PetiteBeat Sydney Genesis

Design thinking leads to more than just great ideas

16 July 2018
Students use design techniques to develop new healthcare product
A human-centred design approach has led three masters students to create a new product allowing expectant mothers to connect with their unborn child.

Increasingly, business leaders are employing design thinking in the workplace as a means of fostering innovation and strategy. Emulating the process a designer might go through when creating something new, this series of actions begins with identifying the problem to be solved, brainstorming ideas for solutions, prototyping these ideas, identifying problems with the prototype and repeating the process. For masters students Franziska Seehuber, Anna Maria Natlacen and Jessica Watts, a unit on design thinking sparked an idea that has kickstarted a new career path.


With a background in biomedical engineering, Master of Interaction Design and Electronic Arts student Franziska Seehuber is familiar with the pivotal role design and technology plays in the health sector. Partnering up with digital communications student Anna and architectural sciences student Jessica in their design thinking class, the trio formed a multi-discipinary collaboration to respond to a project brief set by industry partners based at Westmead Hospital. 

We like our students to see how they can tackle real world problems through design thinking.
Dr Naseem Ahmadpour, Design Thinking lecturer

The brief identified a need within the healthcare sector for design researchers to work with technology and human-centred care. Within the team there was a particular interest in using technology to empower women and, using this as a starting point, the group’s research identified a gap in the area of pre-natal care. The students found that developing an emotional connection with their unborn child was a high priority for the majority of the 800+ mothers surveyed. The team also identified that most women want their pregnancies to be a natural experience, rather than a medical one. With these concepts in mind, they got to work developing PetiteBeat, a pillow with sensors that monitor and amplify the heartbeat of unborn babies. 

“PetiteBeat consists of a foetal heartbeat monitor and a pillow which amplifies the baby’s heartbeat through, light, sound and vibration,” Franziska explains. “The concept is simple, there is no need for an app or a digital experience. It gives the mother a feeling of reassurance and control while simultaneously creating intimate moments between parents, siblings and family”. 

Franziska Seehuber, Anna Maria Natlacen and Jessica Watts

Further research confirmed that this was a gap in the market, with 300 of 500 mothers presented with the prototype demonstrating a desire to purchase PetiteBeat. The next step for the group was to develop a business strategy. The students entered, and won, the Sydney Genesis competition, which provides access to business workshops, resources, pitching opportunities and one-on-one mentoring. After receiving a prize of $5,000 in venture funding and entry to the Innovation Hub’s HatchLab Program, the team hope to have a first pilot product on the market by the end of the year.

Reflecting on the learning experience that started it all, Franziska said: “Design thinking is an inter-disciplinary skill. It helps you develop projects that actually matter and shows you that any good idea can be taken further.” 

In 2019 the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and planning is launching the Master of Design, a new degree focused on using design thinking and human-centred design to achieve innovation and inform strategic outcomes in real-world projects. Students will learn how to apply design methods and processes to tackle complex problems, develop solutions and devise strategies for innovation practices that lead to a strategic advantage in the market. 

Find out more about the new Master of Design.

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