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Allan Sayle's Comment

Column 2: 28 December 2005.

What a convenience!

It is sometimes claimed the essential objective of successful innovation is to create an entirely new market. A market for a product or service consumers never realized before they needed but, having once enjoyed the benefits of what is delivered unto them, they will henceforth be incapable of living without. Famous examples that spawned entire industries include the motorcar, the telephone, the cell phone, the television and more recently, the internet.

To that formidable list now comes another device proudly presented to the public a few days ago on a morning television show. And, unveiled just in time for Christmas. The perfect gift for the one you love or the people who thought they had everything. What could this be, I hear you ask?

Fanfare. (No pun intended as you will come to appreciate, as you read on.)

It is: a lavatory fitted with seat and lid each operated by a handheld remote wand, of the type common to televisions, stereo equipment and the like. Yes, at the mere touch of a wand button seat and lid separately raise or lower, according the needs, gender and prejudices of the user. And, the flush cycle is likewise initiated at the touch of a button. True liberation in the home’s smallest room!


The Thinker

Of course, the familiar cry of why can’t you lower the seat, which most males have heard at some point in their lives, may become, “Why can’t you use the remote?” Risks? The obvious one, of course: do not leave the wand outside the room for mischievous people to play with while in the middle of your contemplations. I suggest purchasers hang it from a chain and also hope this is not one of those product’s whose box lid advises, “Batteries Not Included”.

But, wait there is more for your supposed comfort and convenience. As if those labour-saving features are not enough, apparently the canny designers also triumphantly incorporate a bidet sporting - a blow drier, similarly operated by the very same wand! What a sybaritic experience that must afford the recently hydrated user! An entirely new market is (clearly) at hand: how many of us never before realized how impossible life would be without this miraculous technological innovation.

Of course, without trying out the thing, we must hope the user will luxuriate in a presumably warm gentle breeze and not need to hold on for dear life if beset by a veritable northbound arctic gale. Let us trust the mechanical engineers validated the “fan curves” applied in their design calculations. With an appropriate delicacy the government regulators would applaud, the TV show (thankfully) did not demonstrate the sanitary revelation in use, though the seat and lid were put through their respective ups and downs.

However, my auditor’s mind did ponder upon a possible glitch. From the evidence presented, apparently the customary paper cycle remains a manual operation. (Though mankind has mastered the application of robotic arms and fingers in manufacturing, I am unaware of robots designed for that particular personal service. The nearest might be the automated feeding device incorporating oral cleaning that featured in Charles Chaplin’s classic, Modern Times! Sadly, the machine went mad.) Anyway, the bottom line (ahem!) is that I suspect most people would hesitate about handling a wand used by the installed loo’s previous customer before the latter washes hands after completing the main functional process plus paper cycle for which a loo is intended. Maybe, though, in the instruction manual the designers advise users to “place hands into the bidet during wash cycle before using the remote”. But then, how would one hygienically use the remote to operate the bidet to wash one’s hands? Or does one drop the wand into the yawning porcelain?

Of course, the curious among us might be intrigued to know the details of the maker’s quality program and, maybe, the final testing employed. Presumably it must take place after a shift is completed? Are the capabilities of the tester stretched too far? What safeguards are there to protect the hapless tester from injury? Or, is the testing another example of successful outsourcing? No, on reflection, some quality controls are better left as a proprietary mystery.

With too many unanswered questions for this quality pro, I think I’ll stick with the loo I’ve got and continue my daily imitations of Rodin’s famous sculpture relieved that a wash and blow-dry is not yet a wash and brush up.

© 2005 Allan Sayle Associates. All rights reserved.

Web: www.sayle.com




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