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A Viable Product or Another Clever Idea?
(Marketing Memo, February, 2002)

How do you know which product concepts will succeed? Currently, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are working to develop a novel biometric security system that recognizes an individual's unique way of walking or gait. The proposed system will identify people by using markers, such as the length of an individual's torso, legs, and arms, plus data on the individual's shoulder position and arm and head motions, according to Matthew French in Mass High Tech (01/14/2002). Is the biometric system merely a product concept, or is it a viable product?

Under the direction of David E. Krebs, a physical therapist at MGH, the team has several technical challenges to meet before they are ready to introduce a biomotion product. Plus, the team in the biomotion lab must find answers to a number of significant business questions. These questions are the same questions that all companies with new product concepts must answer satisfactorily before launching their products:

-- Does the concept actually work, and does it work as well as or better than competing approaches? (Is each person's walk unique and unchanging? Will a biomotion system identify people as reliably as fingerprinting?)
  Does a market exist for this category of product? (Who would consider and use a relatively untested biomotion security system and why?)
  Can you reach this market? (Is the market limited to airports and large public facilities? Who are the decision makers at these types of public facilities, and how do you reach them?)
  How can you convince people that the system works and that it is user friendly? (How should you promote the biomotion system to your target market?)
  What is the competition, and where are they vulnerable? (Are you competing against facial recognition and retinal scanning systems? Security personnel, guard dogs, and other lower-tech identification systems? What are the weaknesses inherent to these approaches? How can you get people to switch approaches?)
  Can you produce an affordable system in sufficient quantity to satisfy the presumed market? (How many systems will you need every year for the next three to five years? Can you produce that many? Is this a product that lends itself to large production runs? If each biomotion system were to require an expensive training or installation process, the systems might not be suitable for quantity sales.)
  Are margins likely to be big enough so that the venture is profitable? (What are the expected manufacturing and distribution costs for the biomotion system? What do similar systems cost, and what can you charge for a biomotion system?)

Winett Associates can help you explore new product opportunities or write white papers and case studies that highlight new products.

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