Gadi Amit’s studio New Deal Design has collaborated with tech start-up Helm to create a home server to save people from “being caught up in the next massive online breach”.
The Helm personal server takes key internet services — primarily email — out of the cloud, from where people commonly access the likes of Google’s Gmail, and stores this data in encrypted form within the device.
“Using cloud-based email services means signing away your rights and allowing third-parties access to the information being stored on them,” said Helm.
“Helm allows you to take control of your online life and communicate with confidence — free from worries of surveillance, corporate oversight, or being caught up in the next massive online breach.”
Helm is designed to make data security — a hot topic in the wake of this year’s Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal — virtually plug-and-play. Set-up is promised to take only a few minutes, with users being guided through the process of setting up their own custom domain (or integrating their existing one).
The personal server sits within the home, but its email and other services like calendars and contacts are still accessible from anywhere in the world.
To develop the server, Helm worked with New Deal Design, the San Francisco-based studio known for designing the Fitbit.
The designers came up with an idiosyncratic peaked shape for the device, which in addition to invoking the image of a gabled roof on a house, has the benefit of keeping the device cool by allowing air to flow under its base.
“Creating an object containing sensitive personal data reliably for years required both symbolic and technical design of a high order,” said Amit, the founder and president of New Deal Design.
“The ‘hut’ design was selected as it created a solid-state cooling solution for the electronics — essential for longevity — combined with great expandability and a gentle cue for an icon of dwelling.”
The design is also stackable — the 120GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage can be expanded by up to five terabytes in this way. Helm imagines that customers will want to make this kind of upgrade over time.
The personal server’s aluminium base also helps with cooling, as well as with anchoring the device down. Helm says the design is one that can “disappear into a server closet or stand out elegantly on a kitchen counter or coffee table”.
“In a sea of bland box servers and aggressive security messaging, the Helm hardware design language reflects the qualities and values of the company’s mission around privacy — strong and tough without being menacing or aggressive; modern, straightforward and minimalist but also expressive and human,” said Erik Askin, New Deal Design’s industrial design manager.
Amit is one of the world’s leading technology designers. As well as the Fitbit, his studio has worked on the Buzz anti-sexual assault wearable, the stick-on Fever Scout child thermometer, the Whistle pet tracker and the Scrip tactile payment device.
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