Preliminary Idea Evaluation
To objectively evaluate my top ten ideas from last week, I wrote a short survey asking participants to put a monetary value on my developing products. I submitted the survey to Amazon's Mechanical Turk and paid 14 online users to share their opinions.
I gave each product a "marketability score" equal to the number of participants who said they would buy the product plus one half the number of participants who said someone they know would buy the product. I further evaluated the five ideas with the highest marketability scores and compared the average price participants said they would pay to an estimated manufacturing cost for the product.
Heated Windshield Wipers:
The most marketable idea was "heated windshield wipers that remove ice and snow from the windshield of a car, in addition to rain." Though the idea isn't novel--innumerable patents have been placed--the concept is ripe for improvement. I constructed a two-by-two showing that there are many simple, low-end wipers that rely on friction or a separate de-icing agent and two complex, high-end wipers that use an active heating system. There appears to be an open market for a simple heated windshield wiper with a compact design. Neither heated windshield wiper on the market is built to be used year-round, a feature that could be valuable in a new design. Also note that there is an open but likely unfavorable market in complicated, chemical-based windshield wipers.
The other most popular idea also involved cleaning car windshields. I described it as "a modular windshield that removes ice and snow from the front of a car." It involves a thin, transparent coating that revolves around the windshield and displaces snow and ice. I found a patent that also involves moving windows on a vehicle.
The greatest design challenge for this product is engineering a system that makes effective use of the ultra-thin glass technology available to remove snow from a windshield. The concept must be further refined to reach an accurate manufacturing cost estimate. The survey participants were willing to pay $266 on average for this product.
One idea that proved surprisingly marketable was "a small package that expands into a portable lifeboat the size of a queen-size bed." The original idea was meant to rescue winter drowning victims, but I expect some of my survey participants were interested in the product for recreational purposes. The closest product that I could find on the market was the folding kayak, a very portable boat for a single passenger. I also found a patent for a folding lifeboat.
The greatest design challenge for this product is developing a method of rapidly expanding a small and portable package into a large floating object. A rough estimate of the retail price for a rapidly expanding lifeboat is $119, which is ten times an estimated materials cost where $6.90 is spent on six pounds of rubber, $4 is spent on four pounds of steel, and $1 is spent on miscellaneous expenses. This is on par with the $108 the survey participants were willing to pay on average.
Snowmobile Automatic Crash Response
The fourth most popular idea was "an automatic emergency response system built into a snowmobile that alerts medical personal when the snowmobile is crashed." Many cars feature similar systems that could easily and affordably be applied to a snowmobile. I was particularly interested in Ford's Sync system which utilizes bluetooth and smartphones to make the technology cheaper. The patent for this technology is (somewhat disputably) held by Eagle Harbor Holdings.
The greatest design challenge for this product is reducing the retail price. In my research I found forums discussing the concept. It seemed that online snow mobile enthusiasts had limited interest in adding to the cost of their snowmobiles. I wasn't entirely sure how to estimate the cost of developing the mostly digital technology. Paying a team of five app developers each $15 per hour for 100 hours would cost $7500. This cost would be spread across numerous snowmobiles however. My survery participants were only willing to pay $81 on average (removing an outlier who was willing to pay $2000), reinforcing my findings that the retail price is a major limiting factor. Ford's Sync system is substantially more expensive at $395.
Clothing with GPS and Automatic Emergency Response
The last popular idea was "an automatic emergency response system built into a hat that alerts medical personal when the wearer of the hat is submerged in dangerously cold water." I found one patent that features socks utilizing GPS technology for many purposes, including emergency situations.
The greatest design challenge for this project is engineering a relatively small GPS device that functions underwater. A rough estimate of the retail price for clothing with integrated GPS technology is $120, which is ten times an estimated materials cost where $2 is spent on fabric, and $10 is spent on electronics and miscellaneous expenses. My survey participants were willing to pay $84 on average for this product.