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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: AZtech
Author: Jeffrey A Kohler
Published: 2000
Publication: Assistive technology transfer update: Vol. 2 Issue 2 (Fall)


AZtech is a company that has proven its importance in the areas of marketing research, technology transfer and inventor services. A brief overview of how this assistive technology-focused company came about as well as examples of ways the company has served its purpose is given in this article.

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Established in 1993 as part of the RERC-TET1 under the University at Buffalo's Center for Assistive Technology, AZtech has become known in the assistive technology (AT) industry as the company to contact for marketing research, technology transfer and inventor services. Recently, AZtech became a member agency of the WNY Independent Living Project, Inc., thereby gaining greater access to consumers for focus group sessions, consumer panels and product testing, as well as strengthening our position as a unique company providing specialized services to the AT industry. AZtech continues to work with the University and is currently providing support to the T2RERC in the transfer of assistive technologies and services to industry. AZtech, under the direction of President Brian D. Kon, has worked on both the Supply-Push and Demand-Pull projects by providing marketing and commercialization expertise to the T2RERC.

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In addition to their work with the T2RERC, AZtech's expertise has proven to be a valuable tool to manufacturers and inventors, particularly in the area of new product development and marketing. Through their services, AZtech has provided information on new technologies available for commercialization, as well as providing vital consumer ideas for product improvements. Following are some examples of the value of AZtech's services and their most recent successes.

  • After receiving positive feedback from consumers at the American Occupational Therapy Association on the Halo CupsTM, AZtech completed a licensing agreement with Maddak, Inc., a manufacturer of Daily Living Aids, for this line of children's cups. The Halo CupsTM are designed with a combination of the wide-base stability of a travel mug, along with the nesting feature of tumblers for compact storage. The cup designer, Steve Bricker, a father of three boys, says his experience with kids and spills inspired him to invent the Halo CupsTM. He contacted AZtech for assistance in bringing his design to the market. "The Halo CupsTM will dramatically reduce the number of accidental spills and, since they stack, cupboard space is conserved," says Bricker. Sized for little hands, the Halo CupsTM hold 6.5 fluid ounces and are dishwasher-safe. They're packaged in sets of four, each one a distinctive decorator color, including royal blue, lilac, cranberry, and forest green. Clear cups are available as well. Maddak will introduce the Halo CupsTM as part of their pediatric "no spills" house-wares line at the upcoming Medtrade Show in Orlando, Florida in October 2000.

  • AZtech collaborated with Lenjoy Engineering, a manufacturer of arm supports, wheelchair attachments and accessories, on a wheelchair tire-cleaning device. William Potters of Lebanon, Pennsylvania submitted the concept of an inexpensive, portable wheelchair tire scrubber to AZtech. To assist a relative, Mr. Potters had developed a crude prototype of a device that would attach to the back of the wheelchair tires and clean debris off of them. Our initial evaluations identified that there was a need for such a device, as most of the tire cleaning products on the market were either expensive or for institutional use only. AZtech's William Kane, Consumer Testing Coordinator, conducted a Consumer Panel on a revised prototype of the wheelchair tire cleaning brush engineered by Lenjoy as a result of our submission. The Panel results were sent to Lenjoy and a final product was developed and is now available for purchase. Priced at twenty-five dollars per set, the new tire cleaner, named "Wheel Whiskers", attaches directly to the wheel locks of manual wheelchairs and cleans snow, mud and other debris off the tires.

  • AZtech's services for companies also include product evaluation and hands-on testing. ArcMate Manufacturing is currently developing two new and improved versions of The Thomas Steady Arm: a support arm for persons with mild tremors. This device is designed to dampen tremors of the arm and allow a person to eat, brush their teeth, write or drink from a cup without assistance. The concept for this device was submitted under the original Supply-Push program at the RERC-TET. Based on the program's favorable evaluations, AZtech shopped the device to ArcMate, who licensed the rights to produce and sell the original Thomas Steady Arm. ArcMate sought approval for the final product design and worked with AZtech to get this feedback. AZtech contacted occupational therapists and clients willing to use the Thomas Steady Arm for several weeks. The clients and therapists completed customized surveys of the product's performance and they provided suggestions regarding design improvements. ArcMate is using this information to tweak the next product design and will soon begin marketing the product to therapists and consumers.

  • Currently, AZtech is working with a computer keyboard manufacturer to perfect a design that could revolutionize the industry. Using an unusual approach, a series of focus groups are being conducted over several months. Between focus group sessions, the designers are taking the feedback from the consumers and applying it to their design. By the end of the sessions, the design should be finalized and production ready to begin.

Since its early days with the RERC-TET, AZtech has developed and maintained an excellent reputation for providing professional services within the assistive technology industry. Through invention commercialization, AZtech provides companies with new opportunities and guides them through the new product development process. Through consumer focus groups, field-testing and surveys, AZtech provides companies with valuable information including basic consumer feedback, suggestions for design improvements, and marketing strategies for pricing, packaging and selling a product or service. AZtech's services are cost-effective, can increase a product's chance of market success, and can ultimately save companies valuable time and money.

  1. RERC-TET: Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Evaluation and Transfer

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