Mobile Service Innovation 2016

Spring 2016,  M/W 1:30-3:30 pm

Attention entrepreneurs, designers, and engineers!
In this course, students will learn tools and processes for innovating mobile services involving the interaction between humans and technology. Students will learn about issues of mobility and value-creation in the service sector. Throughout the semester, students will work with an interdisciplinary team to understand unmet user needs and frame a problem, to generate diverse concepts, to mock-up and compare alternatives, to prototype a mobile service concept, and to assess its technical feasibility, financial viability, and desirability. Ultimately, student teams will choose a mobile service concept and produce a plan with a business model and a video sketch suitable for launching a crowdfunding campaign. To inform the innovation process, students will learn new techniques for leveraging social media and crowdsourcing to discover users' needs and to obtain feedback on preliminary concepts. Through selected readings, this course aims to provide a foundation on ubiquitous computing, service design, business modelling, creativity methods, crowdsourcing, and crowdfunding. 

Learning Objectives

Students will learn how to adopt an empirical approach to innovation. How to test beliefs. How to alternate between exploration and focus. How to reframe problems and explore/refine design solutions. Students will learn to conduct productive design critiques and interviews with potential stakeholders. How to pivot.

Leverage the internet for research, ideation, and feedback. Students will learn how to use Web-based resources — including online collections, Web analytics, crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, and social media — to inform and drive an innovation process. How to collect feedback online. How to conduct an A-B test.

Articulate value in the mobile service market. Students will learn about the emerging market for location-based, just in time, context aware, and highly social applications. They will learn how to assess and communicate value proposition. How to conduct a competitive analysis. How to visually represent a service design that comprises people and computers.  How to pitch your idea through writing, oral-visual presentation, and video.

Course Topics

  • Mobile information services 
  • Value proposition, business models 
  • Need-finding, interviewing, analyzing social media
  • Divergent thinking, brainstorming, generating alternatives
  • Synthesis techniques and problem framing
  • Storytelling, storyboarding, and video production
  • Prototyping/blueprinting for mobile services
  • Crowdsourcing and A-B testing

Projects from past years

These projects are from full semester courses, so we're not expecting your projects to be as complete.

    Geekline connects individuals who need help learning new technologies with tech savvy mentors through community workshops. 
  Prototype  Team Folder  Prototype  Video

    Missing a great event because no one wants to go? Clique helps create new social connections around events. Find new friends and buy tickets for concerts, sports, and shows. Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder   Video
Discover where your creativity unfolds with Locadora, an app that helps creative individuals find inspiring places to innovate. 
Kickstarter  Prototype  Website  Team Folder  Video 

    Wander makes travel planning fun and easy by allowing globetrotters to collaboratively discover and adopt travel itineraries from others. 
Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder  Video 

    GiftBook makes gift giving less stressful, less time consuming, and more fun by helping you find inspired and highly personalized gift ideas for friends and family. Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder   Video 

    Salt & Pepper helps foodies connect with local chefs for unique personalized cooking experiences, from choosing the freshest ingredients to mastering the kitchen.Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder  Video 

    FitMate helps runners and other athletes connect with new workout partners, enter challenges together, and motivate active lifestyles. 
Kickstarter  Prototype   Team Folder  Video 

    DropBy offers fast and cheap shipping from local retailers by opportunistically enlisting other shoppers as delivery drivers. 
Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder  Website

    Sunny Side Up offers convenient, affordable breakfast delivery to working professionals. Kickstarter  Prototype  Team Folder  Video

     UrbanBite is an online marketplace for homemade food that allows urbanites to buy home cooked meals and sell their own dishes to others. Kickstarter  Prototype  All deliverables
     VICI is a social mobile app that offers themed scavenger hunts in multiple locations and allows users to explore and learn about their cities. Kickstarter  Prototype  All deliverables
     HUE is an e-commerce service that provides a seamless shopping with multiple brands and allows shoppers to create and visualize outfits with different looks. Kickstarter  Prototype  All deliverables
     Spotter is an app that helps drivers easily find parking spots by providing information on public parking spot availability and letting users rent out their personal parking spots. Kickstarter  Prototype  All deliverables
     SmartPark+ allows people to pay for parking through their mobile phone. It works by scanning a QR code that would automatically pair their car to the spot until they returned....more
     Get a low-cost data plan for your visit to the US. No advance planning, pick it up at the baggage claim. Return it from any airport. ...more
     Get the best deal on the street right now. Keep your restaurant or shop full with just-in-time, just-enough discounts. ...more
     SportUp has two main functions: polling and betting. The user purchases a team's season that he wishes to follow and participate in polls and bets happening throughout the game. ...more
     Rwanda Headlines provides news items to cell phone users in a place where newspapers are expensive and television rare. ...more
     Family book provides a photo-sharing app specialized for sharing family pictures and creating summary books for special occasions. ...more
     A service designed to help disabled voters learn about voting locations and to arrange carpools on voting day....more
     A website service and certification board to help consumers identify restaurants that responsibly recycle their food waste....more


Jim Morris is a professor of Computer Science and HCI. For ten years he worked the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center where he was part of the team that developed a precursor to today's personal computers. He directed the project that developed the Andrew system. He served as department head, then dean in the School of Computer Science. He held the Herbert A. Simon Professorship of Human Computer Interaction. He was the dean of the Silicon Valley campus from 2004 to 2009. He is a founder of the MAYA Design Group, a consulting firm specializing in interactive product design. He also founded the Human Computer Interaction Institute, Robot Hall of Fame, and Silicon Valley Campus. 

Kit Needham is Entrepreneur in Residence at Project Olympus. She provides students start-up advice, business strategy planning, connections to industry experts, advisors and the business community. She is a technical advisor to BlueTree Allied Angels and serves on the Screening Committee. She is an Advisory Board member of Chatham University's Center for Women's Entrepreneurship and teaches in their MBA program. She also provides consulting services to promote economic growth to Chambers of Commerce, individual entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations.

The Grading Process
The goal of the coursework is to produce a promising and persuasive innovation plan. Such a plan has some relatively independent components:
  • How does it work? A Credible Implementation Plan (15%)
  • Why does everyone want it? A  Value Proposition that Attracts all needed Stakeholders (20%)
  • What is its secret? A Reason Why it Will Succeed Where Others Fail (15%)
  • How will people adopt it? A Go-To-Market Plan with a Growth Model (15%)
  • Compelling Presentations of the above for Customers, Partners, and Investors (20%)
  • Class Participation and Peer Evaluations (15%)
This year, we are trying a new, radical way to assign grades: As the semester progresses we will assign each component of a team's developing plan a grade between A and F. Once a component has an A, further work on it won't raise a team's  grade.

At periodic intervals we will conduct intra-team surveys in which teammates rate each other's contributions. The Peer Evaluations part of the grade depends on our interpretation of these ratings. Further advice.


We will supply copies of important readings, but you might find it more convenient to have books for some the the more valuable ones. Here is a list of such books:

Business Model Generation is a good description of all the components of a business. It doesn't say much about how to create them, however.

The Startup Owner's Manual provides many detailed descriptions of how to create an innovative business.

Innovating for People presents thirty-six design techniques. (We can't supply copies of this one.)

The Lean Startup is a popularization of  The Startup Owner's Manual. There are also some free summaries.

Zero to One, by Peter Thiel has some good ideas about  startups.


All assigned readings are stored in a Box folder here, restricted to Carnegie Mellon people.

Sharing Student Work
As you can see from the examples above, projects from each edition of MSI are made available to everyone. You are free to use any ideas or techniques you learn from them (or even from projects from this year's class), but please acknowledge any sources from which you learn something useful. Since your work will be shown to future students, you are relinquishing exclusive ownership of it when you submit it to this course.