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Core methods for design of safety-critical systems. Securing the translation of analysis to design.

Type of project
The Norwegian Research Council, Halogen AS, ABB
01.09.2015 -> 31.08.2018

About the project

Safety-critical systems are those systems whose failure could result in loss of life, significant property damage, or damage to the environment. There are many well known examples in application areas such as medical devices, aircraft flight control, weapons, and nuclear systems. Many modern information systems are becoming safety-critical in a general sense, because financial loss and even loss of life can result from their failure.

Design projects in these environments can be highly sensitive and demanding. In addition to traditional design skills, the environment requires an understanding of the limitations and possibilities of humans in high-stress situations. However, the average design practitioner has limited knowledge in identifying and recognizing the operator’s cognitive limitations and workload. In often demanding project environments, designers can also lack the disciplinary vocabulary and expertise to argument for his or hers design solution. The challenge consists in how to translate the disciplinary knowledge from Human Factors and findings from the analysis in to good design. In worst case the design can end up being more damaging than valuable for the operator. Nevertheless, if solved the result would not just have a positive impact on operators of safety-critical systems, but also significantly empower the designers and design projects.

The object of my research is professional design practitioners’ approach to design for safety-critical systems, and how  Situational Awareness theory can be utilized to design safe, intuitive and appealing systems. Here my focus is on the early stages of product development where there often exist uncertainties in scope, ambition and lack of formalizations.