Final Report Summary - DESIGN4CHILDREN (Development of innovative and cost-effective design support tools for the European childcare products industry promoting the enhancement of children’s comfort and extending products’ lifespan.)
Design4Children has been a 3-year project, funded by the European Commission’s 7th Framework Programme within the “Research for SME Associations” scheme. The Design4Children consortium has been made up of a team of 12 organizations from seven European countries that were selected based on their expertise in fields that were complimentary to the development of the project activities.
The aim of the project has been to provide European SMEs in the field of children's products, in particular clothing, footwear and childcare industries, with a set of knowledge-based tools addressed to develop high-added value products based on improved comfort, performance and adaptation to the user.
The project was carried in three phases: Research, Development and Validation. The final result is a suite of three products: Knowledge-based Design Support, Virtual Functional Performance Test Bed, Web-based Interactive Purchase Adviser.
The Consortium also designed and approved a full plan for IPR Management and Product Exploitation
Project Context and Objectives:
a) The need:
Nowadays, when information about products is widely available through the network, providing products with attributes demanded by consumers becomes indispensable to succeed. Furthermore, parents demand more and more knowledge about features and characteristics of the products they acquired for their children as well as information based on scientific basis that help them in the process of selection and purchase.
Although fashion and price have traditionally been the main aspects motivating the purchase decision of children products, more and more human factors related to comfort, health and usability are becoming relevant and differentiating aspects for consumers of children products.
Traditionally, children’s products have been designed as if they were addressed to miniaturized adults; however, children’s needs related to comfort and usability significantly differ from adults’ ones. Moreover, since birth to adolescence, these needs evolve and change along with children development process and include aspects related to physical interaction (fitting, anthropometry and growth), physiological interaction (thermal comfort), motor aspects (adaptation to movements), psychological interaction (cognitive capacity), or any combination of them (usability and safety of both parents and children).
This new orientation of the product development process to the end-user represented a big competitive opportunity for European children sector, but this involved specific needs:
• Acquisition of the necessary knowledge about children-product interaction
• Application of this knowledge into tools allowing its use and exploitation: materialization of R&D advances into value-added products
• Extending this value-chain of knowledge until the customers bringing closer the results, benefits and new functionalities
b) The solution:
D4C initiative arose with the aim of compiling, processing and advancing in knowledge related to children-product interaction with the aim of integrating this knowledge into tools able to make it accessible and understandable for European children companies.
Design4Children has provided children products companies with innovative knowledge about ergonomics, comfort and adaptation of children products through a set of three innovative tools addressed to implement this knowledge along the process of product development and launching into the market.
Sectors under the scope of the project were children fashion, footwear and childcare. The developed tools were:
• A Knowledge-based Design Support application that will help design teams to introduce enhanced functionalities to products and assure children’s comfort and wellbeing
• A Virtual Functional Performance Test Bed that allows manufacturers to evaluate the functional performance of their design without manufacturing them, which considerably reduces costs and speeds up the creation of products.
• A Web-based Interactive Purchase Adviser accessible via Internet, that will help customers and retailers to select the products that better match their children’s needs.
These tools represent an innovation for the industry, and will present a market opportunity for those innovative companies which continuously search for competitive advantages by promoting comfort, quality and safety of children’s products and innovative product design.
The Design4Children project comprised of the following set of scientific and technical objectives:
a) Scientific Objectives
SO-1. Understanding the interactions child-product-parent for childcare products
SO-2. Developing for each functional aspect, a model to simulate and predict the biomechanical and physiological children-product interaction
SO-3. Developing two global predictive models for children’s comfort and product’s lifespan
SO-4. Establishing the specific constraints and specifications of the European SME manufacturers and their distribution channels
b) Technical Objectives
TO-1. Development of a knowledge-based support application
TO-2. Development of a virtual functional performance test bed
TO-3. Development of a web-based interactive product selection adviser
The D4C project followed a three stages process, starting with R&D activities during the first year of the project, continuing with the development stage during the second phase of the project and finishing with the validation of the three tools developed during the last period.
A) R&D stage
The R&D phase was addressed to understanding the biomechanical, ergonomic and physiological interactions between children products and their users, both children and parents. Secondly, the generated knowledge was translated into information and contents for the three D4C tools.
• Research on available knowledge and consumers needs
Work developed was initiated gathering information about the complex interaction between children products and their users, considering as users both children and parents or other adults in charge of the child. This interaction can be considered as multi-factor including biomechanical, ergonomic and physiological aspects.
IBV developed an analysis of the needs and concerns of customers of children products to increase the added-value of project results. This analysis was based on two user-centered techniques:
o Focus groups. They are group conversations in a permissive and non-directive atmosphere designed to obtain information about a topic.
o Netnographic analysis of the main relevant blogs in the web regarding children products.
Analysed issues were children and parents interaction with products, users perception of actual products in the market and users’ preferences and demanded functionalities.
Designers of children products, members of the SME project partners participated contributing with their experience in the different fields.
In parallel to the analysis of users’ needs, IBV performed a scientific review on:
o Existing methodologies to analyze children-product interaction regarding the main ergonomic issues: anthropometry, thermoregulation and usability
o Main issues regarding functional properties of the children products
o Existing models and databases regarding fitting, thermal aspects and usability
Available anthropometric databases were gathered, differing in measuring techniques, gender, number of children included, age ranges, body dimensions included and statistical parameters used. This involved high heterogeneity of results what involved a later analysis to define a process to give coherence to the available databases.
Published studies regarding children thermoregulation were gathered and analyzed. Gaps in the knowledge, in particular regarding child-cloth interaction, were identified. IBV studied the applicability of the existing adults thermal comfort models to generate thermoregulatory prediction models for children.
Children’s usability studies were gathered and analyzed. Functional aspects of children products were prioritized according to their impact on both users’ comfort and product durability.
From the results obtained, the following products were included into the scope of the project:
o Childcare products with high anthropometric, biomechanical and physiological interaction with the users (children and parents: Pushchairs, Baby Car seats, Baby baths, Baby changing units, Cradles, Baby high chairs, Baby Rocking chair & Swings, Baby carriers
o Clothing for children between 0 and 12 years old, including: t-shirts, shirts, blouses, Jacket, sweaters and Sweatshirts, Underwear and pyjamas, Trousers, Dresses and skirts, Accessories (hats, scarves, gloves, socks, etc)
o Footwear for children between 0 and 12 years old, including: Casual shoes, Sport shoes, Dress shoes, Boots, Sandals, Clogs
• Experimentation with users to cover the identified lacks of knowledge
IBV worked on defining methodologies to develop experimentations with users for obtaining design criteria for children products, working on the three main research fields involving product’s ergonomics: anthropometry, thermal comfort and usability.
o Anthropometry & Fitting: A new experimental methodology to capture children’s 3D morphology and evaluate clothing fitting in children was set up.
o Thermal comfort: An experimental methodology aimed to validate the thermal comfort prediction model for children was proposed.
o Usability: Two methodologies were generated to analyze the product-user interaction:
* Qualitative analyses of children’s-parents product interaction through video-recording and visual expert analysis.
* Quantitative analyses of children’s-parents product interaction through video recording and time and frequency analysis of users’ behaviors.
Functional properties of childcare products were deeply characterized through different user tests following the aforementioned methodologies. Results obtained completed the gaps in knowledge previously detected. 24 children from 0 to 8 years old participated in fitting and usability tests.
• Definition of design criteria for enhanced functionality and comfort
IBV processed Information previously obtained to find the relation between specific design aspects and children and parents comfort perception and usability needs to generate design criteria.
a) Generation of fitting criteria for clothing
Work developed for obtaining fitting criteria is described below.
a.1) Comparative analysis of available international databases regarding children growth, body proportions and relationship among anthropometric variables
The heterogeneity of the databases gathered required a deep analysis to identify the measures that could be used for the tools. Databases were compared through the use of growing curves based on height and age, analyzing the differences in body proportions among countries and the capacity of age and height to calculate other body measures. The aim was to obtain rules for the obtaining anthropometric information when no data are available.
Slight differences were found in growth among European population and small differences in body proportions, much smaller than the variability found within a single population. It was decided to generate specific growth charts per country to account the differences found.
a.2) Generation of international anthropometric databases
Building a complete database was a two-steps process: 1) obtaining the relation age-height for each country and 2) obtaining the relation between height and the remaining body measures jointly for all populations. All the relations are polynomial equations.
Spain, USA, Netherlands and a global international database from WHO were obtained.
It is possible to include new populations into the D4C tools using the height-age relationships obtained.
a.3) Definition of suitable eases for clothing to allow their adaptation to child movements
A bibliographic research was performed, identifying the most compromising body postures in children and defining the related body measures and their variation. Finally, the relationship between these body measures and the garment pattern was defined.
Results obtained were the maximum increases and decreases that each one of the key dimensions of the cloth pattern can suffer when the child performs different movements.
a.4) Generation of fitting criteria for clothing assuring children comfort
Experimentation with children allowed obtaining fitting perception from parents after wearing different garments and children anthropometry using tape and 3D scanner. Children and garments dimensions were compared to obtain the ease allowances of the garments when worn. Ease allowances were correlated with fitting perception in different areas of the body to get the body measures with significant effect on fitting. Finally, fitting criteria were defined based on a lower and upper limit for the relation between easy allowances and fitting.
b) Generation of fitting criteria for footwear
Databases obtained were completed with IBV foot databases. Sizes 24, 30 and 36 were selected for the analysis and generation of criteria. A set of children shoes and shoe-lasts in these sizes were selected from the market. Lasts were digitalized and measured to extract the dimensions from those girths relevant for fitting: heel, instep, metatarsophalangeal joint and toes. The sample of shoes was evaluated by a sample of users to obtain the fitting perception. Last measures were compared with foot anthropometrical data to obtain ease allowances, relating them with comfort perception. The result was for each size and shoe dimension the valid range of the measure and the easy allowance between foot and shoe.
c) Definition of thermal models and thermal comfort criteria for clothing and footwear
Work started identifying the textile materials most commonly used in the design of children products and collecting their thermal and mechanical properties: thermal resistance (Rt), resistance to water vapour (Re), thickness and grammage. In parallel, it was analysed the relation between the thermal insulation and perspiration of textiles and their physical variables for different materials. The bibliographic research allowed also characterizing the children’s thermoregulatory response during the development of different levels of activity: asleep, low activity, medium activity and high activity. The research also identified the most relevant environmental parameters affecting thermal response.
The results obtained allowed defining a set of thermal comfort recommendations including:
o Recommended thermal resistance
o Garment recommendations
o Material recommendations
The analysis of the capability of the mechanical parameters of predicting the thermal parameters allowed establishing relations between both sets of parameters and generating thermal comfort criteria.
d) Generation of usability specifications
Usability involves every aspect of the product related to facilitate its use, so it includes both children and parents usability. The high level of complexity associated to the concept ‘usability’ led to a qualitative approach to generate worthy and applicable results for designers. Results came from different sources:
o Consumers needs: information included into D1.1
o Designers and retailers contributions: information included into D2.1 and D2.2
o Experts’ knowledge: resulting from the development of the different experimental tasks
IBV generated a set of databases containing specifications to improve the product usability. Specifications were classified by:
o Type of product, using the classification previously mentioned (childcare products, clothing and footwear)
o Functional properties: defined considering the type of interaction between user and product. Properties considered are: anthropometry & growth, comfort, durability, thermal comfort, safety, biomechanical performance and general usability.
o User profile: defined by the age range.
• Development of predictive models of functional aspects
The relations extracted between product functional properties and comfort perception were materialized into mathematical models allowing the prediction of most relevant functional properties regarding children comfort and wellbeing: fitting, adaptation to movements, growing, thermal regulation and usability.
o Usability criteria: For each product type (clothing, footwear and childcare) it was generated an algorithm that allows the designer to select a set of parameters (product, environment of use and user profile) returning design recommendations for the different functional properties related to the usability of the product and the relative importance of each functional property.
o Fitting: The developed model provides the designer a quantification of the level of fitting the designed cloth has, indicating if it is correct, too loose or too tight. Input data are: the type of garment, the garment 2D pattern measures and the target users profile (age and country). The developed algorithm compares body measures of the selected population with the cloth pattern dimensions. The algorithm developed is based on three databases:
* Anthropometric database: including for different countries body dimensions relevant for clothing design classified by age
* Fitting comfort criteria database: including maximum and minimum coefficients representing the body and garment measures ratios for assuring comfort
* Clothing pattern database: including the information about the pattern design of the garment included by the designer for the virtual test
o Adaptation to movements: This model provides the designer a quantification of the adaptation of the proposed cloth to the body changes in dimensions and proportions when performing different movements. Input data are the same that for fitting. The developed algorithm uses input information from fitting and compares this information with the dynamic fitting database. This database includes the percentages of variation of the anthropometric measures associated to child movements. The module facilitates the most important clothing measures related to movements adaptation and quantifies the capacity of the designed cloth according to its pattern related dimensions.
o Thermal comfort: This model provides information about the garment or footwear level of insulation and the insulation required for a specific environment and level of activity. Input data are the environment conditions, the target user profile and garment parameters including materials of the garments and layers configuration. Two different methods for calculating the thermal insulation of garments were proposed, depending on data available for the designer: a) Layers method based on Lotens’ model and using the thickness of the textiles and b) Mass method based on McCullough model and using the weight of the clothing. Three complementary approaches were proposed to obtain a complete set of results:
* Material based model. This model provides thermal properties of each garment, global thermal properties of the ensemble and material recommendations.
* Standard based model. This model provides the allowed exposure time to assure heat storage and to avoid excessive water loss, within comfort levels.
* Perception based model. This model provides the predicted perceptual response of a group of people according to the ASHRAE thermal sensation definition.
• Design process characterization and specifications for R1 and R2
We fully characterized the design process of different children companies, detecting barriers and needs for the future implementation of D4C tools R1 and R2. The application of user-centered design techniques provided information directly from future users of the tools regarding their expectatives and needs. Focus groups, workshops and questionnaires were used to gather from more general to more specific information regarding the design process and the expected and needed software features.
The analysis of gathered information allowed the generation of specifications for the tools, including the information flows, the needed inputs and the most convenient outputs for the types of products under the project scope: clothing, footwear and childcare. Three blocks were established: fitting, thermal comfort and usability
• Shopping experience characterization and specifications for R3
The development of different experimental sessions with parents and within the shops in real conditions allowed obtaining consumers and retailers needs and expectations regarding the future tool R3.
Interviews with retailers and purchasers of children products and questionnaires were used to gather information from future users.
Examples of gathered information are:
o Prioritization of most relevant functional aspects of products according to their experience
o Description of the purchase experience
o Customer expectations during the purchase process
o Retailers needs and requirements
The analysis of the results allowed the definition of a set of specifications to assure the integration of the new tool into purchase process. A tool was proposed where:
o Customers could access products and provide their experience with them
o Retailers could have information to provide better service to their customers
o Manufacturers could improve their products according to received feedback
RESULTS OF THE RTD STAGE
After the R&D stage, we:
• Had deep understanding of the main aspects related to functional adequacy of different children products as well as children and parents needs
• Got a complete review of the available scientific knowledge, structured and existing gaps identified.
• Developed methodologies to characterize children-products interaction and performed user test to acquire needed knowledge
• Generated design criteria for different functional aspects of product design
• Generated functional models of the interaction between children and products
• Were able to start defining the characteristics, structure and features of the three tools resulting from the project
• Better orientated the integration of the tools at the companies to satisfy future users' needs
B) Development stage
During this stage we developed the three web-based applications.
• Generation of specifications for the Design Support
ISRI produced a list of technical specifications and software requirements that was discussed by project partners. They also proposed the logical architecture of the system, consisting in three layers: presentation or user interface, business logic and data access.
23 Use cases were identified and defined, including all the possible interactions of different actors with the tool, for example ‘Edit Profile’ or ‘Usability-Footwear’. Each Use Case was described including actors involved, inputs, outputs, information flows and additional information needed for developing the tool. The features to include in the system were explained and the functional requirements detailed. Interface requirements, as well as other non-functional requirements were also detailed.
• Development of the Design Support system
For each one of the functional aspects (fitting, usability and thermal comfort) and product types (clothing, footwear, childcare products) to be included into the tool, IBV provided the following information:
o Inputs: information that the designer will enter the system
o Outputs: information that the designer should receive
o Databases feeding the algorithms
o A proposal on how could be the flow of info among these elements
ISRI developed at three-tier application system including:
o A presentation layer: web user interfaces, it allows users interact with the tool and displays results
o Business logic layer: coordinates the application, processes commands and makes decisions
o Database layer: includes stored information accessed during the use of the application
The developed application provides user friendly interface that allows access to essential information for enhanced product design considering the child’s comfort and well being. The relevant information is provided based on the selection of the product, child’s age, gender, environment and product target country depending on the product category. The Design Support tool enables the designer to access information on child anthropometry and, most importantly, Expert advice on proposed measures, usability and thermal comfort. The application was developed so that additional information can be included an updated as it becomes available.
ISRI performed the testing of the tool following a defined protocol to assess it under real conditions. The system was extensively tested and verified with Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer (version 8). To access the system, a computer connected to the Internet is required. The computer should have a web browser installed.
• Generation of specifications for the Virtual Tester
Browzwear produced Software Requirements Specification (SRS) and routes for the development of the functional aspects and the interface of the Virtual Tester. Project companies and the other RTDs participated providing their input as final users of the tool.
A structure for the application and the different features to include were proposed. Each feature was described including inputs needed, outputs provided and requirements. The structure and information contained in each of the databases managed by the application were defined. Finally, 12 Use Cases were proposed, including all the possible interactions of different actors with the tool, for example ‘Forget Password’ or ‘Cloth Fitting Test’. Each Use Case was described including actors involved, inputs, outputs, information flows and additional information needed for developing the tool.
• Development and integration of the Virtual Tester system
Four modules were developed based on the results obtained the research phase of the project:
o Clothing fitting. This module uses anthropometric database, fitting comfort criteria database and 3D avatar database.
o Clothing thermal comfort. This module uses materials database, anthropometric database, cloth types database, metabolic rates database and environmental database.
o Footwear fitting. This module uses foot anthropometric database and fitting comfort criteria database.
o Footwear thermal comfort. This module uses anthropometric database, materials database and shoe database.
A simple, user-friendly interface was developed for carrying out anthropometric and thermal calculation models based on parameters such as the size of a body, gender, age, climate conditions and other information. As the software is not intended for expert computer users, simplicity and user-friendliness were initial requirements. As a result, complete functional version of the Virtual-Tester was created.
• Testing and validation of the Virtual Tester
IBV and Browzwear performed an in-depth analysis of the information provided by the Virtual Tester software, comparing the results provided by the tool with the results of the initial predictive models obtained from the work package one, with the aim of detecting possible errors in the implementation of the predictive models. In addition, it was reviewed the graphical interface with the user to detect possible improvements. The aesthetic appearance of the interface was also reviewed and compared with the Design Support tool, the first tool finished in the project. The purpose was giving the three tools a common appearance according to the project image.
A continuous process of redesign and validation of the implemented improvements was performed. The modules of the tool were checked according to all the possible scenarios of use. The tool was also prepared in full multilingual support for facilitating the future translation into new languages prior to the exploitation in different countries. This multilingual support built in allows easily add new languages.
The software has two modes of performance:
o Administrative mode: In this mode, VT allows for
* Creating, modifying, deleting of user accounts.
* Installing software and database updates.
* Functions available in client mode are also available in this mode.
o Client mode: In this mode, users are able
* to login,
* to select anyone of 4 VT components,
* to enter their data and
* to get results
• Generation of specifications for the Purchase Adviser
ISRI and IBV defined the functionalities of the tool and its features. The role of the different users was detailed and the information flows described. Three possible users of the tool were defined: user (parent/buyer), manufacturer and administrator. The functional requirements of the application were defined, including the different interfaces and operating environment. Other non-functional requirements were also detailed.
ISRI defined the whole set of possible Use Cases, 16 in total, defining the needed input, provided output, information flows and special requirements among other information. The requirements of the application were defined, including interfaces and operating environment.
• Development of the Purchase Adviser
ISRI, supported by IBV, used the information generated to develop a multi-tier system that is made up of different functioning levels of the Purchase-Adviser tool, including the interface characteristics and databases. Each functioning level acts as an information provider and receiver, each with its specific characteristics. Ways of enabling the input and output of information established in the previous task were defined and developed, and the main interests of the users of each functioning level was considered to define the most important features of the interface.
Next step was the integration of the work developed to create the Purchase-Adviser, a web-platform for customers (mainly parents), retailers and product developers. The web-platform has been developed using appropriate web-development technologies providing users with the guidelines in an interactive and easy to use manner. The Purchase-Adviser has been connected efficiently with the Design-Support and Virtual-Tester tools. Within this task, a preview to develop an in-shop device providing online access to the Purchase-Adviser during the product selection process at the points of sale was carried out.
The software tool is a Web based application. The user interface is compatible with standard Microsoft windows desktop browser and a selected Android device within the scope of the project. This application will also consider operation on an touch screen android device platform (Google Nexus 10).
The tool has two modes of performance:
o Users: they are parents and retailers who will use the tool for consultation about functionally enhanced features for the selection of children products.
o System administrator, who manages the Database, Registration and access rights of users
RESULTS OF THE DEVELOPMENT STAGE
After the development stage:
• We created the Design Support, a system that assists designers in the translation from conceptual planning to detailed design, enabling them to make more accurate decisions, resulting in fully functional and comfortable products for children and parents. Design Support is addressed to designers of clothing, footwear and heavy childcare products and it is accessible through the D4C project website: http://www.design4children.eu/
• We developed the Virtual-Tester, a tool able to assess the functional/comfort properties of virtual products through the simulation of their interaction with children and provide specific design solutions to solve unmet functionalities. Virtual Tester is addressed to designers of clothing, footwear and heavy childcare products and it is accessible through the D4C project website: http://www.design4children.eu/
• We created the Purchase Adviser, a web based application for Parents and Retailers, enabling them to make more informed decisions regarding product selection. This application allows parents and retailers an intuitive consultation about functionally enhanced features for the selection of children products. The main features of the application are search for products, product features & performance, expert advice on children products and customers experience (feedback) on products. Purchase Adviser is addressed to buyers, retailers and manufacturers of children products and it is accessible through the D4C project website: http://www.design4children.eu/
C) Validation stage
The aim of this stage was the integration into the project companies of the complete technological chain formed by the three project results: Design Support, Virtual Tester and Purchase Adviser, and the validation of the three tools with potential users, focusing on the design process for the validation of R1 and R2 and on the purchase process for the validation of R3.
• Integration of the Childcare products supporting system
The three tools were prepared to be used during the pilot validation process. With that aim, the following tasks were accomplished:
o Completing the information included into the tools. Some sections were finished included definitive information (home page, about us, help...) and anthropometric databases and expert sections were completed.
o Providing access to the tools: It was created a unique credential (login and password) for the validation of the Design Support and another credential for the validation of the Virtual Tester. An additional credential was also created for accessing as administrator to the Purchase-Adviser.
o To provide initial contents to the Purchase Adviser for the validation, samples of products were introduced, including clothing, footwear and childcare products of different brands and retailers.
o Generating training materials about the D4C tools. Creation of users’ and administrators’ guides explaining the use of the tools and their maintenance. An on-line course was generated, available for the development of the training activities.
The validation process was defined, generating a design of experiments with the three project SMEs. This included the generation of protocols for using the tools integrating them into the companies and defining the way companies could exploit the tools during the validation.
• Validation of the Childcare products supporting system
The implementation of the experiments with products, designers, retailers and parents defined in the previous task was performed, both in project companies and with potential users of the tools outside the project consortium.
o Validation at project companies Companies followed the process defined in the previous task for integrating the tools into their product development process. After analyzing the results obtained after using the tools, it was checked that the adaptation of the product to the user was improved after applying the design specifications resulting from the D4C. Some improvements related to the integration of the Design Support and Virtual Tester with the design procedures of the companies and the management of anthropometric measures were detected. Regarding Purchase Adviser, it was detected that the expert advice section needs more visibility.
o Validation outside the consortium. People Driven Innovation methodologies were applied to gather information from users of the tools: online survey, face to face survey and interview. The following profiles participated in the validation:
* Different professionals in the field of children products, related to the different stages of product development: designers, retailers and product developers.
* Parents and other purchasers of children products
They were asked to use the tools for developing specific task and provide assessment about the tools, the contents and possible improvements.
The results coming from the previous task with designers, retailers and consumers were analyzed. Different parameters were measured to quantify the level of success of the tools: usability of the tools, use and quality of the information provided, aspects to improve and general level of satisfaction with the tool.
Tools got good general assessments and good assessments regarding their usefulness for companies work. Some improvements regarding contents and the way to present results have been also detected. Depending on their relevance and complexity, some improvements were implemented. Remaining aspects will be considered during the exploitation of the tools, as they are highly valuable information for future versions of the tools.
RESULTS OF THE VALIDATION STAGE
To perform a fully validation, different user profiles to whom the tools are addressed participated in the validation, including designers and manufacturers of children products, retailers, parents and other purchasers of children products. Results regarding the usability of the tools, use and quality of the information provided, aspects to improve and general level of satisfaction with the tool were obtained. This information was needed for the development of the final Plan for Use and Dissemination of the Knowledge.
The European sector of SMEs addressed to manufacturing and selling children products integrates more than 8.000 companies. Around 1.000 of these SMEs are members of the associations participating in Design4Children project, which involve a direct target market for D4C results.
All these companies can take direct benefit of the D4C tools, a set of applications that provide European SMEs with the opportunity of overcoming the barriers associated to competing on price with companies from outside Europe. The tools and the associated knowledge resulting from the project offer them an opportunity for innovation, incorporating into the process of product development design features able to improve their strategic positioning inside the European market. These design features are related to comfort, functionality, health and safety; all of them are key aspects to assure the adaptation of the product to the user.
The Design Support and Virtual Tester are highly valuable tools, contributing to improve the efficiency of the design process of the companies by providing respectively design criteria and virtual assessment of some of the most relevant aspects conforming the functionality of the product and its adaptation to the user: fitting, thermal comfort and usability. By using these tools, companies reduce the risk of failure in the design and increase the product performance.
Another sector that will obtain great benefit of project results is European consumers and users of children products. Parents look for the best to their children, so without refusing fashion and style, comfort and well-being are becoming factors more and more decisive in purchase decision. In this sense, it becomes necessary to have tools able to communicate these product values to the consumers, to assure that product competitive advantages reach consumers. In these sense, the Purchase Adviser facilitates companies an excellent way to provide visibility to products developed under the scope of the D4C values, directly reaching the final users, communicating the properties and benefits of comfortable products and informing them about where these products can be found.
Although children do not have the decision-making ability, they suffer the use of bad-quality products acquired by their parents, many times due to ignorance about what it is better for their child. Children are the final and definitive beneficiaries of the use of D4C tools, as they are the main users of the products included into the project scope.
Furthermore, Purchase Adviser incorporates valuable information provided by ergonomic experts and paediatricians, including advices and recommendations to improve the acquisition and use of children products. Therefore, this tool contributes to improve the purchase experience providing jointly with these advices precise details about the location of sales points where products included into the tool are available.
D4C tools will encourage the use of the ICT by European SMEs, which will increase their visibility among consumers. The set of tools under the umbrella of sectorial associations will constitute an excellent impulse for the sector.
To back the potential impact of Design4Children, the Consortium started during the project a planned set of dissemination and communication activities in order to reach the main targeted collectives.
• The project website www.design4children.eu has been since the beginning the main interface between the project and the public to be addressed, from the scientific community to users in general.
• Dissemination materials have been produced and widely distributed: the D4C brochure, five project newsletters, banners and roll-up to be used at presentations and stands in fairs, and a pen-drive with the logo of the project
The project has been present, through attendance from the different members of the Consortium, in more than 60 national and international events
• Demos, a presentation with embedded video images and training materials have been prepared and are available through the project website or by request to the Design4Children Consortium
• The final period of the project, with the Design4Children tool in training, testing and validation processes has brought the opportunity to directly contact users at SMEs in their own environment, providing valuable feedback that has been used to improve the system and valuable professional and personal links between the RTD experts and the design and production people that should be, after all, the final beneficiaries and customers of the produced tools.
The partners have agreed to a full plan for Exploitation of the products and Management of the IPR, with the following steps:
• A description of the exploitable foreground
• An analysis of the competitive environment, including
• Market analysis
• Competitors' analysis
• SWOT analysis
• Definition of a Business model
• A marketing plan (positioning and marketing mix)
• The legal structure, including a draft exploitation agreement among partners
• Economic-financial analysis (cost and impact)
List of Websites:
The public website address of the project is www.design4children.eu
Relevant contact details are:
María Dolores Segura: email@example.com
Luis Ballester: firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrés Bosch: email@example.com
Anastasiya Simeonova: firstname.lastname@example.org
Antonio Franceschini: Franceschini@cna.it
Clara Solves: email@example.com
Juan Carlos González: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Morris: Michael.Morris@uk-isri.org
Jayasti Linga: Jayasri.Linga@pera.com
Yaniv Mendelson: email@example.com
Marta Fabregat: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ivan Kolev: email@example.com
Pedro Bravo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Javier Díez: email@example.com
Meri Karppanen: firstname.lastname@example.org