For this assignment we needed to pick 10 ideas from our previous work and do some preliminary market research. The purpose of the exercise is to determine if there are any products currently on the market similar to our idea and to get a feel for how much people are willing to pay for similar products.
Below are the 10 ideas I decided to research with some of the notes and related products I found.
1) Fake Poop or some other disgusting thing on the door handles: The point of this idea is to put something in the bathroom that will make people really want to wash their hands. I found a wide range of fake poop gag and novelty products. Most of which were plastic and sold for around $8. I did find a shaving cream can that dispensed brown cream. Patents for these products were hard.
2) & 3) A sink basin that emits light, either statically or dynamically. Static sink lights would be mainly an aesthetic design to entice people to the sink. I was only able to find one lit sink for sale, one as a showcase design, and one as a design concept. The one you can buy was around $50, which matched some of the other just lit faucet designs I found. Faucet attachments with a single light were as low as $3, but for temperature controlled light were $20.
4) & 5) Timed sink lights, or timed process (step) indicator. Timed sink lights would be similar to the above products, only the lights would correspond to how long you need to wash your hands. In my search for lit sinks I found nothing that combined them with hand washing. However, I was able to find a plethora of hand wash timers. These products ranged from industrial use costing over $60, to home use costing as little as $10. One interesting design attached the timer to most standard soap dispensers and played Disney tunes. There are also a number of patents relating to timed hand washers. However, for as many patents and products that are out there, I have never seen these products in the real-world. The other idea was to use LEDs to indicate to the user which step of the process they were on, this patent, takes it one step further and controls the faucet, soap, and hand dryers as well.
6) Gumball soap dispenser. This would be a soap dispenser that looked similar to a gumball machine. Each ball of soap would be a different color and scent, with each use being a random choice. The scents could range from mild (cherry, vanilla, etc.) to more extreme for kids (fart, dirt), I was unable to find anything like this online. Scented soap however, is nothing new. Also, ball soap is fairly common as well, However, nothing is scented strongly, nor single use.
7) & 8) Hand wash monitor or detector. These two ideas ensure that the user has properly washed their hands or at least remains at the sink and alerts the user if they do not. My idea was to use a Microsoft Kinect in the restroom that would monitor people as they enter and walk about the room (not in the stalls though). I found no mention of people using the Kinect to track people in restrooms, nor any other video monitoring. However, there is SureWash, which is only a hand washing technique monitor to show people proper washing routines. Another method was to use a chemical in the soap that would be detected as the user leaves the room. This technology is part of a system used in HyGreen, which I'll talk about below.
9) Effective Signage. The most simplistic idea, just using more effective signs to promote more hand washing. There have been a few studies done on this. Hand wash signs are typically $5-20 depending on the quality of the sign, but could also be a printed sheet of paper ~1cent.
10) RFID Tags. Similar to the restroom monitor, this idea would use RFID tags to register when a user has entered the bathroom and used the sink. Surprisingly, I found a number of these systems that have been implemented in hospitals. HyGreen, HyGenius, Centrak, and HandGiene Corp all sell hand monitor systems. The healthcare worker wears an RFID badge at all times, the badge is registered when the worker enters a room. If the badge has not been scanned at a wash station since their last bed visit, the badge vibrates to remind them to wash. Stats are automatically uploaded and can be viewed from a main database. None of these websites give an estimate of the price for their system, but I can only assume it's extremely expensive.
After this research I decided to move ahead with the following three ideas: Gumball Soap, Lit/Timed Sink, and Kinect Restroom Monitor.
1) Gumball Soap: Since scented soap is easily done, ball soap exists, and gumball machines are also around, the feasibility of this idea is very high. Background search yielded no obvious results, so it's novel, and kids like gumballs, so the idea is marketable. However, the main market for this idea will be kid-restaurant owners (e.g. Chuck-E-Cheese, or McDonalds Play areas), but also a children's hospital. It doesn't make sense to ask a kid how much they would pay for it, but ask if they would use soap like this. I was able to ask a couple kids, and they both expressed an interest, but were not overly excited about the idea. From a cost perspective, the product would have to be as cheap, or at least not too much more expensive than a standard commercial soap dispenser $30-60. Since I am just combining current products, I can evaluate the consumer cost of them and take off a percent for bulk purchases.
$20 for a gumball machine, and ~$5 for bulk scented ball soap. $25 per dispenser - 20% bulk purchases, and x4 for retail price is about $80. So a little more expensive, but promotes better health which can have other benefits.
The sketch model below was used to answer the question: Would kids find a multi-colored soap dispenser more enticing than a normal dispenser?
2) The Lit/Timed Sink: The closest product on the market to this is the LED Sink Basin for ~$50. The sink found had nothing to do with hand washing, so the idea is novel, a timed light and lit basin are simple designs so it's feasible, and people like arty sinks, so the idea has some market potential, depending on the physical design on the sink. I imagined this product to be made from a frosted clear plastic to diffuse the light and give an interesting effect. 15lb of ABS plastic is $15, with $5 of electronics and $5 of LEDs, plus perhaps another $5 in sink hardware, for a total cost of $30, retail price $300. Which is perhaps a bit high, but not completely outside the realm of reality.
Since it was impractical to model a complete sink with lights, I opted to just answer the question: would people follow a hand washing timer? This sketch model simply uses lights to show the user when enough time has passed for hand washing.
3) Kinect Restroom Monitor: This product would be a Kinect setup in the restroom to monitor the activity of the user. If a user fails to wash their hands, their image is taken and stored on a central computer that can be access by the building owner. My background research found no applications of the Kinect in a restroom, but plenty of companies have done other types of hand washing monitors, so the idea is mostly novel. These current systems are extremely expensive and bulky for the user, so a cheaper and less obtrusive solution is marketable. And the Kinect has been shown to track multiple people in a room with little difficulty, so it's definitely feasible. The Kinect system retails for $140, but buying in bulk could yield ~20% savings, plus a computer to handle the video processing would be another $80. However, since most of the cost would be in the software development and little in manufacturing and labor, the retail price would probably be around $1000 per system. Perhaps a bit too expensive for a local restaurant, but if it saves them a fine from the health inspector for employees that don't wash their hands, it would be worth the initial cost. That being said, the primary market for this product is service industry owners, or any other business where employees must wash their hands before returning to work. Unfortunately I do not know any restaurant owners so I was unable to ask them how much they would pay for a system like this.
A prototype of the system is a bit difficult without trying to implement the technology completely, so the picture below is simply the output of some Kinect tracking data.