Thursday, July 30, 2015

For Profit

Such great news! Evenflo, that company specializing in baby products has designed a car seat that will sound an alarm once the car is turned off, notifying the driver that Baby is in the car. What a great idea!

Evenflo has partnered with Walmart to be the exclusive distributor of its advanced technology car seat. For one year that mega-store, with branches all over the world will offer this extra-protective device, a must for anyone with a small child who regularly rides in cars. The seat's price is competitive: about the same as other carseats without that safety feature. 

Wait a minute... That idea resonates...

In 2008, Google hosted a 10 to the 100th competition to celebrate its 10 years of operation. Contestants were to submit ideas that would improve the world in some way: environment, energy conservation, help for handicapped and other life saving or life improving innovations.

According to statistics, more than 35 children die in hot cars every year in America alone. I had long been thinking of a car seat design with a built in pressure sensor that would 'feel' the weight of a child, so that if Baby is strapped in when the car's ignition is turned of, an alarm would sound. I was in the process of writing up a patent application for this design when Google announced the competition.

Rather than wrangle through legal channels to protect my intellectual property with a patent, and then spending years trying to find companies that would develop the idea, I submitted it to Google, complete with a demonstration video. And then, nothing.

Because so many ideas had been submitted, the Google judges were taking longer than expected to read through all of the suggestions and watch all of the videos. In fact, it took more than 2 years for that internet giant to pay out its promised prize: 10 million dollars, divided among the winners, to be spent on research and development of their idea.

Don't start thinking that I'm bitter and resentful that I didn't  win, and I didn't get any prize money. My idea was to save lives: any child's life and the lives of the families that would be shattered because their baby was left in the car (or daycare van, as has also happened). While chasing a patent I had approached a non-profit organization with the idea, hoping that they would help develop and market the finished product. I was waiting for their response when Google announced its competition. I thought: “That would be a great way for this idea to gain exposure!”

Now, 7 years after submitting an idea for saving children's lives, the giant of baby products has engineeered a car seat that would indeed save lives. I should be happy, right?

I am happy that such a car seat exists and hope that every parent buys one. I'm actually hoping every car seat maker implements that technology and that only carseats with sensors will be available for purchase. What I'm not happy about is the exclusive arrangements.

Evenflo has declared proprietary technology over car seats with their type of built-in sensor. That corporation and Walmart have struck a deal where such car seats are available only at that retail giant. 

Shouldn't the goal of such life-saving technology be saving lives, not generating profits exclusively for the companies in question?

Life should not always be about profit. Life can be as simple as an idea meant to save lives, or improve life. We see this all the time in China: ordinary people devising ingenious contraptions to help their loved ones or building necessary equipment with no foreknowledge of mechanics.

My friends, if you must see me as resentful after all this, see me as resentful that a good idea – whether mine or not (and it might not be), meant to spare babies and their families agony is being used first as a profit generator, and only incidentally as a life-protecting device. I'm resentful that child safety advocates tolerate this blatant abuse of commercialism instead of lobbying the government that only car seats with such technology be manufactured, and that older car seats be retro-fitted with the new technology. I'm resentful that the American government can legislate at will but apparently turns a blind eye to Evenflo and Walmart securing a monopoly of these advanced-technology carseats – and monopolies are illegal in America.

But then again: Texas enacted a law allowing people to carry their guns openly while out in public, but refuse to enact a law against texting while driving, saying it would infringe on people's rights. Why should I be surprised that safety laws are trumped by profit generation?

Would I resent a pile of money shoved my way? I'll be honest: no, I wouldn't. But, for me, it's never been about money. It's always been the horror that children sometimes get left in cars, a horror that everyone must surely share.

And if that's the case, how can Evenflo and Walmart cash in on horror???

No comments:

Post a Comment