Headsets and Glasses - RFP

A request for proposal (RFP) looking at the discomfort of wearing headsets and glasses, especially for Toronto Police communication operators who must wear them for 8 hours straight.

Full RFP here

I was responsible for the introduction sections, most of the requirements, most of the editing, and creating all the visuals. Check out my team mates' documentation of their work on this project:
Eric | Kim | Jessa

Problem illustrated

Problem Overview

My entire class was tasked with finding an interesting community that could use our help to improve their lived experience. I chose the communication operators because the department
community organization

My team agreed with my points and selected this community in favour of three other ones.

We distributed tasks such that I was responsible for contacting the community and researching community details. I eventually secured a visit to the Public Safety Answering Point (call center) after many emails, calls, and a background check - more hassle for contact than I anticipated!

At the call center, Kim noticed and suggested we investigate the discomfort of wearing headsets and glasses together, as operators must wear them for 8 continuous hours. When asked, most operators confirmed the discomfort and that they had to contacts or change glasses because of it, which caused problems of itself.

I believe this problem is highly suitable for us to explore because it

RFP Reflection

The requirements is the most important section of any RFP and also the difficult to get right. Good requirements can only come after the problem has been well understood in physical (forces), logistical (what resources are avaible or not), and social (how does the social environment influence the problem) terms. In an RFP, this understanding partially frames the problem and should be presented first in the RFP, embedded in the abstract, introduction (in our case community details), problem definition, and stakeholder explanation.

After the full understanding, high level objectives can be formed, which then each branch out into detailed objectives that can be more directly measured. I was responsible for finding metrics and constraints for our RFP, and it was very time and research intensive, but rewarding. Below is our high level objectives and the table of detailed objectives.

  1. Must reduce or eliminate discomfort caused by wearing glasses together with headsets for all operators wearing glasses.
3. Should be compatible with existing equipment and budgets.

Detailed Objective




High Level Objective 1

Accomodate different ear sizes

Height and width of ear supported (in)

Wider range is better

Height: 2.7"-2.9" Width: 1.5"-1.7" 99% of population lies in this range

Minimize strain on ear

Weight (g) of solution with headset

Less is better

<36g - weight of average headset in use

Decrease in maximum pressure (kPa) on all parts of the ear compared to current setup

More is better

>14% decrease – boundary of noticeable difference for static pressure

Prevent moisture buildup in ear

Increase in relative humidity (%) over 8 hour shift

Lower is better

<20% - the difference between normal and infected ears

High Level Objective 2

Preserve incoming and outgoing sound quality

Range of intelligibility (dB) caller volume range, measured on their phone, that can be accurately heard by operator

More is better

>20dB - difference between quiet whispering and normal conversation

Level of operator background noise heard by caller (dB)

Lower is better

<50 dB

Prevent operators having to adjust headset

Average times (number) adjustment required per 8 hour shift

Lower is better

<3 - one for each scheduled break

High Level Objective 3

Be compatible with different glass frame sizes

Range of lens widths supported (mm)

Larger is better

44mm-52mm lens width frames

Be within equipment budget

Wholesale cost ($)

Less is better

<$13,300 for all operators – communication equipment budget of 2014

Be compatible with exisitng headsets

Number of headset models compatible

More is better

>0 - at least one headset should work with solution

As you can see, the requirements are very comprehensive and relevant to this problem. However, our RFP was not selected as one of the 8 RFPs to give out to teams to pursue solutions. I believe this is because of the difficulty in measuring decibles (dB), which was included in a lot of metrics. This illustrates that strong requirements are ones that are comprehensive, relevant, and easy to measure.

The clearest area of improvement if we had more time is to specify a standard procedure for testing candidate solutions. In the current state, different teams could use drastically different means to measure for sound quality and the results would be unreliable to the point of being useless.

Gains from Experience