CORDIS - EU research results

Smart Ski

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Smart Ski (Smart Ski)

Reporting period: 2015-10-01 to 2016-03-31

As of this moment, people ski in similar way as they did 100+ years ago. With material development, security elements and design & shape advancements, skis are different pair of plates than before, but, crucially, they are produced and used in the same way: a factory produces different types of skis for different types of skiing (slalom, downhill, general use) and different types of skiers' skills. Users then step in the bindings before descending down the hill on the plates.

First, such production has become expensive & ecologically objectionable, not being able of further developing and upgrading. All ski customization and type differentiation is done at the factory within production process. Hundreds of ski types exist for each specific use, terrain and situation, but all are pre-produced in factories. This means that ski brands and factories compete only in the sphere of design, PR and branding, and not in technical upgrades and innovations. Such pre-destined customization also means massive unoptimal costs and rather large energy use and production waste. Materials and technologies involved are often non-recyclable and environmentally problematic.

Secondly, even more important, users (skiers) cannot control one single thing regarding their skis, because it’s ready-made finished product. Skis are still similarly bulky, similarly low-tech and similarly limited product.
Users are limited to using skis without any control or manipulation of product’s properties. Users can buy pre-fabricated types, based on their ability levels. Skis as a product do not grow with users’ advancements as a skier, therefore either the progress of skier’s ability slows down or new set of skis have to be bought which means additional costs. Ski properties such as sliding behaviour, skiing type and functionality are all pre-destined in the production factory so users cannot influence them when concrete situation on ski area would require so. Also, physical properties like torsional and bending stiffness are defined at the very beginning of the process and cannot be later changed to customer’s needs or wishes. Also, skiing has not yet embraced previously limited technological options that now could easily be incorporated. Most suitable seems mobile control of smart sensors, which not only enables actual smart skiing, responsing to skier input and adjustments, but also offers possibilities for evaluations, reviews, statistics, training visualisation, comparison and improvement, because tracking, positioning, on-slope effectiveness or similar elements can be observed. Skiing doesn't yet have similar technological services although such information is needed both for professional skiers' training to effectively visualize needed data directly from the ski sensors, and for recreatives to automatically customize physical ski properties in regard to real-time ski slope conditions and weather.

Our main objective is to become a global leader in the market of ski development industry, changing the skiing with breakthrough innovation of Smart Ski. With disruptive market penetration we aim to widespread use of adjustable skis, setting industry standard.
Overall goals of the project remains similar as they were at beginning of Phase 1:
• to enable skiers to manage their ski properties according to ability levels, different terrains and weather conditions
• to reduce ski production cost and waste
• to sell the solution to market leaders but acquire and retain patents on technical solutions (in Phase 1, we discovered that this sales & financial model might not be the only suitable model immediately after market launch, but is preferable long-term option)
In Phase 1, we concluded and tested final 10% of technology needed for mass production and for finalization of our prototype. We also tested IT-based smart electronics and found that the design of electro-mechanical regulation system could also be protected as our intellectual property.
First, we completed finalization of first functional prototype without electronic parts with 3d printing. With this result enabling further procedures, we then carried out following actions:
1. Development and internal validation of prototype of foldable skis with fixed skiing properties
2. Development and internal validation of foldable skis with adjustable skiing properties
3. Development of software and hardware, and testing of construction of mechanism for electronics
4. Development and tests of connection between smart phone and wearable electronics within the skis
5. Thorough on-field testing of all prototypes:
• Internal research tests on ski-slopes
• Open tests with inclusion of final users (novice and demanding skiers)

These steps were re-iterated number of times, until expected results were obtained:
• Validated final prototype of foldable skis with fixed skiing properties
• Validated final protoype of foldable skis with adjustable skiing properties
• Validated control of ski electronics with smart phones

We can report also on confirmation of initial estimation regarding production processes, estimated costs and waste. Our team started the project being relative insider of ski industry due to past experiences in ski development, innovations and production. We have direct contacts with all key ski market players and during Phase 1 we researched on processes of their development departments and production. We couldn't obtain publishable formal data and numbers due to trade secrets, but our research inquiries could result in informal and off-the-record information that confirm our predictions:
• Our production process is faster per ski, based on current set-up, with even more reserves in optimization on our side once mass production grows over initial numbers
• Technological production waste equals 30% of current waste, calculated per 1 pair of skis to have standardized comparison
• Final product is 70-80% recyclable in comparison to 0% of current skis
• Total production costs of Smart Ski are already in current set-up 25-30% lower than of today’s skis,calculated per 1 pair of skis to have standardized comparison

To reach marketing- and business- related outcomes of Phase 1, our activities were (as planned) related to development and activation of network of relevant project stakeholders (industry professionals, advisors, test users, early birds final users, pre- marketing or -sales channels) who can in future provide following benefits to our project:
A. Opening doors and connections to final decision-makers at market leaders' companies in order for us to form mutually beneficial partnerships with them
B. Active advising on dissemination and promotion of project end results to our target groups
C. Enabling us to develop different possible financial models and matching different possible strategic scenarios, related mostly to (not) agreed partnerships with big market players
D. Communicating with and engaging early-bird interested final users, volunteer test users and feedback providers

In relation to this framework, we realized actions and obtain findings as follows:
• On-field showcase presentation of prototype with Wolfgang Greiner, editor of RoadTripVerlag and SKIPresser magazines
• ISPO fair organizes its ISPO innovations competition and ISPO awards. In 2017 we were offered to be involved with option to acquire also prime presentation location. This could be hugeboost to our future dissemination and promo efforts
• ISPO also offers service of crowd testing of sports equipment on final users on mass scale (1000+ users). At this moment their demands are too expensive, but they remain strong partnership option for Phase 2 or similar consortium cooperations.
• Meetings were conducted with Atomic, Fischer, Volkl, Nordica, Elan, Head and Rossignol as big players on the ski production market. Only possible scenario for developing partnerships with these big market players seems to be early inclusion and presenting them benefits of such cooperation for them. They should engage early (but not too early to avoid reducing our advantage) in our innovation, embrace it and be encouraged for their own »Aha! moment« to develop their own interest and not block us
• North America market: Presumably in 2017, Kickstarter campaign will be launched to help sparkinterest and initial visibility on US market. Also, partnership with Wagner Custom Skis could be possible,due to mutual interests on ski customization field, although Wagner still use old technology and approach
• Participating in coaching session with consutant mr. Marco Mazoni, provided by SME Instrument. Mr. Mazoni is former head of TechnoGym and former business analytic for insurance industry.
a) Most important, crucial actually, gain from these sessions for us was getting in touch with methods of business development and ability to discuss various business models scenarios with competent and relevant international counterpart. Our team never had member of such profile who can also put in hos experiences and deliver knowledge that was new and fresh for us, especially regarding licencse financial model, commercialization options, scenarios development,etc.
b) He suggested to include additional sales products: ski cases or bags, lubricants, add-ons, and similar on-the-go products
c) Example of discussed sales scenario, related to overall strategy: we start with direct sales to create initial demand and commercialization,and invite additional investors in the company in later phase, after initial 2-3mio € are realized. At such point our team could negotiate either exit bonuses, or insist on (initially predictedin Phase 1 proposal) small percentage fee from sales
d) Key stages: testing, continous proving thatmarket exists andthat people are preparedto buy our skis, direct sales, attraction of investors, exit/joint venture/licence transfer, one-time exit fee/ long-term sales fee..
e) Our most personal contacts are with Fischer development department staff. If Fischer decide to partner/buy us in such situation, we estimate for them to realize cca. 23-25mio € savings in 5 years. Such positioning is valuable for us before formal talks with market players begin
f) We need to seriously think about our own branding at least to a certain level (eg. 1000-2000 pairs sold per year), even though we didn't plan it in Phase 1 proposal.
• We performed users research on the internet. It was based on our private and proffesional network and is in that sense of course biased. But we didn't look for exact findings at this stage; we mostly wanted to receive general attitudes toward smart ski, skiing habits, skier needs, buying power, etc. Key survey findings:
a) 191 responses, almost all from Europe, most of them (80%) male, avg. 40 years old
b) Buying power: 2/3 can save some money each month, which corresponds with most people preparing to invest up to 600 EUR for adjustable and foldable skis. Also, 7% respondents earn a lot and can save a lot, which relates to 9% putting themselves into 600-800 EUR price position for sameskis
c) Manual adjusting of driveability and foldability interests more people (40%) than electronic adjusting and foldability (26%); 43% of people are interested or very interested in buying such skis, and 60% would buy them immediately or in max 2 years
d) 61% of people had second thoughts or doubts when buying skis and ski equipment, although they never or almost never see their skis as bad match (48%) to ski conditions

Business model development:
Product range: we predict 3 models, each positioned differently with functionalities and price:
1. only foldable skis without other settings,
2. foldable skis with manual driveability adjustments without electronics,
3. true smart skis: foldable and with smart phone controllable electronics for driveability adjustments

After researching, discussing and testing various possible business models (among others also with big market players –ski producers, and business coach SME Instrument provided), we decided to deploy Smart ski business model in two phases.
1. After launch, we plan to keep our own production and sales for 1-2 years or up to a certain initial quanitities (1000-2000 pairs sold). Financial model is rather simple: out of sales income, we deduct production costs, store fees and new employments, and invest all resources in commercialization.
2. After market is ready, we plan to go mainstream with at least one partnership with big ski producers, active on global level. We calculate to receive 20% of sales income through such partnerships, and big players receive 80% + license. We are assured that general readiness for such partnerships exist, but we first have to stir the market, and big players have to plan few years in advance to risk as little as possible
In Phase 1, project didn't yet have true socio-economic impact. In this context, we can report about:
- final prototype of foldable ski was finalized and validated on real ski-slope environments. This is already beyond the state of the art, because skis are (as mentioned above) still produced as bulky pieces
- electronics for smart prototype was tested and validated, which confirmed our assumptions for smart ski to be another step beyond state of the art
- production process was tested and we concluded that our test production lines are more efficient, cleaner and cheaper than current state of the art solutions

We expect potential impact of final product to be:
- generator of new skiing revolution, similar to carving in 1990s (also our innovation), when whole industry was shaken and carving slowly gained almost 100% market share
- new value: smart and manual ski adjustments will bring different types of skiers to one solution. That will lower production costs also on global level, while still retain customization, branding and similar customer-related trends
- new skiing process: Smart ski will have two key novelties: foldability and manageable ski properties. This will result in going skiing being simplified similar to tennis: people will simply put their folded skis in a sport bag and go skiing without much thinking about bulky luggage, special transport, etc.. On the other hand, they will be able to adjust ski properties based on conditions (weather, humidity of ski slope, different type of snow, etc.) or their skills without the need of having separate skis as is necessity today.

We also see global potential of business-related issues:
- our company will license smart ski solution and in long-term position as pioneer smart foldable ski developer, with all current major ski players still benefiting from the solution, due to license exploitation without much costs
- our initial conservative estimations (partly validated in discussions with big players' representatives) show that whole ski industry will gain from this innovation, and that already smart ski could gain whole current market value with 50% of market share, meaning huge potential for new investments, additional innovations and employments exist.

At this stage we cannot yet share other findings with public: what we discovered and researched in Phase 1, gives us more than enough confirmation that the market for smart ski is there, and that our way of its exploitation with big players partnerships is very interesting for them, because we do not position ourselves as their competition, but rather as their development partner. Such way is also significantly less tiresome for us.
Prototype of Smart ski