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Developing a product for sustainable hygiene and sanitization using ozone technology.

Collaborating with a startup at mHUB Chicago for the development of new eco-friendly solutions focused on infection prevention through water sanitation.

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Background

Founded in 2019, Aquamox, Inc. is located at mHUB Chicago, the largest innovation center dedicated to physical product development. Acknowledged as the TOP EMERGING FOOD SAFETY COMPANY of 2022 by Food & Beverage Technology, the company is on a mission to redefine infection prevention using water. By leveraging diamond-based electrochemistry and ozone, Aquamox is committed to providing effective and environmentally friendly solutions through the intelligent development of point-of-use products.

My Role

Product design consultant
 

Project info

5 months (2023)
Chicago, IL (on-site)

 

My contributions

Design Research, Project scoping, Problem framing, Discovery and ideation,  Design development, NPD. 


 

Challenge

Recognizing the rising demand for infection prevention in personal environments, the company seeks product innovations and new markets to promote sustainable hygiene.

Aquamox has successfully introduced a product for commercial establishments (restaurant and food manufacturers), preventing food poisoning.

The shift is driven by increased awareness due to COVID-19, fear of superbugs, and the continuous expansion of healthcare expenditures (~$2T), heightened focus on health and wellness expenditure among individuals further emphasizes the need for Aquamox's innovative solutions.

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Outcome

In close collaboration with Aquamox, we embarked on the design and development of an entirely new water sanitation product from the ground up. Over a span of 14 weeks, we engaged in extensive research and iterative design processes, resulting in the creation of Droplet.

 

This portable device is designed to enhance water sanitation in personal environments. While the initial focus is on serving users such as campers, we developed strategic plans for future expansion into developing countries where safe water access is limited.

How it works.

The functionality of the solution involves submerging the unit in water, initiating the generation of ozone. This ozone, produced within 30 seconds, can then be utilized for sanitation purposes initially and subsequently for safe drinking water applications.

Video outlining the solution, showcasing its features and explaining the technology behind it.

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They started from the hard part, understanding the technology and creating a vision for believable products that are not currently on the market. Product development is an intriguing process that takes perseverance; that's why we find it fascinating and challenging. In the last week, all the work over the semester came together in your visualizations, building final prototypes, design decision making, and storytelling.  It’s hard to sell a concept if you don’t believe in it yet or it’s not actually yours. But it was exciting to see it happening. 

- Dr. Donato Ceres PhD. Founder and CEO of Aquamox Inc

Client Testimonial

A bit more context..

Food poisoning affects 48 million people, skin infections impact 2 million, and hospital-acquired infections contribute to another 2 million cases. The severity of a single infection is underscored by the alarming global death toll of 11 million annually, constituting 20% of all deaths.

Current over-the-counter solutions prove inadequate and unsafe, with risks of altering hormone levels and inducing allergic reactions. The rise of superbugs poses a significant threat as bacteria can develop resistance to antiseptics, antibiotics, and drugs. Moreover, existing sanitizers are often slow, requiring over 3 minutes to be effective. Compounding the issue, 26 common antiseptics have been banned by the FDA due to insufficient evidence for safety, particularly in products like antibacterial soaps. The storage of concentrated chemicals presents an additional occupational hazard. This context highlights the critical need for innovative solutions in the field of infection prevention.

Process highlights

Industry Analysis

Conducted comprehensive analysis of ozone products in market, trends in the space and regulations.

 

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Ethnographic research

Conducted observational ethnography, contextual inquiry, in depth interviews, and photo diary to get pain points and behavioral insights.

 

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Opportunity ranking

Created evaluation scorecard to prioritize focus area based on consumer insights and market outlook.

 

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Design and development

Developed sketches, use-case scenarios and developed prototypes both in paper and 3D printing.

 

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Usability Testing

Conducted usability test with potential customers using 3D printed prototypes for further evaluation and refinement.

 

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Branding strategy development

Developed branding collateral, packaging concepts, brochures etc, for visual merchandising.

 

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In reality how the process went!

 

Research Highlights

Research Strategy

Understanding the customer base for a first-generation product posed challenges, particularly given that the technology primarily focuses on sanitation and cleaning. Therefore, it was imperative to grasp varied perspectives on cleanliness across different demographics and cultures.

 

To address this, we devised a research strategy aimed at identifying user groups aligned with Aquamox's interests, utilizing a 2x2 prioritization matrix that assessed risk versus concern and the balance between luxury and necessity alongside adoption potential.

By considering factors such as new technology adoption rates, perceived risks, and the essential nature of the product, this strategic framework not only guided our research efforts but also ensured a more targeted and effective approach to understanding our potential customer base.

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Conducting contextual inquiry with moms and campers, and observational study of home cooks.

Our research strategy focused on understanding the concept of "Clean" across diverse groups like everyday cooks, working moms, seafarers, and campers. We aimed to grasp their adoption of cleaning technologies and address skepticism. Through four targeted design research methods, we explored challenges associated with cleanliness and food safety.

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Observational ethnography

Reason : To identify moments of delights and bottlenecks to address latent needs in home cooking.

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Contextual inquiry

Reason : To know the workflows and deep understanding of existing product interactions for working moms.

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In depth interviews

Reason : Gaining insights into the holistic customer journey with both casual and cautious users in out of home context.

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Photo diary study

Reason : To do remote ethnography and unbiased observational data especially with campers due to time constraints.

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Conducting contextual inquiry with moms and campers, and observational study of home cooks.

Consumer discovery and Opportunity Areas 

The research identified key user groups with distinct perspectives on sanitization. One prioritized efficiency, while another focused on food safety, especially in regions where produce is perceived as unsafe. Working mothers shared challenges with breast pumping during busy workdays, and campers faced difficulties with water storage and tank cleaning in areas with limited infrastructure. These insights guided our tailored product and outreach strategies to address the diverse needs of these user segments.

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We developed an evaluation scorecard to prioritize focus areas by considering consumer insights and market outlook. Through our research, we discovered an increased demand for sustainable hygiene solutions in out-of-home contexts. especially among wayfaring campers such as RV and car campers.

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Conducting contextual inquiry with moms and campers, and observational study of home cooks.

Problem Scoping

Addressing hygiene and infection risks among campers with limited water infrastructure by providing  sustainable solutions.

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After doing 6 observational studies, contextual inquiries and in depth interview with over 15 participants ranging from everyday cooks, working moms to campers to identify potential market opportunities, our research revealed a higher demand for sustainable hygiene in out-of-home contexts, 

As there is an increase in surge for campers and camping activities resulting from the pandemic's remote work practices we focused on developing solutions for camping community.

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Presenting and getting feedback on project scope and market research.

Key insights (related to campers)

Our Research revealed following trends: efficiency-focused individuals prioritize quick cleaning with running water, while a subset, cleaning as a ritual. Campers, akin to working moms, seek portable, eco-friendly sanitation solutions, addressing uncertainties in tap water during travels. The following are some insights that led to focus on camping community as the target group and address their pain points and Jobs-To-Be-Done.

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Outdoors, people's heightened eco-consciousness drives a sense of emotional obligation to control sanitation.

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Campers prioritize on-site water sanitization for a stable supply of clean water, recognizing safety beyond visible dirt due to their acceptance of the camping environment.

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Campers require solutions that minimize water usage and ecological disposal concerns while addressing sanitation needs.

Droplet: A Portable Submersible Ozone Generator Ensuring Safe and Clean Drinking Water for Camping

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After designing and iterating through 6 concept directions and creating 7 prototypes, we successfully engineered a portable design with a smaller footprint that aligns with Aquamox's manufacturing capabilities. The unit features a stainless steel or titanium casing to ensure durability. It boasts a highly modular structure, allowing easy access to internals for maintenance and replacement of diamond plates.

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In addition, we developed a user interface and integrated a small display directly into the unit. This enhancement provides users with valuable insights into water purification cycles, water levels, and the status of filters, as well as the replacement of internal electronic components and their overall health. The accompanying app serves as a complementary feature to the built-in screen, offering additional data insights.

This approach not only enhances user experience but also lays the groundwork for future advancements, potentially leading to the development of generation 2 and 3 units within a larger digital ecosystem for the company.

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Emery 

Backpacker

"This is such a nice product to be able to kill harmful germs and viruses in the water! This can be a nice alternative to filters. 
I didn’t know much about ozone,  it is really great to see such a cool looking product, I wish it was a bit smaller too."

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Arrenius

Hiker

“This is game-changing! I don’t have to worry about water access anymore. I can totally see myself using this. 

 

I would be more comfortable with using this if I could know that this product itself is clean - Just like I know my eyeglasses are clean whenever I store it in my case."

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