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Sam Asano's Let's Invent: A guide to the process of invention

By SAM ASANO
April 15. 2018 10:00PM




April 11 became a memorable day for me as an inventor. The local TV program New Hampshire Chronicle featured my invention FallSafe, a wearable automatic fall detection system.

I have been working for this invention for 5 years, and we are now at the product testing stage. The notice of the broadcast came on Friday, after I filed my column material.

So, this retroactive notice is a bit silly as New Hampshire reader won’t be able to watch the program. However, I plan to gradually request many local TV stations in this country to air the segment and when they agree, I will send out the schedule notice to readers in the specific region.

Before I go into the details of the process of inventions, I have one thing to say. This country offers no structured course in inventions in all level of educational institutions. Invention is the basic foundation of the nation’s industrial power. Without inventions the nation’s industry withers. There are three nations which produce a significant number of applications for patents and other intellectual properties. They are the United States, Japan and China. All together the three continue to compete just like three horses in the fast cluster in a race. However, recently China went ahead of America and Japan. Although the U.S. and Japan are way ahead of China in per capita application, the trend is a bit alarming.

The reason why I have been concerned is the fact that intellectual properties are the fundamental strength of the national industry. The United States led the world manufacturing industry as the top most producer through 1850 to 1950. That brought forth a tremendous prosperity to this country. When we started to shift production overseas searching for cheaper labor cost, various ill effects started to show up. As they say, short term solutions always create long term problems. As we continued to purchase from overseas, unemployment and national debt rose. However, the worst long-term problem that was created is the fact we have largely forgotten the skill of manufacturing practice.

Therefore, using this column, I would like to offer a mini (or micro) course in invention fundamentals using the occasion of our invention of FallSafeTM.

First, an invention must be a solution to a problem. Throughout my career of inventions spanning 60 years, I have seen many (yes many) so-called inventions that are “a solution looking for a problem.” Your solution must solve an existing problem. Promise me you’d do that. Therefore, this mini course simply lists what you must do (or think) if you wish to become an effective inventor, who will contribute to the wealth of this nation.

I wish to write the process of an invention from the discovery and perception of a problem through trials and errors (yes, plural! Many times over!) to the solution by using the device that we have invented and just announced. The device is currently called FallSafeTM and is an automatic fall detection and reporting device/system.

First: The description of the existing problem: Most of the conventional Personal Emergency Response System (PERS) requires the person who fell to initiate the report by themselves. Either pushing a button or calling via phone, and this is the prerequisite requirement. Unfortunately, roughly 45 percent of people who fall are unable to initiate the report as they are either passed out, badly injured or their body poorly contorted or all of the above. About 1 million falls occur in a month in this country, therefore 450,000 people per month are not able to call for help immediately.

Now, 450,000 people multiplied by 12 months makes the total number of fall victims unable to initiate the report of their fall a massive 5.4 million! That is the same size as the population of the state of Minnesota, whose ranking is 22nd of the nation. Readers, wouldn’t you agree that is a very large problem, isn’t it? A person who falls and cannot report his/her fall by pressing a button to activate the two-way phone or alarm system would just lay where he/she fell. The fact that the person is unable to report means 1) he/she is passed out, 2) badly injured and unable to do anything, 3) his/her body is badly contorted by the fall and the structure of the environment prevents pressing the button. Or all of the above.

Now, this problem has the second part, and that is very catastrophic. The longer he/she stays where the fall happened without being discovered, the resultant degree of injury gets much worse and the final result would be certain death. And this is really no joke. There is a loose medical term to describe the need for fast rescue: It is called the “Golden Hour.” I don’t need to explain this term, do I? If the rescue doesn’t come within one hour after fall, the situation notches up to a new level — Bad! There is the third part of this problem. By now, you may be getting too tired or disgusted in observing this huge problem.

The third part is rather complex and a bit sad. This nation’s Alzheimer (dementia) population is rising fast. It is now 5.7 million fully 10 percent of the population over 65+. Alzheimer patients often walk out of their residence and are unable to get back in as they get lost. God forbid if they fall outside. This is the third and worst layer of the problem.

The fourth layer is that the system or device that is your answer or solution to the gigantic problem must reliably work against abuse, wide ranging temperature, shock as well as being able to consume very little battery power if you are planning to use battery.

To Be Continued.

Shintaro “Sam” Asano of New Castle was named by MIT as one of the 10 most influential inventors of the 20th century.


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