A few months ago I submitted my product, Flux, into the Active and Assisted Living (AAL) Challenge prize competition. The competition requires you to create a solution that uses internet connectivity and the Internet of Things to empower older adults to achieve the quality of life to which they aspire, both socially and independently. Five entries will progress to the next round, and the best of those five will be awarded €50,000 at the AAL Forum in Switzerland in September.
I passed the first round, and was given the opportunity to attend the Innovation Academy in Brussels with 13 other finalists to get business mentoring, attend relevant workshops and to pitch our idea. The objective of the academy was to support finalists to enhance the quality of their projects and business case in a supportive and engaging atmosphere.
I’m really grateful for the opportunity this competition has given me. It was a very accessible entry process, only requiring you to have a prototype of your idea by the academy day. You don’t already have to be an established business or close to launch, so that allowed someone like me with an early stage concept to enter alongside people who were further along in the process.
At the time of completing my final year of university, despite many people stating they’d love to buy such a product for their elderly relatives, I didn’t feel I was in a position to take the product to market myself as I was yet to have any real-world, first-hand business experience. Now that I’ve worked as a User Experience Designer for two years, I’ve gained experience and confidence in my ability to develop this project further myself, with this competition being the perfect platform to do so.
A key topic of discussion at the academy was business models and plans, with a 10-page summary of your business plan to be submitted by the 17th of August. I will need to work hard over the next month to understand the commercial business viability of this product, and prove that it’s a worthwhile investment. After this session I also have left feeling inspired to seek out other methods of funding and investment to allow me to get this product launched to market.
The first step I’d need to take in regard to product development is to start working with a software developer who could help ensure the platform is stable and reliable, to allow me to leave working prototypes in peoples homes and undertake more in-depth user testing and analysis. I’d also like to improve the physical appearance of the device, iterating with every round of testing and working towards using more lightweight, practical materials.
I’d also further explore and develop the functionality itself. Currently, the idea is that you can call out to your family hangout group, or answer a call should they ring you. I will look at introducing the ability to call individuals within that group, creating new social groups and controlling this all via a web application which would be tied to the buying and setup process.
So now its time to buckle down and spend the next month researching business plans and putting together my submission to hopefully get me to the next round!