The startup idea is to create a wearable Internet of Things (IoT) device which shall act as a travel companion for the visually challenged people.
What is the idea?
The startup idea is to create a wearable Internet of Things (IoT) device which shall act as a travel companion for the visually challenged people. The proposed device will be connected to an application on the user's mobile phone. The device would be eyeglasses and contain a miniature camera in the front to collect data about distance at which the user is from the object in front and the size of the object. The device will also have an earpiece to translate the data into audio directions to the user in most of the major languages in the world.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Globally the number of people of all ages visually impaired is estimated to be 285 million, of whom 39 million are blind. It is further estimated that all numbers of blind people will double by 2020. An average of 1 in 30 Europeans experience sight loss.
Some of the other relevant statistics on visually impaired individuals in the word according to WHO are:
- About 90% of the worlds visually impaired live in low-income settings.
82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
There are many products and solutions which are being offered by various companies/startups across the world for blind. Perkins offers a GPS called “trekker.” Blindsquare also has launched a successful product in this segment. There have been various companies trying to create solutions for the blind and visually impaired people. These solutions have been prepared around other senses of humans including touch, smell, and hearing.
Pain Point & Target Audience
The targeted customer market for this business is “any person who is visually impaired.” One of the biggest challenges for the visually impaired is commuting from one place to another. At times, they may need a companion who can guide them. The IoT device proposed in this article will provide a sense of independence to the visually impaired people and give them the power to travel alone.
The proposed device will not just act as a GPS but will also use artificial intelligence to record data; the device shall store data about the obstacles like stairs and the number of stairs and improvise and guide the user in a better way while navigating those areas again. This data could also be relayed to other users in the same area, and they could build up a visually impaired version of the Google maps. Also, the mobile application along with the device will act on voice commands.
The business model for this idea would be involve two streams. The first stream is, of course, the sale of the devices. The other stream would be small voice advertisements that the retailers and other vendors can put on this product. The user of these devices could listen to these ads when they wish to and using voice activated commands order a sample or product.
The product needs to be priced very competitively as the bulk of the users as per WHO data will lie in the developing countries.
Way to market
The startup could reach out to organizations for the visually impaired and tie up with them. The startup should also pledge a part of earnings to such organizations. This would not only lead to higher sales but would also result in the startup generating more leads for sales.
The second institutional tie-up should be structured with organizations that can supply geospatial data, so that the application can work by taking in the feed from the data and what it is capturing from the camera. Companies like Google have started mapping interiors of malls and buildings too, and this could be a significant input for the device. This data would be very helpful when the visibility is low, during night time, rainy seasons or winters.
Prototyping is a key element in hardware-based startup and having proximity to Shenzen, the prototyping capital of the world would be helpful. The first step would be to tie up various technologies together to build a seamless user experience.
The customer would be required to wear the product at all times. Therefore, it is essential that the material used in the product is of the top most quality, and you would need to build a library of skin friendly materials that can be used as base material for the device. A laboratory should certify the friendliness of the material used.
The startup also needs to ensure that the mobile application prepared for the device is very user-friendly and easily accessible through voice commands. The startup can consider using voice assistants offered on platforms like ios and android; it will be good to check out various sound recognition algorithm's and build up the application on it.
There has been a lot of advancement in the field of computer vision and cameras that can guide self-driving cars, it may be a good idea to leverage or use some of these patents or tech breakthroughs in developing the product.
Last but not the least the device needs to be energy efficient and should be chargeable using solar energy or through induction current, thereby making it easier to use on a day to day basis. It will be good to leverage the technology available in the market rather than building it from scratch.
Investment Needed For Prototyping
For testing & refining the prototype, pitch for raising 150K USD from angel investors or incubators in your country. You need to remember that you would need to build a semi-functional prototype before you hit the ground for raising funds. There should be no office rentals or salary payout; the entire budget should be apportioned for developing and testing the prototype.
You need a multidisciplinary team which has expertise in computer vision, Electronic circuits, Hardware prototyping and wireless technologies. And of course, you need to have an expert who can sell the product too.
Investors / Expert Take
IoT as an industry has garnered a lot of interest from investors in developed as well as emerging market economies. Quarter 1 of 2016 was the best quarter for IoT startups yet with total investments of USD 846 million. This idea would be in one of the hottest growing segment and at the same time garner interest from the socially impact funds as well
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