Mission Control Application Design and Development

Spaceflight

Enterprise Application Design and Development

Background

Spaceflight is a premier launch services and mission management provider, offering routine, cost-effective access to space.

With the growing industry of smallsats, the demand for routine, cost-effective access to space has increased exponentially. Demand, coupled with the growing number of launch vehicle providers, created an opportunity for Spaceflight to assist in identifying, booking, and managing rideshare launches.

With a suite of products and services including satellite infrastructure, rideshare launch offerings, payload integration, and global communications networks, Spaceflight enables organizations to get launched, achieving their mission goals – on time and on budget.

Valence has worked with Spaceflight since 2020 when we built Book My Launch and the first iteration of Mission Control, which is a task management and ticketing system that allows Spaceflight Mission Managers to manage the tasks such as testing, documentation, and communication.  Mission Control also provides a Resource Center, giving customers access to reference documents, templates, and information about their Spaceflight team.

Spaceflight smallsat

Challenge

Prior to Mission Control, Mission Managers had to patch together ad hoc management solutions, leaning heavily on decentralized documents, emails, texts, and endless phone calls.

Spaceflight needed a system to link the self-service model of Book My Launch to the backend systems used by Mission Managers. The company also needed to enable Mission Managers to support more customers as the business scaled and to provide customers with a single source to view all their mission information.

Spaceflight’s team had a strong vision for the end product and its business impact but had not previously worked on a software development effort of this nature. Spaceflight needed a partner that could guide them through the process.

Spaceflight continued its engagement with Valence, building upon the knowledge and relationships built during the Book My Launch project.

“We could tell that Valence was excited about this project and was really engaged,” says Kristen Smithson, Spaceflight vice president of business operations, “When the whole team came to the office and gave a presentation, they spoke to all our needs, and we were impressed. Valence was able to speak to the backend setup as well as how we would design it. The end-to-end capability made a difference.”

Solution

Mission Control was developed in a phased approach, with Phase 1 relying on out-of-the-box software for task management and Phase 2 relying on custom-built software for Spaceflight’s unique workflows. The phased approach enabled faster process improvement and provided user feedback that contributed to a more successful software solution in Phase 2.  

“Our primary objective was to simplify the user experience to support the adoption of the tools,” said Alice Watkins, Valence Technical Project Manager, “In addition to adding features to make the system easier to use, we were ruthlessly focused on streamlining the experience. We improved the ease-of-use, the booking process, and functionality for Mission Control.”

Because Mission Control’s intent is to digitize and streamline processes, understanding those processes was critical to success.  As is the case with many fast-moving and young companies, processes had been defined at a high level but had not yet been documented at the level of granularity needed to design and develop the right software solution and user experience.

Valence conducted dozens of research sessions, bringing designers and engineers together with Spaceflight users to explore processes and user needs. Q & A sessions were insightful and benefited from Valence participants with strong user experience practices with deep engineering skills. Part of Valence’s role was to capture ideas that were still forming among the Spaceflight teams and to advise Spacflight about how to use those ideas to create a better solution. These working sessions revealed the “hidden steps” in Spaceflight’s processes, which are critical to achieving adoption by Mission Managers.

Valence also conducted user experience research and provided UX design, interface design, software engineering, testing, and QA to Spaceflight. In addition to features that allow Mission Managers to manage customers, create tasks, and easily see what the customer can see, Valence also built filtering functionality so Mission Managers can easily manage their work and assignments.

In Phase 2, Valence restructured tasks and workflows, created task management systems, built a notification system that triggers emails when a customer submits a task, improved the user database, and implemented multifactor authentication via text messages to increase security.

Following the release of Phase 2, Valence collected user feedback for future enhancements and conducted internal training and client onboarding.

“I appreciate that Valence was good at guiding us through the technical aspects of the project while also always treating us as equals. We felt like engaged and respected partners,” said Tony Frego, vice president of mission management, “Valence also got to know our business at a detailed level, which is not easy. It’s cool that Valence can talk about orbits with us now.”

Spaceflight Mission Control

Results

With Book My Launch and Mission Control, Spaceflight is transforming its business and the aerospace commercial space flight industry.

The Mission Control tool is scalable, flexible, trackable, and provides better records, impressively advancing Spaceflight from its previous ad hoc systems. Further, the onboarding of new Mission Managers is more consistent, and Mission Managers can save time and effort compared to previous processes.

And because Mission Managers can better manage customers, customers are expected to have a better experience with Spaceflight and demonstrate higher satisfaction – ultimately leading to future bookings and a stronger business.

Data Strategy, Web Application, and Recommendation Engine

Fortune 1000 Healthcare Company

Data Strategy, Web Application, and Recommendation Engine

Challenge

Hospital administrators and staff are under intense pressure to optimize performance within facilities while delivering best-in-class care to patients. This highly regulated industry has an abundance of data, but it’s often collected and managed in disparate systems by people with ranging levels of proficiency.

One opportunity to improve hospital efficiency is to optimize the scheduling of operating rooms, surgical procedures, and services.

We were approached by an advanced SaaS-based healthcare data analytics company that needed to use existing data feeds to improve the scheduling of operations for a hospital that used its systems. Because of the sensitive nature of EHR data, security was a priority.

business process management
business partners shake hands at the talks near the round table .the concept of partnership

Solution

Valence delivered a web application including a scheduling recommendation engine. On the back-end, the web application relied on a Paas-based solution that analyzed trends using artificial intelligence.

First, we transformed and normalized the hospital’s robust pipeline of raw and structured EHR data. Using that data, we developed a recommendation engine that prompts hospital staff to take actions based on key data indicators.

Then we designed and developed a custom web-app to present and manipulate data, including the scheduling recommendations.

recommendation engine

Results

The solution provided hospital staff with a decision support tool capable of improving room scheduling and revealed trends and opportunities for efficiency over time. These improvements resulted in improved patient care and hospital efficiency.

Clinical Trials Healthcare Research Accelerator

Healthcare Non-Profit

Clinical Trials Healthcare Research Accelerator

Background

Our client is a national not-for-profit healthcare system committed to improving the health of all people. The system includes hospitals, clinics, and a comprehensive range of services.

Among its services, the client’s organization offered a web portal where donors, patients, providers, and research scientists could look for clinical trials to improve patient health outcomes, called the Healthcare Research Accelerator.

The Healthcare Research Accelerator is a special project because it is used by doctors across the globe who are working with patients who are out of options. These doctors want to help their patients, and they have to be creative, so they seek out the latest trials in hopes they can enroll their patients and get them access to promising therapies. These doctors are often under a lot of pressure when they come to this tool, and they need a tool that is easy to use.

Challenge

The original search tool was designed and developed long ago by in-house resources, and because of considerable gaps in functionality and usability, platform support was going to end. Further, the design and development team that had originated the portal had disbanded and there was no documentation about its architecture or functionality. Our client needed to replace the Healthcare Research Accelerator with a new solution for this critical service.

The accelerator is incredibly important, but the search function had coding flaws and had reached a point where patients and providers didn’t like or trust the tool – because our client’s organization is on a mission to improve patient outcomes, it was urgent that we deliver a better way to connect people with clinical trial information.

Solution

Thanks to our significant experience working with this client on other digital projects, Valence had gained the client’s trust and was engaged to re-platform the clinical trials Healthcare Research Accelerator tool. Services included user experience design, user interface design, engineering, quality assurance, and deployment support.

Because of the loss of user confidence, change management practices were woven into our approach. From discovery to user experience design, and through user acceptance testing, we engaged a variety of users and provided visibility into our thinking and process. This rebuilt trust in the tool’s potential and helped to improve market sentiment.

“If you want a deployment to be adopted, you must invest time and energy in communication and collaboration with your users. The change management plan needs to address stakeholder communication and internal business processes.”

Glen Lewis, Valence technical project manager

One of the first stages of the effort was to reverse engineer the structure of the previous iteration of the platform to identify data sources and reveal the cause of the failed search results. We conducted a four-week assessment to document how the platform was built.

Understanding why the previous platform was failing was an important step in rebuilding trust among users that this new iteration would perform as expected.

The assessment unearthed that the previous platform relied on a search function in what amounts to a continuous document. Valence engineers built a new database according to industry best practices, which is more flexible and can scale and be managed over time.

Our data team also built custom logic for the clinical trial searches to address the unique and specific needs of users. The updated search function uses criteria to return highly relevant results without requiring an exact string of words.

We simplified the XML ingestion process by reducing and consolidating a three-step process that moved data across multiple servers to a single drag-and-drop interface.

The User Acceptance Testing period (UAT) included additional time and resources to engage users and build trust in the new tool. We prepared users for the UAT by explaining what they should expect and how we expect the tool to work before they tested it. The UAT process was divided into three testing events, and each event was followed by a detailed review of issues identified, including what happened, why it happened, and how it would be fixed, further building trust in the system.

Upon completion, we provided comprehensive and detailed documentation of the new platform and how it is built so it can be referenced, integrated, and updated more easily in the future.

“This project was not easy. You handled our requests with grace and with integrity, and we’re so thankful to you for this hard work.”

Client Project Director

Results

The new Healthcare Research Accelerator tool is easy to use, and users are excited to use it. The database has also become the primary source for clinical trial information across client websites. The design was seamless with the client’s updated brand strategy, and the platform nested within the larger brand strategy perfectly.

Through our collaborative process and open communication, we won over users who were skeptical that our project was merely to re-skin a dysfunctional tool.

Valence’s efforts to build elegant mapping logic will help doctors and patients easily find the trials they need, which will hopefully enable patients to overcome their sickness and feel better.

Software Delivered to Market 225% Faster

EdTech

Software Delivered to Market 225% Faster

Nearshore Development Reduces Labor Costs by 40%

Challenge

Our client is a Chicago-based education technology (edtech) company that creates K-12 writing software and curriculum to help students become strong critical thinkers. Highlighted as a “game-changing educational software” by Bill Gates, controlled studies also show that its product helps students with reading and writing growth. The company teaches critical thinking through argumentative writing via its personalized literacy platform for English, language arts, science, social studies, and math.

This edtech startup had a unique opportunity to distribute its products to several schools. The company had a small and highly skilled engineering team, but did not have the internal resources to scale up the product in time to serve this high volume of school customers. If the company missed the opportunity to ready its products for this opportunity, a competitor would win the work.

As an early-stage company, they needed a cost-effective solution as they sought to build an intuitive SaaS platform for teachers, students, and principals.

ThinkCERCA

The Solution

We were able to meet this client’s needs for scale, speed, and cost-effectiveness by engaging our nearshore engineering team. Based in Argentina, we were able to match working hours, and integrate quickly with the internal team. We provided an autonomous team that included Ember.js, React.js, and Ruby on Rails developers, a business analyst, and QA resources to build an evolved teacher lesson library and grading experience. Our team provided end-to-end service and guidance to the client by developing the product roadmap, supplying resources, and performing QA.

Results

Our client scaled-up quickly, moving from two developers to three parallel teams in just four months. They reduced time-to-market by 225% thanks to streamlined engineering and collaboration capabilities. They saved 40% on resource costs over a three-year period, compared to estimated costs to staff the team internally from Chicago.

Robotics Scheduling Software

Robotics Engineering Services Company

Robotics Scheduling Software

In 2020, the world changed forever because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sudden shut down of office and work environments was a shock, and the challenge only deepened when business leaders tried to understand how to introduce employees back into their in-person commercial spaces.

Challenge

We were approached by an engineering company that specializes in advanced technologies because they wanted to explore ways to use their robotic solutions to increase health and safety outcomes in workspaces and for its customers.

This company had built a disinfection Mobile Industrial Robot (MiR) by attaching industrial-grade UV lights to an existing robotic base. Customers could activate this robot when spaces were unoccupied to sanitize and disinfect work areas thanks to pre-built software to build and run sanitizing activities.

The challenge was that there was no mechanism to schedule those sanitizing activities. Our client’s customers also needed to schedule activities in advance with frequently recurring options.

Our client needed to address the scheduling issue quickly because with COVID-19, speed-to-market was critical.

Solution

Valence was engaged to develop scheduling software to run alongside the MiR software. The scheduling software was developed inside a docker container which ran on the Windows-based PC installed in the MiR base.

With this software, users could connect to the disinfection robot WiFi network and easily create activities or schedules by selecting from a list of existing activities and adding options like start time and recurrence.

Users could also check the status of the robot and run other MiR utilities from the same page.

Behind the scenes, the new scheduling software periodically checked the list of scheduled activities to ensure they launched as planned. A reporting function was added so users could see what was scheduled to run and what was recently accomplished.

Technologies used include: Doctor, JavaScript Express WebApp, Mongo Database, NPM Agenda Service, NPM AgendaDash Service, and MiR Robot APIs.

Results

Our client completed the UVC disinfection robot ahead of schedule and delivered this highly anticipated product to the market creating a new revenue stream and meeting an important health and safety need.

Architecture

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Virtual Reality Application

Space Needle

Virtual Reality Application

Since its grand opening in 1962, the Space Needle is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. This treasured Seattle icon is recognized for its 520′ saucer-shaped “top house”, which offers visitors a 360-degree panoramic view of Seattle and its surrounding landscape.

The Space Needle underwent a multi-year $100M renovation, including a glass rotating floor, to preserve the landmark and inspire the next generation of visitors.

Challenge

Because the preservation and renovation project was prolonged over multiple years, the Space Needle needed to engage and excite the market about the upcoming experience, even when the first-person live experience was unavailable.

To build anticipation for its re-opening, Space Needle also needed to attract media and influencer excitement around updates like the thrilling all-glass rotating floor.

Solution

Valence was engaged to create a 4D Virtual Reality immersive experience the blends drone footage, 360-degree panoramas, beautifully detailed models, and digitally triggered physical elements into a custom-built stage.

The experience incorporated advanced VR locomotion techniques to give users the illusion of walking through large-scale spaces, and physical queues such as haptics and windpipes to give users the sensation of standing on a rotating floor or sitting in the open air.

Results

The Space Needle met its pre-launch press and influencer goals, driving multiple articles in technology, tourism, and local publications such as GeekWire, Facility Executive Magazine, King5 News, VRFocus, and The Puget Sound Business Journal.

Geekwire

“Seeing is believing, but not really—feeling is believing,” Olson said. “And that’s why we created this.” – Karen Olson, COO of the Space Needle

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Cloud Enablement

PrecisionHawk

Cloud Enablement

PrecisionHawk is a commercial drone and data company, dedicated to empowering enterprises with actionable intelligence about their physical assets. PrecisionHawk applies artificial intelligence (AI) to its drone footage to create aerial data. PrecisionHawk serves the agriculture industry, and in fact its name comes from the name “wine hawk” because its first drones chased pest birds from vineyards.

Challenge

PrecisionHawk needed to improve its data architecture to further optimize its AI and client results. While PrecisionHawk has an industry-leading team of internal technologists, the specific challenge with its data structure required specialized skills.

Solution

Valence was engaged to analyze PrecisionHawk’s data architecture and make recommendations for improvement; and then to implement those recommendations.

After a discovery process, Valence  proposed an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Data Pipeline as a web service that would reliably process and move data between different AWS compute and storage services, as well as on-premises data sources, at specified intervals.  We then moved on-premise ETL (extract, transform, and load) processes to an AWS Data Pipeline. The solution uses the AWS cloud for data processing and transformation in a data pipeline.

Results

The solution helped PrecisionHawk to easily create complex data processing workloads that are fault tolerant, repeatable, and highly available. It allows resource availability, managing inter-task dependencies, retrying transient failures or timeouts in individual tasks, or creating a failure notification system. Using the cloud, it also allows the client to move and process data that was previously locked up in on-premises data silos.

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Voice & Chat with Natural Language Processing

Innovation Lab

Voice & Chat with Natural Language Processing

At Valence, we help enterprise customers understand and apply next-generation technologies in a smart and innovative way to advance business goals. We often experiment with these technologies within our own business, testing and tweaking how we design, develop, and deploy innovation. It often begins by identifying a simple challenge.

Challenge

After conducting research and interviews with our clients in healthcare, we identified an opportunity to address an operational bottleneck resulting from patient confusion around treatment and appointment information.

In healthcare settings, patients are often responsible for managing their own care plan. This can include being accountable for understanding their health or diagnosis, navigating healthcare systems to identify specialists, and scheduling their own care. Because of the variables and their novice understanding of the healthcare system, time is lost to scheduling errors and misunderstandings about process and providers.

Solution

Our innovation lab had previously experimented with voice and chat frameworks for other client projects. We decided to use those frameworks as the foundation for a voice and chat enabled personal assistant that could use artificial intelligence to support patients as they navigate their care.

The goals were to provide patients with a personalized experience, providing assistance specific to their care throughout the full lifecycle of an appointment. Features included driving directions, reminders, custom Q&A, and follow–up information.

We extended our voice and chat framework with a domain-specific natural language processor and symptom diagnosis engine.

Results

The proof of concept proved effective in supporting patients quickly. The framework was tested to carry out diagnoses on 520 unique patients. Based on keyboard inputs, the engine took an average of 41 seconds to give an accurate result. Voice inputs also resulted in an impressive 53-seconds average time to a correct answer.