When the RNLI Callout and Messaging System (RCAMS) was first created and piloted to 50 stations around the UK, the overriding feedback from users is that the system was very difficult to use and therefore impacted the operation of Lifeboat Stations around the country.
A survey established that user-adoption appears to have faltered. Of the 41 stations surveyed, only 22 were using it properly, 16 weren’t using it at all, and nearly half said usability was an issue.
RCAMS is a fundamental platform for the RNLI, as its main purpose is to contact crew members, around the country to respond to an emergency. The system also allows crew members to manage their availability so that the Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) can track crewing levels and run station operations in the most efficient way.
Greenwood Campbell looked at several options to re-platform RCAMS. We conducted in-depth research on the user requirements against the business KPIs and consequently identified a Progressive Web App (PWA) as the most effective platform to create.
Speed of development and reactivity to feedback when developing a PWA is incomparably better to building native apps. Working closely with the RNLI teams and remote testing user groups, we had to make sure that all processes and deployment pipelines are set to the highest standards.
We split the project into sprints and created prototypes in which we were able to test with volunteers and crew members across the country. We needed to ensure that designs were both user-friendly and functional, allowing station managers and crew to manage their time/station more efficiently.
The prototypes went through several rounds of iterations to incorporate the feedback gathered from key users and were then signed off ready to move into the development phase.
We pushed the capabilities of PWA’s to the limit. From homescreen ‘installable’ shortcuts, through advanced caching strategy, offline mode handling, to push notifications and compatibility alignments between multiple operating systems and devices - we’ve covered them all.
Single Page Application architecture and dealing with near-real-time API’s forced the decision of building custom components for almost every section of the app. Detailed UI design, thoroughly planned user experience and weeks of internal testing, resulted in an application that was welcomed by the end users with positive feedback starting with the very first deployment.
The crew member was highly impressed with the system as he had added his wife as his ‘additional notification person’. He was due to pick up his children from a childminder when his RCAMS Alert went off for an Emergency Lifeboat Call. He attended the call and because his wife was alerted on her mobile phone, she went to collect their children instead of him.
This is a great example of one way RCAMS can assist crew members and their families to manage any domestic commitments, and be on call for the RNLI.
After we rolled out RCAMS on 9th April, the RNLI had all crew members registered by the following morning, which was timely, as they received a ‘shout’ on day 2.
Even more importantly, the shout occurred whilst many crew members were at a funeral in Newcastle for a long-serving lifeboat volunteer and RNLI employee. The LOM was in a town nearby and couldn’t get to the station, but through RCAMS he could see which crew were near the station and was able to delegate launching duties to them. They could also confirm “we have enough people to launch so we’re launching without waiting for others”.
"RCAMS has given us the ability to understand our availability and our response levels in real time. Now we’ve got one unified way across the whole of the RNLI. One system makes it easier for everybody. Ultimately this is going to help us with our goal of saving lives at sea."Dave Turnbull