LAST WEEK'S COLUMN briefly discussed three large problems that may yield many potential and profitable inventions and business opportunities. In working in the world of inventions, one has to find problems that are very large and that people do not like to work on.
This column is written largely from my experience as a 99-percenter inventor. If you read this series and maintain a scrapbook, you will get the gist of how to invent. Avoid working on problems that are popular, such as writing code for an app or something that is related to saving the environment. Instead, work on issues that are unpopular. However, there is no guarantee of success.
The Case 1307 (April 22, 2013, A Better Bed Design) is a case that is so basic but contains so many difficult problems, and it has largely defied solutions throughout the history. The bed today probably is not much different from ones we slept in back in the Stone Age. In fact, our bed and beds for dogs and cats are still basically identical — they are cushions.
But before we jump into working a solution out, let's define the problems first. Many so-called inventors often have already solutions in their head, and try to jam it to the problem — pounding a square peg into a round hole. That is, their creative urge simply overcomes and short-circuits the process of defining what the problem really is in the first place.
America is aging rapidly. The population of people over 65 is 45 million today, and will grow to some 72 million in two decades. Married or single, people in their twilight years want to continue living in their homes. Going to live or being sent to a nursing home or an assisted-living facility is the last thing on their minds. Therefore, home care will continue to be a fast-growing industry.
In order to define the problems or issues, let's categorize patients into three groups:
• People with reasonable mobility who can get out of bed and walk around with relative ease. These people can take showers or baths, and perform sanitary activities with no assistance.
• People with some mobility issues who require assistance getting out of bed, walking and bathing as well as with their bathroom activities. • People who are totally bedridden and have no mobility.
Category I: Changing sheets, going to bathroom and other daily activities are done by themselves with no assistance required. The one possible problem is falling down from a standing position right after getting out of the bed and walking.
Category II: Due to the wide range of degree of mobility of the patients in this bracket, several problems immediately come to my mind:
• Changing sheets including soiled sheets.
• Washing and cleansing patient.
• Feeding food.
• Getting in/out of bed for exercise.
• Patient gradually sliding down in the bed toward the foot end.
• Disparity of proper bed height that is easy to work from the standpoint of spouse and/or home care worker and the height that is safe for the patient (from falling off).
• Some way for patient to lift his/her upper body up.
Category III: For the totally immobile patient, the problem listed in Category II apply plus:
• Means to prevent bedsore — a hard and insidious problem with no easy solutions.
Have I left anything unmentioned? Please help me by emailing me your thoughts. Don't forget to mention the town you live in. If noteworthy, I will mention your opinion on the next installment. The graphic is the stepwise process of changing sheets for a semi bedridden person.
Do you think we can work together to develop a new bed for families wishing to do home care? If we succeed, there will be a significant market for the product.
Shintaro (Sam) Asano of New Castle, who speaks and writes English as a second language, was named by MIT in 2011 as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century who improved our life. He is a businessman and an inventor in the field of electronics and mechanical systems, who is credited as the original inventor of today's portable fax machine. He also developed a data tablet used in the retail point of sale to capture customer signatures when credit cards are used. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.