“It’s not a fundamental need, but it would be a real plus for our activity!”
Arianne Derron, Responsable Ecole, WWF
Nowadays, more and more programs are taking place in schools, camps or even by the government to raise awareness among the youth and sensitized them with environmental issues. Teacher are taking the pupils outside to do experiments with them and make them feel concerned about the problems. We offer a solution to help the educators and teachers during their outdoor activities : dOry, an instrument that measure characteristics of water, but also a game to play with the pupils. Here is all our process to develop this awesome product :
Here it is : the second milestone! So where should we begin ?
From our market analysis we couldn’t conclude what was the better solution between France and Germany. On one hand Germany has a stable economic growth, but is a very competitive market and we don’t know much of the german education system. On the other hand, France invest a lot in the education of their pupils and we know that they are doing in and out-doors experiments, but the economic situation might be a big risk for a young company. So we decided to keep this question for later and focus on the quality of our product, find the best market fit and try to reduce our costs. We will do a cost/profit comparison later to determine the best solution.
Interconnectivity between the devices
During this last week, Xiadong made some research and tests to determine the best solution between 6LoWPAN and Zigbee to create the network between the devices.
6LoWPAN sounds more encouraging at first as you can connect it easily to the network and is requires less RAM and ROM. But it looks rather complicated to implement all the functionalities that we want. So we choose Zigbee, which is more convenient to design the required features and has less pins than the other solution. Moreover it’s cheaper!
You may remember, last week we had two different shapes that we tested and the winner is :
Indeed the user was more interested in a console shape. It is close to the games that the kids are used to play with.
We are getting ready for our next milestone! We made a lot of progress. Concerning the market we deepened our analysis of Switzerland, but we will need to search also abroad for potential clients as Switzerland is still a small country. We planned to look for Germany and France. Let’s see what we will learn.
From the design we have now two different options. So the next step is the user test to see what they would prefer. For us, it is quite difficult as we are targeting very different users. Indeed the pupils will be from 8 to 15 years old and they are not used to the same devices and games… Finding something that will fit everybody is a real challenge. We are also worried about the size and the weight of our device. If it’s too bid youths won’t be able to hold it in their small hands… Lots of question and only one solution : user test!
From this point of view, we thought we had our final material. Unfortunately, Ziyu tested 3D printing with ABS so make some test and it failed :
So she searched for another solution : PETG (Polyethylene Terephthlate Glycol-Modified). Now she will have to test the different properties to see if it’s a better solution.
Our software is working! Xiadong did an awesome job is such a time. The software is still work in progress, but the first functionalities can already be displayed.
This first view is a basic table with all the data collected by a simulated device.
Then the kid can select what he wants to display. Here we show you the water temperature evolution. Now we will need to clearly define what are the functionalities that the teacher will want to use. To do this, we will need to go back to our clients and analysis their needs and the purpose of their experiments.
As you already know we wanted to measure turbidity in the water. We had two choices : use a scientific turbidity sensor, which is very expensive or buy turbidity sensors used for washing machines. In order to determine which was the best solution, we bought a cheap turbidity sensor of a washing machine and tested its accuracy in the Lab. Good news, it is accurate enough so we will go for this solution.
Let’s enjoy your easter holidays! We’ll need energy for the last two months.
WEEK 7 :
Again a busy week with lots of new things!
Do you remember Xiadong? Yes, he’s our new team member and he’s responsible with the creation of our software. This will be use to communicate with the device and to do the data mining with the measures collected by the devices.
So the first use of it, will be to receive the data from the device and to configure the different modes into the device (e.g. the game mode). This last function will most likely be used by the instructors of teachers. But the software will also be used by the pupils to display their data. This will be done by four functions:
- Identify the type of data and store them according to the item
- Store the data by time and location
- Implement some basic statistical calculation for the data. This will include drawing the distribution and forecasting
- Link our data with Google Maps to have a mapping of our measures and it’s evolution through time.
We finally have a first glimpse of how our device will look like. Melanie draw all the components (each components is of a different color) in her software to place them inside our device. This led to our first estimation of the size of our device.
As we said before, we target mostly NGOs and schools in Switzerland. But this is unfortunately too ambitious for the first year. So we will start with a more accessible market: the Suisse Romande for the schools and we will use our contact at the WWF Suisse Romande to expand in the german part of Switzerland.
From what we found we do not have a direct competitor. No other company is offering a tool that measures different parameters and that contains a game mode. But there is a lot of other companies that are selling sensors like the one that we are using.
Buying a thermometer is really easy. There are a lot of competitor in this field. And it’s really cheap! Indeed you can find one for 10 chf.
Tools to measure conductivity are less common and far more expensive. You can find some conductometer for aquarium for 40 chf. That’s the kind of tools the WWF is using to spare some money, but it’s not accurate enough.
From this we could see that we really have to adapt each sensor’s price depending on the competitors but also on our costs. But we can also see that we have a great potential because our value proposition is unique!
Bottom up Approach
To reduce the costs, we will not have a store at the beginning of the commercialisation of dOry. We will sell our products with our website and send the products per post. As we are targeting precise organisations (NGOs, schools, …), our sales force is our only tool to expand and find clients.
To summarize we have two major constraints:
- Client already have what they need
- Ineffective sales force
To solve the first constraint we create our game mode which is a unique value proposition based on our device. This is our strenght and should be put forwards during our meetings with potential clients. In order to make our sales force effective, we need tools to show them our product and all its advantage. To do this we really need a website and a prototype so that they can really understand the potential of our product.
The upper table summarize the requirements and solution of our components from a material perspective.
In our case, water proof design for the main device is just in case. From the material itself, ABS is waterproof. But to be sure that if the device fall into the water, water will not penetrate inside, we can use o-ring, which is a simple used design in industrial field. It can be used in our case to improve the sealing. At the moment, the final design is not finished. But the parts of the outshell are seperately printed. So o-ring adds into the assembly process is possible.
With our belly full of sushis, we were ready to continue our investigation and experiments to develop dOry! Moreover we received the first parts from Seedstudio.
Raffael also started program our e-ink screen. I am sure you want to see how it went, so just watch the video bellow and enjoy!
We also thought about our first prototype now that we have our first delivery! Ziyu and Melanie want to use the 3D printer. Unfortunately, the materials are limited among ABS, PLA, Brick composite, Nylon, TPE, wood composite.
We will choose ABS as the out shell. Its overall properties— strength, density UV durability, price—are quite good, compared with other materials in 3D printer. Also, we can get a glossy surface by 3D printer, which is also an advantage.
After one month of hard work, we deserved a break!
Also we welcomed a new member in our group. So that this won’t disturb the group dynamic, we did a little team working lunch. With only one: DO NOT TALK ABOUT dOry!
Enjoy your meal! 😛
Great news! We welcome another member in our team : Xiadong, who will be in charge of the software!
Some evolution …
OK, it’s the first time we talk you about a software. Let me explain it to you.
We needed something that could do the link between the device and the cloud to store the data. So we thought about an application : it’s modern, easy to use and almost everybody has a smartphone.
Problem? Yes, the teacher would never allowed the pupils to have their smartphone during a lesson. Moreover there is a high risk that the smartphone will fall into the water! So where is the additional value of an App?
We couldn’t find one, so we moved to the idea of developing a software where the teacher can program the device (e.g. change it to the game mode) and the kids could analyse and display their results… To be developed…
This week we also had our first milestone. We met with the other groups and presented our work. It was really interesting to see how far the other groups went. But our project also progressed.
The business environment
Let’s do a little recap! From our previous studies we could validate the WWF Suisse Romande, our value proposition and our cost structure! Unfortunately we had to delete the scouts from our Business Model. But don’t worry, there are plenty of fish in the sea! The schools for example. So our Business Model Canvas looked like that:
Our favorite designer brought us some additional sketches, to get an idea of the device. She also made some incredible mock-ups so that we could test and experiment different shapes and sized.
Our scientists also decided which components we will use for our device:
- Custom conductivity and turbidity sensor
- Integrated digital temperature sensor (1-wire)
- The Microcontroller: TI-MSP430F5529 fo its low power
- e-Ink display for the screen
- 6loWPAN: IoT application, to connect the sensor to the network & the router
- u-blox NEO6 (or clone on seeedstudio) for GPS
So basically, our device will contain all those components:
Ziyu did some awesome studies to determine the best materials for our product. This was not such easy task since there is a lot of variety of plastics that we don’t know about. Fortunately, she is more aware of it than us! Also the components must satisfy multiple constrains.
First, the outshell must be light, strength, water-proof and cheap. So the best solution would be the PP (polypropylene), which main characteristics are high strength, low density, water durability and easy processing. It is commonly used in packaging, toys, containers, food applications, and so on.
Then, the conductivity probe must be anticorrosive, high conductive and cheap. Lead is not stiff enough, while Nickel and nickel-based superalloy are too good and expensive. On the other hand,Copper coated with anti-corrosion coating. So further investigations are needed.
Let’s visit the client
This week was mostly dedicated to the clients. We had to see if our value proposition was interesting but also if we could answer their needs.
Of course environmental education, including water, is a central topic.They are use to invent play-based activities to sensitize the kids and keep this recreational and fun aspect. Unfortunately they don’t do scientific experiments because they want to differentiate themselves from the schools. They prefer to organize activities such as cooking, topography, knots or one week without water. So they won’t be interested in our dOry.
The WWF Education
We also contacted the WWF Education of the French part of Switzerland. The director of the section didn’t reply yet but we had some information from one of their internship.
The WWF could really need a tool like dOry. ls. As they are targeting young children (age 6 to 12), they have some issues to explain the theoretical aspect of their activities. Pupils get distracted and stop listening. Moreover, they are using really simple tools, like the pH paper, that are absolutely not accurate. And our value proposition could really change that!
Some more sketches…
WEEK 2 :
What a productive week! Our value proposition is getting more and more precise and our device more and more real.
In the Lab
Raffael and Ziyu worked hard and experimented some way to measure conductivity of water. And it worked!
On the Business side…
We started drawing the first value proposition canvas. It’s quite complicated because we have three different customer:
- The users: teenagers or pupils
- The educators, who will supervise the pupils
- The Decision Maker, who will choose to buy the device or not
We also had some beautiful sketches from Melanie. She started searching to existing measuring tools.
The main difficulty was to combine all those tools into one! Indeed dOry will not measure one parameters but multiple ones.
One of the most important characteristic of dOry is its ease of use. So, our favorite designer started to study the best position for buttons and how the pupils will use it.
But if you want to see the first sketch of our device, stay tuned!
WEEK 1 :
After one intensive kick-off meeting, we could have a break. Indeed we met on Wednesday to define our product. We had already decided to develop and build a connected device that would measure some parameters into the water. But a lot of question remained: What will it measure? Who are we going to target? What will the device be used for?
During our meeting we shared our ideas and research. Some wanted to measure plastic in the water! But is it realistic? Could we used the device for education? Is it accurate enough for research?
So many questions to ask, we had to meet again after some experiments and research.
After some experiments and a EPFL lab visit, our scientists had to abandon the idea of measuring plastic by just putting a device into the water. But don’t worry, we still had a lot of ideas and possibilities!
We also decided to focus on the education perspective. Indeed scientist use fixed measurement methods or they already had their tools. On the other hand, education is full of possibilities that are not fully developed. Indeed more and more schools are taking their pupils outside to experiment and learn about environmental issues. But we decided to focus on NGOs, especially WWF, where we have a contact.
After one week, our first Business Model is here. It’s not perfect yet and a lot of hypothesis need to be verified. While our engineers are going to the lab to experiment, our designer will draw some sketches!