I have a customer that has developed an impressive wrist worn biometric sensor for athletes. The system is worn on the athletes wrist, like many other personal devices. But this product is for serious athletes that aren’t just looking for non-descript data like step count and heart rate. What are you even supposed to do with that information? The system collects multiple complex data points about your body’s performance. But not just when you are active, it also tracks and uses complex biometrics when you are at rest, ‘recovery.” This is an often overlooked, but very important part of training. For example, the system doesn’t just measure your sleep, it measures your REM sleep. Their software then analyses your entire performance profile and recommends changes to improve all aspects of your game. I was excited when this team wanted to include Apex Ridge in their next generation product development program, Why? Talk about a cool challenge. This device could not fail, missing data sets means a total loss of next phase training strategy. This product was going to be seriously challenged by it’s customers, extreme athletes. As many of you who have worked with me know I take “Use Case” definition very seriously in reliability programs. Errors in estimation of use cases can have devastating effects in product development, and surprisingly so many product teams don’t spend much time ensuring they are accurate. Why are use cases so important? Because they are the foundation that all reliability measurements and statements stand on. These reliability measurements that are made from testing programs are what drive the development program. It’s not just about making the most reliable product you can. It’s about making the product with the correct reliability, not too much, not too little. A product that is under reliable and the customer is going to be disappointed. Over reliable and there will be compromises to cost point, weight, and time to market. These can hurt market share just as much as poor reliability. The use case initiative involved developing seven types of athletes. Everything from the Surfer to the Golfer. We had the mountain climber, the Mixed Martial Arts fighter, and the Ultra Marathoner. But best of all we had a composite case that included all the worst factors of the other cases. I wanted to see if I could personally contribute in some way to bringing this use case to life. I am very abusive to my personal items, and also the creator of the concept of Use Case 7. Use Case 7 (as many of you know) is my own specialized method for improving products through marginal destruction and creative use. My athletic lifestyle is a bit odd as well. It’s not really “serious athlete.” It’s more akin to a five year old who has had three Red Bulls but also has money and looks like an adult, so totally unsupervised. The team knew this and gave me a system right away to see what would happen. Step 1: I practice and compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). This is a grappling (wrestling) sport where bending joints backwards and choking people out is permitted (actually, it’s the point). It’s a submission sport, which means the two opponents beat the crap out of each other until one submits by tapping out. It’s 50% of what MMA is based on. The other half of MMA being Muay Thai punching and kicking to the head. I’m 47 and can’t take anymore of that striking stuff if people want me to show up to their product development programs and actually speak in an articulate manner. Ok we need to know how the product works with Grapplers. Roger! I’m on it. Well obviously it can’t be on the wrist. It will be ripped off in 10 seconds when some gorilla grabs your arm and uses it to try and throw you. So I thought about it. The best place was going to be on the inside of my bicep. Why?, Well on my legs won’t be any good. We act like primates in BJJ and use our legs to fight. We wrap them around torsos and squeeze. They also get grabbed and used to flip and drag. On the outside of my arm it’s going to get slammed on the ground. The product may be fine but I’m pretty sure it is going to leave a hell of a mark on my arm or shoulder. It also can’t really go there because grapplers love to grab the tricep of an opponent to manipulate them. It would be right under their hand and get ripped off.
|Inside the bicep was perfect because it would be an unusual place for an opponent to grab. In addition when I fall on that side it is going to be pressed between my arm and rib, which shouldn’t hurt, relatively.So I used a grapplers favorite sports accessory to put it on, tape. We tape everything, we buy tape by the box. We tape fingers, toes, elbows, knees, and ears. Ok the big question, “How did the product do?” Great! It worked perfectly and collected great data. What did we learn. Something extremely valuable. Something that would have taken years of field use to discover. It was in the category of chemicals and debris.We had thought about chemicals and debris when we created our use cases. We included exposure to chemicals like sunscreen, bug spray, perfume, and skin lotion. We expected dirt, mud, and grass as well. For chemicals we had a specific recipe for test called “Cocktail X.” It is used in our long term high temperature accelerated life test. But we didn’t consider tape glue. Tape glue actually has a primary stress and (more importantly) a secondary stress. The first is a mechanical issue of glue build up. The second is a chemical one, “What are they using to clean it?”|
|First the mechanical issue. The glue is soft because athletes don’t’ want it to rip skin off when applied and removed each day. But soft means it stays behind, which isn’t a big deal if you are headed to the shower next. So I found white tape glue on the product after I removed it from my arm. I could see the possibility of multiple sessions of this being an issue because the charging contact could get glue on them. In addition there was the possibility of the channels in the housing getting enough glue to have issues. Both serious issues to performance.They do make a compression band that the product can be placed in instead of the wrist band. But here is the thing, grapplers are always going to go for tape first. We don’t’ like things on our body because they get pulled off, or twisted around, and then the match has to stop. There is also the issue of tournament regulations. Competitors are not allowed to have anything on their body for both their and the opponents safety, no jock cups, no wedding rings and no knee or elbow braces, not even a t-shirt under the GI jacket. The shirt could get grabbed twisted and ripped. A compression strap on the arm might be a debate before a match with the ref. Tape on the arm won’t even be questioned.So what is the second issue? How do athletes clean the glue off? Athletes may use any number of chemicals from soap to acetone to try and remove glue.They manufacturer could be getting product returned with cracked casings and deteriorated plastic. That could be a hell of a time figuring out what is happening in the root cause process.|
|We now have the opportunity to figure out an advised method of cleaning tape glue. We are also testing other cleaning methods that may cause serious degradation and create a catalogue of symptoms to aid in root cause analysis. It will be great to be able to immediately diagnose returned product with damaged plastic. “Yup that is what it looks like when gasoline is used to clean it.” So we are now planning an accelerated life test program with a new “Cocktail X” to study cleaning chemicals. Step 2: Ok what next? I took it dog sledding in Northern Quebec. How’s that for extreme. I mean why not. The question that I was going after here were going to be primarily temperature based. This is my mission: “What are the most extreme use case temperatures that can be experienced and what are the fastest temp transition rates that can be experienced.” I was ready to find out.|
- I first went into the hot tub at 40C (104F) to get a good baseline saturation temp.
- Then endured the 85C (185F) in the sauna until I was dizzy.
- Next? Run out into the snow and throw myself in it.
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