Vision and Value Proposition:
iChairish helps to ensure a safer, more personalized ride for every child . . . lowers the risk of life-changing injuries or death, providing peace of mind to parents . . . and reduces the risk of liability and the number of customer complaints for car seat manufacturers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vehicle crashes in 2018 caused 636 deaths and more than 97,000 injuries in children aged twelve years and younger. This is the leading cause of death in young children. Using car seats as opposed to just the seatbelts in the car can reduce a child’s risk of injury in a crash by 71-82%.
But even when car seats are used, the safety of its child occupant depends on the safety of the car seat, itself. A February 2020 ProPublica article relates horrific details of accidents that changed the lives of children seated in a particular brand and model of child safety seat.
Another cause of death in children seated in car seats or other child seating devices, as discussed by the American Association of Pediatrics, is sleep-related deaths. This occurs when the seat is used as an alternative to a crib or bassinet, and the child dies from positional asphyxia.
The ideal customer is the car seat manufacturer who wants to improve the safety of its child car seat offerings, make them easily and inexpensively available to every parent, and enhance the child occupant’s enjoyment while riding in it. An added value is a reduction in liability for deaths or injuries to children while seated in the car seat.
In 2018, the global child safety seat market was valued at approximately USD 4 billion, and expected to grow to about USD 6.3 billion by 2027 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of about 5.03% worldwide, according to PR Newswire Association. Statista.com estimates that the corresponding market size in the US in 2018 was about USD 910 million, expected to reach about USD 1.39 billion in 2025.
The company does not intend to restrict its efforts to the US market, although it expects to begin where it will have the easiest chance of establishing a foothold. Scaling efforts, besides geography for car seats, include strollers, baby swings, and eventually seat cushions (under a different brand name) for other age groups and mass transit systems.
The iChairish seat cushion will be built using patented technology (U.S. Patent No. 9283875). This is based on a semi-active seat cushion design used in certain military equipment where the occupant may be seated for long periods of time, or there may be likelihood of impact, ejection from the seat, or high acceleration. Several connected chambers in the seat cushion are filled with a smart fluid controllable by an electromagnetic field generator and integrated circuit.
An algorithm in the integrated circuit cycles through a procedure, first to detect whether a smart cushion is present; if so, it next determines whether the seat is in use. Experts will determine the threshold at which the algorithm should trigger pressure adjustments inside the cushion chambers; these can be initialized to a standard determined by, for example, the American Association of Pediatrics. Should the seat sense changes in energy transmission exceeding the pre-determined threshold during travel, it adjusts the pressure among the internal seat cushion chambers using the field generator.
As the occupant rides in the seat, the seat collects information and adjusts to his or her body weight and size by transferring the smart fluid between chambers through the connecting openings. An encapsulating foam layer around the chambers absorbs the fluid in the event of an external stimulus (acceleration, a crash, ejection, or increased vibration due to rough terrain), allowing the seat to deflate quickly, yet under control. This protects the occupant from spinal and other injuries, and also reduces fatigue due to travel on long rides.
The company also proposes to add an additional sensor to detect and monitor the child’s breathing and provide notification to parents or caregivers if a child stops breathing or has been sitting in a stationary vehicle or child seat for too long. The cushion will be created with a waterproof, removable, washable cover for ease of maintenance.
Benefits of iChairish:
- For the child, this car seat cushion makes the ride more pleasant and comfortable, leading to less fussiness, and it protect the child better if an accident should occur.
- For the parent or caregiver, the child’s safety gives peace of mind, and the child’s comfort leads to less stress while the adult is driving. The notifications about the child’s breathing and the ability to adjust the threshold for the seat’s electromagnetically-controlled pressure chambers also ease the parent’s or caregiver’s concern, specially when there are factors that could increase the chances of positional asphyxia.
- For the car seat manufacturer, the reduced risk of serious or fatal injury means that lower risk of lawsuits and fewer customer complaints.
I (Yolande Athaide) will be looking to fill many of the following positions, all of which will require substantial expertise to get the product to market. Candidates have not yet been identified, but will likely include a mix of colleagues and business partners from my LinkedIn contacts. I will most likely take either the Operations or Financial aspects because of my familiarity with managing those areas. But I will make that determination following discussions with a mentor.
- Chief Executive Officer: to set the vision, mission, and strategy of the company with assistance from the rest of the team.
- Chief Operating Officer: to handle day-to-day operational activities and coordinating among the team members and external partners. This individual will also handle data analysis and make recommendations to the team based on it.
- Chief Technology Officer: to manage the technology infrastructure and security of the company. This person will be responsible for the ethical collection and handling of data from operations.
- Chief Financial Officer: to determine financing strategy and manage the daily financial business of the company. He or she will oversee the accounting needs of the company.
- Chief Marketing Officer: to lead the sales and marketing efforts, establish channels and relationships for various segments we hope to enter. This individual will also lead efforts to scale geographically and by product once production shifts beyond car seat cushions.
- Research & Development: to collaborate with the inventor and governmental or administrative entities as necessary to refine the product and conduct testing. As the product gains traction, this group will explore new products to scale to.
- Product Manager: to liaise among the above groups and ensure the right product is designed, developed, and delivered to the right customers. This role may roll up under the COO, specifically at the beginning.
- Human Resources and Legal: to manage the company’s personnel needs and benefits, and attend to legal aspects for the company.
In addition, I plan to partner or consult with the following people and entities:
- Inventor: Joseph A. Pellettiere, of Centerville, OH, is the inventor of this technology. The patent has been assigned to the United States of America, represented by the Secretary of Airforce. Either or both may have an interest in whether this product proceeds to market.
- TechLink: for guidance on intellectual property matters.
- Car seat manufacturers: to scope out and form partnerships with those who want to shift their company’s vision toward a more socially-conscious, safety-first product line. We want to be able to reach as many parents as possible, and will need to ensure that this product does not become cost-prohibitive to all other than the high end customers. If they have their own cushion manufacturers, we will look into collaborating on production capabilities and assets, and I will also explore the cushion manufacturers who develop the cushion for the US military.
- Car manufacturers: to explore the option of integrating the function of the car seat cushion chip with the electronic components of the car to provide parental notifications if the seat’s sensors detect breathing issues or the child was left sleeping too long in a stationary vehicle.
- NHTSA: The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration would be a good partner to assist with establishing crash test pass criteria and any standards.
The closest technology to iChairish consists of gel matrix, column-buckling technology. Evenflo offers this technology in some of its carseats, according the retailers like Walmart. When the child is placed in the seat, the gel-containing columns buckle into the surrounding space to adjust to the child’s body shape. These seats also have a temperature-control mechanism to prevent the child’s body from over-heating.
The smart-fluid-based, semi-active car seat cushion is better because it constantly monitors for external stimuli that cause the chamber pressure to cross the established threshold, and adjusts the chamber pressure to make for a more comfortable ride, specially over rough roads. This reduces travel fatigue to the child. iChairish also efficiently and safely controls deflating of the cushion to more securely support the child’s body in the event of a crash or other sudden external stimulus.
Additionally, iChairish is the only product that also delivers feedback to the parent or caregiver on the child’s safety and breathing while in the car seat, and issues reminders when the child has been seated too long in the stationary vehicle.