Participate at Idea Contest: Brining the Walking Frame (Rollator) into the Future

Our German readers can find a German version of this post here.

Stilsicher_logoMobility is one of the key requirements for maintaining an independent lifestyle up until a high age. Today, most seniors are able to depend on themselves – as more than 90% of all 65-years olds live under their own roof in good health.

But what happens, when leaving home, to go shopping or to meet with friends, is getting increasingly difficult with a higher age? What if somebody’s mobility declines, even though he or she does not depend on help permanently?

A small daily help in such situations can be a walking frame. In Germany, there are almost two million walking frames in use, with a yearly selling rate of another 500.000 pieces.

Unfortunately, not all of these are as fancy and safe as one would wish. Furthermore, the German consumer protection agency Stiftung Warentest found insufficiencies regarding stability and safety of walking frames tested last year.

But what could the superstar of walking frames look like? It has to be handy and safe, yet Stilsicher_teaser also has to incorporate personal desires concerning the design and accessories to overcome it's still somewhat dusty image.

To find answers to these questions, German League of Seniors, in cooperation with partners from both the business and academic world and sponsored by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has initiated a large-scale idea contest to improve the famous walking aid. 

In the context of the idea contest “Stil:sicher unterwegs, everybody is asked to give their input on how to improve the walking frame.

If you want to be on the team for developing completely new and innovative solutions for the walking frame of the future, here is your chance! May it be a GPS-assisted emergency notification system, an attached reading aid or a built-in minicomputer that helps to identify (individually) tolerable food: the only limit is your imagination. 

On the project homepage you can find more detailed information on the contest and the process of turning in your own ideas. Submissions are open until June 15th, 2012. You can also view and comment on already submitted ideas. Afterwards, a panel of experts will decide on the winning ideas which will be presented to interested companies and institutions and hopefully make it into future products. 

So, what is your idea (incremental or wild) to bring the walker /rollator into the future? Submit it here!

PS: The modern walker, the Rollator, of course itself is a lead user innovation, invented by the Swede Aina Wifalk in 1978, herself a polio sufferer.

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.