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Intelligent Active Hearing Protection

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IAHP (Intelligent Active Hearing Protection)

Reporting period: 2017-05-01 to 2017-10-31

The project aims at exploring new market opportunities addressing the EU and global challenge of safety at the workplace. Today there is a lack of well-functioning, highly safe and active hearing protection involving sensor technology that can benefit from the high speed of communication through 4G and 5G.

The specific objectives for the feasibility study have been to evaluate the feasibility of the concept and outline the confirmation phase and preparing for the exploitation phase. The specific objectives included to:
(1) get deeper market intelligence and define the European dimension for the commercialization (task 1)
(2) investigate the willingness to pay and perceived benefits by users (task 1)
(3) identify and commit partners for tests in phase 2 (task 2)
(4) prepare the test protocols for phase 2 (task 2)
(5) increase the user friendliness through further prototype development based on potential clients’ feedback (task 2)
(6) build the hearing protection to be tested in phase 2 (task 2)
(7) elaborate a strategy for IPR and branding (task 3)
(8) develop routines for innovation management (task 3)
(9) secure freedom-to-operate in innovation and exploitation phase (task 3)
(10) elaborate a communication strategy and communication plans for each target group (task 4)
(11) identify knowledge partners for phase 2 (task 5)
(12) secure best value for money for sub-contractors to be assigned for services during the phase 2 project (task 5)
(13) elaborate an exploitation strategy including a strategy for pricing, organizational changes needed especially sales and distribution organization and prepare the future sales organization (task 6),
(14) get an answer to the question if we have technical, economic and practical feasibility of our business innovation project (task 7)

In measurable terms we aim to document and reach the following results:
• Highest safety on the market – through sensor technology secure that the hearing protection operates at the stipulated attenuation level
• Enable Internet-of-Things through sensor technology and thus be able to collect and analyze cloud-based big data e.g. to see if the sound inside and outside the ear-muffs are in a correct interval (high safety) or analyze patterns of movement of staff within a designated area in a specific time period (increased cost efficiency)
• Reduced cost for hearing protection through longer durability that in turn is related to condition-based maintenance and spare parts offered
• Being able to measure dampness, attenuation, temperature or how the electronics work which will make both the developed product and future products more robust and safe
• More environmentally friendly material compared to competitors e.g. take away PVC in sealing rings that are also the spare part to be exchanged
• Run an innovation process that takes into account both user involvement and design for manufacturing
There were 7 tasks in the phase 1 project.

Task 1. Increased Market Intelligence
Task 1 delivered a willingness to pay study. Perceived benefits of the innovation were investigated and link that to how much consumers would be willing to pay for the innovative features and increased safety. This task also made a competitor analysis.

Task 2. Preparation of the product for demonstration (aiming for an SME-Instrument phase 2 project)
This task mapped potential demonstration partners. We got feedback to the innovation process and has included such demand when preparing for phase 2. Some further product development was implemented in task 2.

Task 3. Elaboration of a strategy for IPR, branding and innovation management
This task includes the elaboration of a IPR portfolio strategy. It also included innovation management e.g. the development of routines for handling new ideas coming up in the development team during the innovation process. Furthermore, the task included a freedom to operate analysis in order to secure the development path. In addition, this task will also handled the issue of branding of the innovation.

Task 4. Elaboration of a communication strategy and plans
Task 4 has elaborated a communication strategy and communication plans for each target group that will be implemented during phase 2.

Task 5. Strategic evaluation of sub-contractors and knowledge partners.
In task 5 we have made a strategic evaluation of knowledge partners and sub-contractors for the continued innovation process in the company.

Task 6. Preparing the sales organisation and exploitation strategy
Task 6 has delivered an updated exploitation strategy. We have made an agreement with a future distributor with global capabilities.

Task 7 Business Innovation Plan 1
This task put together the main results from task 1-6 and has presented predicted business- and market possibilities and has prepared the final report to EU from phase 1.

The main result is that we together with a client (who will be the distributor mentioned above) have decided to launch a first version of our product in September 2018. That can be done after field-tests that will start in November 2017. Preparations for production will take place during the spring of 2018. The product will be branded with the distributor's brand. That is in line with the current strategy of the company i.e. to be an OEM supplier.
After the launch of version 1 in September 2018, a version 2 of the product will be developed and field tested, hopefully in a phase 2 project in the SME-instrument. This product is planned to meet the objectives of the full business innovation project presented in the application and the final report of phase 1.

The main advantages compared to competitors are,
• Flexible module platform that enables the customer to define the shape and design of the outer casing and user interface.
• Flexible module platform enables different product levels to be launched, with a competitive market price.
• Small overall size and weight
• Very robust design with internal battery, antenna and microphones.
• Low number of components and lean design
• Hardware prepared for IoT-solutions.

The development has also shown that the specific PUR-foam material that Wikmanshyttan Safety produce for the internal sound absorbers gives a very good sound quality together with the chosen speakers. This is also an advantage that will be used as a selling point.

The potential impact for society is increased safety at the work-place and also for private user when working in the forest or garden. The innovation can be launched in other market sectors with similar benefits for society.
For users additional benefits include the enabling of internet of things, reduced cost for hearing protection through longer durability, an ability to measure dampness, attenuation, temperature or how the electronics work which will make both the developed product and future products more robust and safe and more environmentally friendly material compared to competitors.

For Wikmanshyttan Safety the project will lead to increased competitiveness, job creation, increased turnover and profit and new intellectual property.
Developed prototype