of campus and only 85 people. There are areas we only get into occasionally, we can’t see everything…. We are kind of aware of when we have a problem and can go by that gut feeling. We’re in tune with the weather like farmers, but we still miss things"


  • Staff are skilled and have good judgment that is critical for real-time planning; filling in current information gaps could help them make even better judgments, which is powerful because small improvements can have a snowball effect.
  • Efficiency is crucial to landscape services’ work, and huge opportunities exist for improvement—particularly with route management. These improvements could lead to massive cost savings, a more beautiful campus, and more sustainable practices.
  • The campus is massive, and with limited staff, landscape services can’t be aware of everything that goes on across all 2,000 acres; blind spots can cause close calls, such as large tree branches that might fall on someone if not caught in time.
  • Campus infrastructure is overburdened (more people and cars than walkways & roads were meant to handle), which also causes difficulty in having efficient routes for groundskeepers.
  • Students and staff don’t know who to report issues to (such as potholes, for example), so a work order may take a long time to get to the right department.

Herman B Wells, IU's first university chancellor, believed that outdoor spaces are vital for a quality education; they allow people to decompress, reflect, and learn.

concurrent design processes

ideation & iteration

We expanded and then contracted our design space during ideation; our sketching sessions provided core ideas to bring to stakeholders for evaluation.

stakeholder feedback

We created a mid-way deliverable, had a dialogue with GE about improvements, and honed in on a more concrete focus — route efficiency and its beneficial ripple effects.

data organization

With pages upon pages of research findings, we needed to make sense of the data that would best help landscape services; we organized data inputs by source, availability, estimated cost, potential uses, and main users.

evaluation & co-design sessions

participatory design session

We asked Mike to map out a typical day for his organization, which helped us to integrate our design into their work flow.

We brought our design ideas to a follow-up co-design session so that Mike and his next-in-command, Trent, could evaluate and improve our design, as well as generate new ideas.

This session led to a more nuanced design that took into account on-the-ground considerations, such as communication and reporting.

design strategy

the data feedback loop

Real-time information that is useful in the moment — such as when trash cans are full or where traffic is heaviest — is also relevant to future planning, creating a real-time → historical data feedback loop that allows Mike’s staff to become more and more effective over time.

real-time planning

Be able to react quickly in the moment and adjust as more data comes in; e.g., GPS location of employees and equipment, along with traffic info, allow for best decisions for work assignments

trends & future planning

e.g., identify areas that could most benefit from widened sidewalks; adjust trash can placement; make emergency plans

communication leverage

Predix data analysis can be used to validate efforts to bureaucracy, justify budget needs

minimum viable product to 100%


Predix software added to Mike's computer and employee tablets and phones. Numerous data inputs lead to roughly 20% more efficient routes, allowing more work to be done and thousands of savings in fuel. See comics deliverable below for details.

  • Health sensors (employees sometimes deal with frostbite or sweltering heat)
  • Radio attachments to replace tedious paper system used to log & file each task; would also lead to more accurate billing of campus departments

Autonomous drones survey IU's campus to help with blind spots and allow landscape services to be more targeted. Initial costs will be made up for in the long-run.

comics deliverable

Predix storyboards