One task we often help clients with is exploring the feasibility of developing an idea into a product. Sometimes it is not clear that an idea can be implemented, or it is not clear how to implement it. A feasibility stage is a short investigation to determine how the design should best be done. We view our role as working with customers to explore the many possibilities for improvements or enhancements in their specific market niche. We identify solutions that work to save time and money. We develop solutions to meet business needs.
Recently a startup company hired us to help with their idea for a new type of consumer device. They already had performed market research and knew what customers wanted with this product. They wanted to bring new functionally while performing all the functions of a radio. They hired us and and our partner, Fusion Design, to look at both the electrical and mechanical feasibility.
In this case, the feasibility studies were focused not on whether the design was technically feasible, but rather if it could be done at the right price.
We identified and scoped out three of the development risks in the project:
- Transfer of data
- Bottleneck for streaming data
First, we discovered that the type of screen they wanted is not off-the-shelf for the size, resolution, and other features needed. In order to estimate the price we had to compare similar screens with various resolution and features. We were able to determine that you could get the screen exactly like they wanted using a semi-custom version. We also determined the price and what it would take to get the display they needed. We relied heavily on our partner Adolph Consulting Services (ACS), a company with expertise in working with suppliers during new product introduction. They were able to get information quickly that we could not have gotten, because of their supplier relationships.
The second thing we discovered were technical issues with transferring data between one device to another. To accurately nail down the cost, we had to estimate the electronics to be designed. This allowed us to come up with the overall cost estimate which included the electronics, screen, mounting and enclosure.
The third thing we identified was a software bottleneck for streaming of the information. The bottleneck issue may require additional time and resources to determine the best approach to handle it.
We offered half a dozen different ways of accomplishing their goal, each with its unique set of advantages and disadvantages.
For example, instead of designing a custom display, we looked at what software would be needed to use a notebook computer or cell phone. We explored several combinations of hardware and software to get the best features at low cost and with low risk. From the list of options our client was able to quickly make a decision about which is the best way to go forward with the design.
Performing a feasibility study first allowed us to explore the options and the risk issues before our client made a commitment to the full project. The cost of development for the final project may be on the order of half a million dollars. By spending a few thousand dollars up front, our client can now make an informed decision and understand the risks and options available.