How do I turn a conservation tech project into a product?

In this Tech Tutors episode, Shah Selbe answered the question, How do I turn a conservation tech project into a product? In this episode, he discusses how to scale an innovative conservation tech project into a product anyone can use, and teach us some key lessons from his experiences with Fieldkit. 

Date published: 2021/10/20

About the Series

Welcome to the third season of WILDLABS Tech Tutors, the series that answers the "how do I do that?" questions of conservation tech! Brought to you with the support of Microsoft AI for Earth, Tech Tutors is made for conservation tech beginners of all knowledge levels (and yes, even experts can still be beginners when it comes to tackling a new aspect of conservation tech or starting a new project.). Our Tech Tutors will give you the bite-sized, easy-to-understand building blocks you'll need to try new conservation technology, enhance your research, DIY a project for the first time, or simply explore the possibilities.

Taking place every Thursday, each Tech Tutor will present a 30 minute tutorial guiding you through an aspect of conservation tech, followed by a 30 minute live Q&A session with the audience.

What do you gain as a Tech Tutors participant? You'll leave each episode with the confidence to build on the skills discussed in these tutorials, and you'll have an ongoing opportunity to learn and collaborate with other members of the WILDLABS community! The connections made through the past seasons of Tech Tutors have led to real projects and results, and our third season is set to introduce you to even more new ideas and community members who are ready to start something new! 

Can't make it to an episode this season? Don't worry! You can find every tutorial after it airs on our Youtube channel, and you can collaborate and ask questions in each episode's thread on the WILDLABS Tech Tutors forum.

Want to catch up on Tech Tutors Seasons One and Two? Find links to our episodes' recordings and resources here and here.

Meet Your Tech Tutor: Shah Selbe

Shah Selbe is an engineer, conservation technologist, National Geographic Explorer and Fellow and a former spacecraft engineer. He is also the founder of Conservify, where he led the development of the revolutionary open-source software and hardware platform FieldKit. It provides a low-cost tool for conservationists all over the world to easily collect and share field-based research data and communicate through interactive visuals. The aim is to eliminate barriers in conservation technology and empower local communities so that anyone can deliver on their conservation aims. Shah has built and deployed low-cost conservation drones for coastal monitoring, open source environmental monitoring sensor networks in the Okavango Delta and the Amazon rainforest, acoustic monitoring buoys in the Pacific, and much more. 

We asked Shah... 

What will I learn in this episode?

You will learn how to take your project from a conservation tech prototype to an actual product that anyone can use. A lot of things need to be done in order to create something useful, whether it is a hardware product, smartphone app, or software tool. During this episode we will discuss what to think about when you want to take your project to the next level, including key considerations, working with potential users, common pitfalls, lessons learned, and the design process we use for Fieldkit. We will also cover user design, feedback and iteration, as well as specific conservation tech-related strategies and ways to think about growth and funding. 

How can I learn more about this subject?

You can learn more about the principles covered here by reading things about product development, user design, DFMAT (design for manufacturing, assembly, and test), and different technology development methodologies. Over the last few years we worked with a number of experts to work through things like UI/UX, user design, hardware development, best practices for creating apps, software development approaches, how to build a team, technical support, and all the complications that come with selling a product. Some of that has been documented on the FieldKit blog and in videos on our YouTube page.  

If I want to take the next step, where should I start?

For those looking to take the next step, you should start by better understanding the types of people that will be using your product. By understanding their needs and how they work on this stuff, you can make sure that you end up building the right thing in a way that will improve the outcome for everyone involved. There is also a lot to think about with respect to the technology itself, whether hardware or software, that will impact your ability to build or improve the product and how it will react to a lot of people using it.  

What advice do you have for a complete beginner in this subject?

If you are a beginner, it helps to focus on the people that will be using the thing you create and the constraints they face in doing their conservation work. Put some thought into what it takes to design something that meets their needs, resolves some pain points, is easy to use, and gives you better clarity on the features that matter. 

Are you ready to learn with Shah? Register to join Shah’s episode here!

Learn more about our upcoming Tech Tutorials

Visit the series page on WILDLABS to find the full list of WILDLABS Tech Tutors.

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Have questions for Shah? Jump into the episode discussion thread to continue the discussion.