Clofield Limited design, manufacture and sell a silent radio paging
system called 'Silent Alert'. This product is designed to alert deaf
people to a variety of sound related events around their home and workplace.
'Silent Alert' is marketed to private individuals, sheltered housing
associations and local health authorities.
The company employs six people and has an annual turnover of approximately
600kECU. The industrial sector within which Clofield operates is precision
The current system consists essentially of a transmitter unit which
is physically connected to an audible sound source such as a doorbell,
telephone, smoke detector, car alarm, burglar alarm or baby alarm, and
a receiver unit, which when activated, sends a radio signal to a body
worn receiver unit (the pager unit) which has a vibrating pad fitted.
When a signal is received from the transmitter the pager vibrates and
illuminates the corresponding symbol on the display screen. The system
is reliable and is not prone to false alarms.
The system is based on analogue device technology and is limited because
it requires a dedicated transmitter for each sound source being monitored.
This makes the system expensive. Furthermore each transmitter has to
be physically connected to the sound source which adds further cost.
Due to these reasons the sales of the units is being restricted. Furthermore,
since this product has set the standard for this type of product the
market leadership currently enjoyed by Clofield may be lost to competitors
if the system is not enhanced.
The objective of this Application Experiment was to enhance the company's
product range by producing a technically advanced version that was both
cheaper to produce, allowing for a lower selling price and make it more
The AE enabled the company to develop a sound recognition system using
DSP technology. The main advantages achieved by using this technology
were as follows :
· One single transmitter replaces the six different transmitters
· One dedicated DSP detector 'listens' and discriminates between
· Up to 5 sound samples can be programmed into the DSP detector
· The pager unit worn by the wearer is unchanged, hence no re-training
is required for the deaf user.
The project cost 76kECUs was based around a workprogramme of 9 months
duration. The experiment commenced on the 1st July 1997 and was completed
on the 31st July 1998 giving a total duration of 13 months. The reason
for this was to carry out additional evaluation and modification work
on the prototype product, to ascertain that the false alarm rates and
mis-detection rates were acceptable. A period of extended testing has
been scheduled as part of the industrialisation phase in order to confirm
the detection and discrimination performance over a sufficiently long
period of time.
The benefits of the AE include a reduction in build costs by an estimated
40%, with an estimated annual growth of sales of 10-15%. The return
on investment is predicted to be 250% over the product's 5 year lifetime.
The payback period on the prototype development costs of 82 kECU is
estimated at 2 years.
The main lessons learned include:
· The use of new technologies can provide a significant commercial
advantage over your competitors.
· The need to manage both sub contractors and budgets closely.
· Activities undertaken in the workplan were generally underestimated.
· Project management and reporting can take a significant amount
of time, and this is an activity that small companies often neglect.
· Stage payments to subcontractors and suppliers must be specified
in order to maintain a healthy cash flow.