In addition to conventional smoke alarms, tactile response is proven more effective in saving lives. SafeAwake is designed to work in conjunction with a functioning traditional smoke alarm by adding a flashing light and a loud, low frequency audible sound that even the hearing impaired may hear. It also sets off a motorized bed shaker that literally pulls each and every sleeper from deep slumber; and warns them of smoke and possible fire.
When seconds could mean the difference between life and death, the SafeAwake provides a significant edge for you and your family.
SafeAwake is one of the featured exhibitors at the DaVinci Inventor Showcase, which takes place on Oct 13, 2012 at the Denver Merchandise Mart, so come can check out this and all the other amazing inventions!
Recently, company spokesman Timothy Shaffer took time to answer a few questions about safety for the deaf and hearing impaired, SBIR Grants and international patents…
What was the defining moment that led you to create this product? What problem does it solve?
Dr. Roby always wanted to create a product that helped notify the deaf and hard of hearing to fire emergencies since he was a young volunteer fireman during his days in college at Cornell University when one night during a fire he carried an eleven year old, deaf girl in his arms dead from smoke inhalation. Today, we have the SafeAwake smoke alarm aid. The SafeAwake smoke alarm aid works in conjunction with a smoke alarm listening for the patterned T-3 smoke alarm sound when it activates and upon hearing this signal the SafeAwake activates a low frequency, high decibel sound alarm and an intermittent bed shaker to stimulate the tactile senses. It is like a stiff poke in the ribs, providing additional means of fire safety notification to awaken a sleeping person to a fire emergency.
After you came up with the idea, how did you size up the market and decide who your customers would be?
The SafeAwake was primarily for the one million deaf people and ten million people who wear hearing aids that either reduce the volume to sleep at night or take out their hearing aids. Also, there is an additional market of 40 million people who have difficulty or cannot hear their smoke alarm when it activates while they sleep because as we grow older, we all begin to lose our high frequency hearing and about 90% of the smoke alarms in the USA use high frequency sound as their means of notification. One in three people over the age of 60 years of age and one in two over the age of 75 years cannot hear the high frequency sound notifier on smoke alarms. The SafeAwake meets the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association Code 72 requiring that owners of commercial sleeping rooms (hotels, university dorms, senior care, and apartments) make available to guests a product that has low frequency, high decibel sounder and tactile stimulator (bed shaker). In August of 2011, the NFPA adopted these same provisions in NFPA Code 720 regarding carbon monoxide to protect the deaf and hard of hearing sleeping room occupants.
How did you go about naming your product?
When we were naming SafeAwake, we sat around a table and as a team brain stormed and then voted on a name. The one ground rule that the team required was that the name had to be related to safety.
How long did it take you to create you initial prototype, and what problems did you run into along the way?
We started out under Combustion Science and Engineering working on this product in 1999. At that time we received an SBIR Grant to complete a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Study and Report on the “Most Effective Method to Awaken A Sleeping Person”. Over three years of testing of 141 people both hearing and non-hearing in 443 sleep study tests by the medical professionals at John Hopkins Sleep Laboratories resulted in determining that an intermittent signal sent to a bed shaker device was the most effective means to awaken a sleeping person, strobes were 40% effective, and low frequency sound more effective than high frequency sound. After writing the report for the NIH study, the intermittent signal for the bed shaker alerting sleeper’s to emergencies took three years to receive a patent. In the meantime, the team spent several years researching and developing a sound reception technology to listen for the smoke alarm T-3 patterned signal before finally receiving a US patent. The two technologies were then combined into today’s SafeAwake smoke alarm aid. Then this new product was required to meet UL 217 and UL 1971 requirements as tested by a third party to be sold commercially to hotels, universities, senior care facilities, and rental property owners as a result of the new fire code product requirements per National Fire Code NFPA 72, Version 2010. Today, we have a regulatory compliant SafeAwake to sell both in the commercial and consumer markets throughout the USA and internationally.
Funding a new idea is always tricky. How did you go about lining up the money you needed?
SafeAwake became an independent company in June of 2009. Prior to that time, it was funded through an SBIR Grant for the National Institute of Health study and report and through the inventors of the patented technologies, Dr. Roby’s and Dr. Klassen’s, fire safety consulting firm, Combustion Science & Engineering, from 1999 through June of 2009. As SafeAwake, we raised $1.2 million in funding from friends and family and Combustion Science & Engineering. We are constantly raising money to fund the venture to grow our business. To discuss, the investment opportunity, please contact Tim Shaffer at 1-443-539-0781.
Is this a product you’d like to produce and sell yourself, or are you wanting to license it to someone else? And if so, who?
This product contains two patented technologies encompassing Asia, Europe, and North America. The first patented technology is the sound reception technology that listens for the T-3 signal smoke alarm notification signal and activates the device. The second patented technology is the intermittent emergency notification signal that activates the SafeAwake bed shaker. We already produce and sell the SafeAwake but we would be interested in licensing one or both patented technology to companies who would be able to take these technologies and create products that help society. We also are open to licensing the brand name to a larger manufacturer with the distribution reach to make this product available to the 50 million people in the US alone who need it for their personal fire safety while they sleep at night.
What all channels are you using to market your product?
We are currently serving the following channels with the SafeAwake: deaf and hard of hearing consumer products; audiologists and hearing aid centers; fire industry; government grants; commercial sleeping room owners; and now moving into the big box space along with the international markets in Europe and Asia.
How many people do you currently have involved in your business?
We currently have ten people working on this business both full and part time.
How do you define success? What would hitting a “home run” look like in your mind?
Hitting a home run would involve a company who had the financial resources and marketing and sales network to buy SafeAwake. Take this product brand name and technologies to make it available to the one in six people in the USA and worldwide who need additional notification means to awaken to a fire emergency the opportunity to own a SafeAwake for their personal fire safety protection. Invest in creating the prototype for the next product which will notify sleeping individuals of carbon monoxide emergencies along with applications in the automotive, healthcare, and security industries.
Where do people go to find out more about your product?