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A novel and intuitive communication interface providing life enriching experiences for users in risk of social exclusion

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IrisPhone (A novel and intuitive communication interface providing life enriching experiences for users in risk of social exclusion)

Reporting period: 2016-03-01 to 2016-08-31

The project is centred on the IrisPhone, a novel and intuitive communication interface providing life enriching experiences for users in risk of social exclusion. The IrisPhone is a new and intuitive way of experiencing the smartphone, one which eliminates the need of pressing buttons or using the touchscreen: the user can place or hover the smartphone (modified android system) over an image to execute the desired command that is depicted. The overall objective of this project is to verify the need for the product in larger markets, its usefulness and usability, not only to the end users, but to their carers as well, with a feasibility study as the end deliverable.

We aim to establish which features are most desirable, which can be added by testing out further device integration, and how the end user can get the best possible experience out of the IrisPhone at the most affordable price range. This will be accomplished via surveys, small scale demonstrations to select audiences, focus groups and interviews, with each method adapted to accommodate for the region we are researching. Factors that will influence the final product will also be considered throughout the project’s duration, like gender differences, effects of specific disabilities and elderly who are more socially excluded than others.

Furthermore, the subsequent layer to this project involves studying the financial viability and potential commercial success, following in depth market research, population statistics, reports on socioeconomic conditions and assessment of the various regions worth exploring, for a better revenue stream estimate. Competitor analysis and evaluations are to be conducted during the market research as well.

Production and upscale, costings, technical analysis on the server infrastructure, legal and IPR issues, and environmental impact assessments are also important for an accurate image of the product's costs, followed lastly by the creation of an achievable business plan based on the results and findings of the above tasks.The conclusion of the feasibility study is that the IrisPhone can be a viable business, even though it will be marked by a slow start until we successfully establish our market position.
Analytical overview of the completed tasks in summarized format:

The IrisPhone SME project had very clear and distinct goals set out to be completed, in order to create a comprehensive feasibility study that would aid us in our pre-commercialization phase in determining where we should place our focus on, as well as correctly identifying all the costs associated with the actual commercialization phase.

Through the feasibility study we would also be able to determine how strong our chances would be if we were to launch in the European and South African market. By identifying whether such a launch would be successful or not, we would then be able to examine how we could further improve the IrisPhone, with region specific localisations in order to increase the IrisPhone’s appeal.

The first step in the process was the study of the EU and SA market. The EU countries that we decided to focus on initially were the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. The UK was chosen due to the low language barrier and the previous ties the founders had with the region. Germany was selected for similar reasons, and lastly Spain was chosen due to the cultural similarities it has with Cyprus. In that regard Italy and Greece were also suitable candidates, but due to the recent financial troubles those regions have been facing we decided to avoid them during our initial commercialisations. South Africa was deemed an appropriate candidate due to the ties we established with the Cypriot branch of MTN, which would be the easiest gateway for us to access the market.

From the initial research results that were completed remotely, it was clear that a market for the IrisPhone existed for the following reasons: all the regions have a high number of elderly, a number that is only going to keep growing; they are currently catered by devices that have limited functionality and rely on non-intuitive methods of operation; various services exist that try to accommodate to the elderly’s needs, by a number of institutions and organisations who we could potentially work with in order to gain initial access to a segment of the elderly population and expand our network from there; and lastly certain trends among the elderly were reconfirmed, increasing the likelihood of a successful market launch. These trends include minor disabilities, loneliness in weak family units, caregivers’ concerns in stronger family units, an increase in acceptance of health monitoring and the desire to be more socially active and productive.

This was followed by looking at our end users more closely through surveys, interviews and presentations. Through this task we were able to better identify which features the users are more interested in, as well as identify how the product can be further elevated after our realization that there is a large number of users who would want to see the inclusion of a tablet like screen in the base. We also identified other clients that we can approach differently (more customized versions of the IrisPhone for elderly care home integration) and how the IrisPhone can be diversified in other markets, such as children with special needs. The regulations and certifications that would affect our product’s production were also looked at in more detail, with the most important one being the CE mark.

During this time, we also tested out the identified devices that could be integrated in the IrisPhone ecosystem, as well as establish the more technical background aspects that we should keep in mind with our cloud based features. Finally, one of the more important tasks involved the production and upscale planning. In this task we were able to fully analyse all the product components, the costs and assembly process, identify how we would tackle the manufacturing, the distribution channels, our ordering systems, as well as our health and safety, future additions, risk management and SWOT analysis. We also conducted a simple LCA, to determine which environmental impacts we should try to minimize in the future as we expand our business.

All these were then taken into consideration when we updated our business plan in our final task. We have concluded that moving forwards with the IrisPhone, we will be able to create a viable business despite the difficulties that are associated with entering the hardware market, versus a purely software one. Some limitations are to be expected in the first years, where our profit margins will not be as high, but by continuously expanding our features and services, as well as lowering our costs, we expect to be financially more successful by the third year.

Short overview of each task:

Task 1: Assess the Market/Target Users, Legal and IPR issues
T1.1 -Market surveys and analysis: via online and offline methods, gather market statistics and reports, that will give us insights into the EU and South African markets that we wish to penetrate – specifically through this research we would be able to deduce which would be the ideal business model to follow for each region, while analysing our main competitors within that area. Current Status:UK, Germany, Spain and South Africa were analysed - for each country the following were carried out - Population Research - Stats and reports on ageing and population needs; Potential partners to help carry out small and large scale demos; Competitor Analysis - Preferred products and habits by the region; Market Entry and Business model evaluations; Gender Considerations.
T1.2 -End user research: via product demonstrations, focus groups, surveys and interviews, we aim to interact with our target users from each region for their feedback regarding user preferences, willingness to pay, product acceptance and whether their needs are catered by a competitor. Current Status: Product demos in Germany and Cyprus, still waiting for response from identified potential partners to see whether the product can be showcased and secure a partnership for a large scale demo during phase 2. Focus groups with experts were also carried out in Cyprus, for feedback and to test product acceptance within their fields. Statistics gathered from survey for UK, Germany, Spain and South Africa, identifying feature preferences of each country, product acceptance, pricing, as well as competitor identification and general background info.
T1.3 -Certification, IPR extension and protection strategy: Assess the certification, legal & guarantee considerations of the Iris Phone and update the current European patent application to accommodate for new regions or additional contributions to how the product can be further protected. Analyse the associated costs of these procedures. Current Status:Certifications (CEs, ISOs) were identified and researched, including associated costs; plans for second patent for future IrisPhone version.

Task 2: Assess our Production options and costings, as well as environmental impacts
T2.1 – Device integration: assess the efficiency and usefulness of other devices that could improve our target users’ lifestyle, examine the licensing, integration and setup costs, as well as alternative options (in-house construction) –we are most interested in analysing devices measuring vital signs, air quality, medication tracking and smart house features (lights, windows, doors). Current Status: Most of the proposed devices were tested out and the ones that were appropriate were integrated into the IrisPhone software - legal aspects of integration were examined and conclusions were reached regarding in-house construction.
T2.2 – Technical analysis: examine the infrastructure costs of setting up, maintaining and securing an internal server, for data storage and exchange, as well as further analysis on which features the target users would be most interested in for remote operation and customization. Current Status:The costs associated with in-house servers were examined, and the features which will require said server were further analysed according to survey results and interviews.
T2.3 – Upscale and production planning: create a plan to bring the current prototype & production line to industrial readiness so that iResTech can support the manufacturing at a quantity & cost that meet market demand, especially for overseas expansion. Current Status: Most of the aspects of upscale and production planning were analysed, some data is still missing regarding manufacturing sites and associated costs with shipping and logistics.
T2.4 – Environmental Impact: LCA analysis of our product will have in the environment, both during the production of the tangible base and its packaging, by evaluating our material options and production methods. Current Status: A basic LCA analysis for the IrisPhone was conducted, however at this stage it is slightly limited and will have to be revisited in the future.

Task 3: Create an achievable Business plan
Based on the results of the above tasks, the initial business plan will be updated to include a detailed marketing/dissemination and commercialization plan, validate our unique selling point for each region, a market research and a financial plan that will result in the maximum permissible resources needed to bring the product into the market while considering all costs involved in the project and the project profitability. The business plan will mark the milestones towards the introduction of the product in the market and the financial milestones for the commercialization phase, including sales targets, required investments and breakeven point. Current Status: Document has been completed to reflect all the changes that we identified during our feasibility study and showcase our better understanding of the costs that we will have to consider moving forwards, as well as the new ways of increasing our revenue streams.
When we first started our project our focus was on eliminating the digital and physical complexities that are currently a hindrance to our target users via the options that are currently in the market. Our intention was to bridge them with technology in a format they would find as easy and intuitive as possible, which is why our initial IrisPhone version was a plastic base that grouped together the features that were considered the most relevant and applicable to their lifestyle.

During the duration of the SME project however, we realized that a large number of users was willing to replace the plastic base with a big tablet screen like surface. This is a very positive indication of the wider digital acceptance that seems to be occurring throughout Europe and an exciting way for our product to evolve into an even more intuitive format.

While our methodology would remain the same, with the user having to simply move the smartphone over the action they wish to execute (while allowing the execution to occur without the help of the phone as well), utilizing a specially designed screen implies that the base’s contents would be able to intuitively change according to how the user is operating the system at the time. The new design which incorporates a slim touch screen with human-centric interface is a progress beyond the current state of the art which gives users more value for money and make central home operations and connectivity with health and IoT devices through the IrisPhone truly intuitive, eliminating the limitations we were facing with content presentation.

As such, we are already in the process of updating our IP to reflect these product changes and expect the more intelligent version of the IrisPhone to appear in the market shortly after the introduction of the simple base, which will be aimed at the much older generations who still oppose using a touchscreen.