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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. 


 

At a glance

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.

Outcome

A portable device for improved water sanitation in personal environments, initially for users like campers, with plans for future expansion into developing countries with limited safe water access.

The exhibition was revealed to the public following an intensive four-month design process. It is located on the first floor of the Ed Kaplan Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship in Chicago. Throughout our design journey, rigorous prototyping played a pivotal role in shaping our considerations for accessibility. Simultaneously, we collaborated with the Design Museum of Chicago, who took charge of curating the essential artifacts featured in the exhibition.

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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!

 

Problem Scoping

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

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.

Research Highlights

A thorough analysis was conducted, exploring macro and micro trends related to the sanitation opportunities, best practices, perceptions of food safety, and ozone technology. The analysis extended to examining industry trends and an assessment of competitors and consumers in the ozone and produce cleaning products space.

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Research Strategy

Our research strategy aims to understand the behavioral concept of "Clean"among diverse groups like everyday cooks, working moms, seafarers, and campers. These individuals have unique cleanliness rituals and mental models related to food safety. Employing four targeted design research methods, we delve into specific aspects of the 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.

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 painpoints and JTBD.

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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.

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Opportunity Areas and Concept directions

Drawing from the research insights and with approval from Dr. Donato Ceres, CEO of Aquamox, we have formulated opportunity areas and concept directions. Utilizing an opportunity prioritization scorecard, we assessed concept directions through the lens of the Jobs to be Done framework to inform our product strategy. Our analysis revealed pressing challenges faced by campers, such as limited access to clean water and resulting health concerns due to inadequate sanitation practices.

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A set of communication materials designed to assist patients and caregivers from initial program enrollment to the end of home-based care.

Prototypes received feedback from hospital staff involved in pilot planning, a patient panel, and Hospital-at-Home nurses.
 

  • Patients suggested troubleshooting guidance, device highlighting, and information on the support team.

  • Nurses and caregivers wanted additional content explaining device significance, a system diagram, and simplified manufacturer instructions.

  • The health literacy team appreciated the simplified instructions and endorsed the term "Hospital at Home health monitoring kit."

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Diagram showing how
the devices connect.
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Overview of
the device.
Illustration of the device and parts.
Illustration of the device and parts.
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Guidance to use
the device.
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Impact

Pilot officially launched its pilot in February 2023. 

 

  • The first patient did so well in the program that they were discharged early! Rather than being bed-bound in the hospital, the patient was reported sitting in his favorite chair, eating the provided meals and moving around his home during virtual visits with the doctor. They raved about this option for his care.
     

  • Using the tech guide, the patient was able to submit an extra round of vital signs on Wednesday night.
     

  • The newly-appointed Chief Quality Officer has since requested a copy of the service blueprint for this program. He wants UCMC’s operations team to adopt this service.

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

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