A new day for design

AURORA installation at the Design Museum manifests a new approach to sustainable design


27 October 2021

3 min read

Are standard design practices contributing to the take-make-waste economy in which valuable resources end up in landfills rather than being reused? A new installation at the Design Museum in London, co-created by Mamou-Mani Architects and the Dassault Systèmes Design Studio, demonstrates how a change in thinking can contribute to more reuse, recycling and regeneration.

With the COP26 climate conference opening next week in Glasgow, people everywhere are asking themselves what they can do to reduce their impact on the planet. Curators at the Design Museum are asking this question of designers, too, in a new exhibition “Waste Age: What can design do?” on display through February 22.

“We must face the problem of waste,” the exhibit’s curator, Gemma Curtin, says in her introduction to the exhibition on the Design Museum’s website. “Instead of thinking of objects as things that have an end life, they can have many lives.”

That premise is exactly what AURORA, a free-to-the-public installation in the museum’s atrium through November 14, aims to demonstrate. Though it looks like an artistic swirl of crystal and gold at first glance, AURORA actually is a study in how decisions that designers rarely control can profoundly change the environmental impacts of their creations – and how what is created for one purpose, if designed with reuse in mind – can have many lives.

In the photos that follow, take a virtual tour of AURORA to discover its hidden design lessons.

Want to go? Purchase tickets. (Note: Museum members can attend free of charge.)

To learn more about the collaboration that created AURORA, including an interactive experience of the installation inside the Design Museum, visit https://www.3ds.com/design/aurora, click "launch the experience" and then click the ? to enter the exhibit via your smartphone’s camera.

Improving accountability

As sustainability pressure mounts, the life sciences industry turns to digital solutions

Rebecca Lambert
21 October 2021

6 min read

The life sciences industry, a beacon of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic, is making constant advances that enable people to live longer, healthier lives. But pressure for the industry to mitigate the sustainability impacts of its activities is growing. As the industry seeks to bring its social, workforce and environmental impacts into balance, digital technologies provide solutions.

The life sciences industry’s recent success in developing COVID-19 vaccines in record time offers a glimpse into how the industry can accelerate its positive impacts on improving sustaining human life – including its role in meeting increasingly demanding sustainability goals.

On average, it takes 10 to 12 years to bring a new drug to market. The COVID-19 vaccines were developed and made available within just a year. After only 18 months, more than 5 billion doses were administered. How? A common global mission among researchers, regulators and manufacturers set a new milestone for collaboration and technological innovation.

“Accelerated innovation cycles are going to become the new normal in life sciences,” said Daniel Matlis, president of life sciences industry analyst firm Axendia. “This new paradigm is a synchronous process where all stakeholders have full visibility of the drug development cycle and can collaborate and share insights and feedback at every stage. Regulatory reviews can also be accelerated through what the FDA calls the review of the future. This approach will help all organizations to understand the potential of a drug early on and accelerate time to market for safe and effective candidates.”

The industry’s ability to pull together for the sake of humanity has given rise to renewed optimism for how it can do its part to tackle other global challenges, including climate change.

“Investors are increasingly evaluating life sciences companies based on criteria beyond margin and top-line growth, including how their solutions contribute to sustainable development goals linked to the health of individuals, societies and the environment,” Pamela Spence, global health sciences and wellness industry leader at professional services firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young), wrote in a recent LinkedIn article.

As a result, despite all the good they do, life sciences businesses also must demonstrate that they are up to the challenge of meeting carbon emissions targets, along with other sustainability goals.

“The focus on sustainability is not just about the environment anymore,” Matlis said. “We’re hearing a rallying cry for the industry to transform and operate at the convergence of sustaining human life, the environment and business. Regulatory agencies are actively encouraging innovation. This is the time for modernization and digital transformation; we need to see life sciences companies take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, modeling and simulation, machine learning and virtual reality to transform the way they discover and bring new drugs to market.”

SUSTAIN THE ENVIRONMENT

International non-profit organization Health Care Without Harm estimates that – if the life sciences industry were a country – it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet. With this year’s COP26 UN climate change conference opening on October 31, life sciences companies know they must significantly reduce their carbon footprint, especially in the manufacturing stage.

“Since 2015, we have reduced our carbon emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth.”

Pascal Soriot
CEO, AstraZeneca

UK-based biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is doing precisely that through its “Ambition Zero Carbon” strategy, which uses renewable energy for both power and heat. The goal: to achieve zero carbon emissions from AstraZeneca’s global operations by 2025 and ensure its entire value chain is carbon negative by 2030.

“Since 2015, we have reduced our carbon emissions from operations by almost a third and our water consumption by almost one fifth,” AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said at the beginning of 2020.

In Singapore, meanwhile, biotechnology company Amgen opened a next-generation biomanufacturing facility designed to make its manufacturing process leaner, greener, faster, more productive and less expensive. The plant has a flexible, modular design that allows the company to easily scale up production and quickly switch between different types of equipment so that it can make different products – a critical ability for disease outbreaks, for example.

The new factory reflects a growing trend among life sciences manufacturers to move from batch to continuous manufacturing – an approach widely adopted in other industries. Unlike batch manufacturing, which involves many stops and starts as a product moves from stage to stage in production, pharmaceuticals made using continuous manufacturing are produced in a never-ending stream.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) credits this switch with allowing pharmaceutical manufacturers to respond more nimbly to market changes without having to scale up their equipment and increase their footprint. Eliminating repeated stops and starts also reduces waste product and lowers the likelihood of drug shortages. Global consulting firm PwC estimates that continuous manufacturing could reduce the industry’s carbon footprint by as much as 80%.

“Embracing continuous manufacturing will send a signal to the general population that pharma companies are using the best of new technologies, not only to improve efficiency but to ensure they are on track to play their part in meeting carbon reduction targets,” the PwC authors observed in their report, “Towards a Net Zero future in pharma – the role of continuous manufacturing.”

“The flexibility of continuous manufacturing production future-proofs facilities, equipping them to produce multiple current medicines as well as upcoming innovative therapies, reducing the risk exposure to investments.”

Digital transformation with virtual twins of manufacturing plants and processes enables the switch. Having a virtual replica of real-world pharmaceutical processes, products and plants from end to end manufacturing and beyond, ensuring that life sciences manufacturers can produce what they expect from the start of manufacturing.

IMPROVING HUMAN LIFE

COVID-19 has demonstrated more clearly than ever that health – and innovation – transcends borders. If the industry continues to collaborate globally, decisions will be made faster and regulators will be able to see critical data upfront to fast-track approval processes – and, ultimately, improve and save more human lives.

Business innovation platforms that coordinate the activities of all stakeholders via the cloud are an obvious way to achieve synchronous collaboration. These platforms also support virtual twin experiences, scientifically accurate 3D simulations viewed in the context of their environment. By allowing researchers to quickly try, reject or prove different approaches, these computer simulations help scientists accelerate development and testing virtually, without risk to humans, and can be used to identify the most effective treatments for individual patients.

As sustainability pressure mounts, the life sciences industry turns to digital solutions such as virtual clinical trials, testing and appointments, to reduce the CO2 generated by patient travel. (Image © AdobeStock/rh2010)

Korean health and dental manufacturer Meta Biomed is applying virtual twin experiences to better understand how biocompatible materials react and respond in the human body. Eventually, the simulations will help surgeons choose the most appropriate sutures and materials for each patient ahead of medical procedures, helping to relieve pain, ensure fast healing and deliver the best surgical outcomes.

“Meta Biomed will increasingly focus on personalized healthcare,” the company’s vice president, Yeon Chun Yoo, said. “In order to achieve this, data and simulation are very important. Our customers can get a glimpse of the predictions and results before and after surgical procedures so they can expect high-quality services based on accurate data. We expect that digital data and customer experiences will help us increase our innovation capabilities.”

SUSTAIN THE BUSINESS

Corporate Knights, which annually ranks the world’s most sustainable corporations, found that the top 100 earn 41% of their revenues from products or services aligned with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In contrast, companies listed on the MSCI ACWI stock index, which tracks the performance of more than 3,000 stocks in developing and emerging markets, earn just 8% of their revenues from SDG-aligned activities. 

Virtualization could help bring more of the industry’s profits into alignment with the SDG by modeling, testing and refining ideas, products and processes in the computer, where experimentation is quick and affordable, before committing expensive and limited physical resources.

“When you’re running a study in silico, you can run thousands of tests in the time it would take you to do a single physical trial,” Matlis said. “In early-stage R&D, virtual twins can be used to quickly identify promising molecules and compounds. Eventually, we’ll be able to leverage in silico trials, minimizing the need for in vivo studies” in live patients.

A study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found that only 14% of new drugs make it all the way to market, with huge implications for the overall cost of drug development. More virtual testing could substantially increase this success rate.

Projects like the European Commission-backed SimCardioTest, an international consortium of 10 partners designing new predictive tools for cardiovascular diseases – aim to demonstrate how computer modeling and simulation can reduce development costs and shorten time-to-market for new drugs and medical devices.

“The long and expensive development, as well as the registration processes for new drugs and medical devices, are becoming unsustainable,” one of the project’s partners said. “Modeling and simulation can reduce these costs up to 50%.”

LESSONS FROM THE PANDEMIC

The months of the COVID-19 pandemic have sharpened the life sciences industry’s focus on strengthening health systems and adopting the latest technologies to transform the way drugs are brought to market, Matlis said.

“From a business standpoint, there are a lot of opportunities to become more cost-effective and resilient across the entire value network through sustainability initiatives – from raw material to patient,” Matlis said. “Sometimes, it takes a life-changing event to change behavior. We are encouraged to see that the technologies developed and lessons learned from the pandemic are being applied now and in the future. Because this isn’t the only disruption or threat we’ll encounter. Perhaps the next disruptor will be an extreme weather event or geopolitical unrest. Businesses will need to model for that to build resilience into their value network and minimize impact.”

Changing the industry’s approach to its business – and the attitudes of its regulators – may be one positive impact of the pandemic.

“Many organizations have literally been frozen in time, over-engineering their facilities to last 12-15 years, from the moment their drug application was approved until it came off patent,” Matlis said. “It’s resulted in inefficiencies across the value chain and lack of modernization. The vast majority of sites are still running things the way they used to, but we must change to always be leaning forward.”

Learn more about how sustainable healthcare serves people and the planet

Sustainable healthcare serves people and the planet


2 min read

If COVID-19 taught us anything, it is that we can solve the impossible. Humanity’s success in bringing a safe, effective vaccine to the market in under a year proved that when it comes to our survival, speed doesn’t preclude efficacy, competition doesn’t rule out collaboration and the physical distance does not compromise quality.

While the pandemic has frayed our socioeconomic structures, it also shone a bright light on life sciences’ role in bringing us closer to a vision of affordable, accessible and attainable healthcare that is sustainable for the industry and for the planet. And a common denominator in this quest is technology.

TECHNOLOGY DRIVES SUSTAINABILITY

Every aspect of clinical trials — the life-blood of life sciences — is being transformed by technological innovation. Today, we can more effectively recruit and onboard patients, manage trial supplies and collect, analyze and protect data. Behind these improvements are robust, collaborative, cloud-based platforms that eliminate the myriad of challenges that thwarted past trials.

Historically, geography determined if you could participate in a clinical trial, limiting the diversity of patients. Today, as trials become decentralized, we can connect patients living almost anywhere with the trial sites. This expands the pool of eligible patients and their diversity, generating results that can be extrapolated to people living in markedly different circumstances.

Technology is reducing the patient burden and improving the patient experience. Advanced medical devices allow patients to administer trial drugs themselves at home. Sensors and wearables collect and transmit detailed medical readings, without the need to travel to the study site. Less travel means a better chance that patients stay in the trial, as well as fewer emissions, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint for the industry. 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) AND VIRTUAL TWINS FOR BETTER PATIENT OUTCOMES

Healthcare generates a lot of data. With more than 25,000 total trials, 1.5 billion+ images, and 7 million+ trial participants, Medidata has access to a wealth of clinical trial information.

We are getting more sophisticated with embedding AI-powered analytics into all phases of collecting, managing and interpreting health data. As a result, we are driving actionable insights for shortened timelines, business value creation and, ultimately, timely outcomes for patients. 

We can harness that information to build a synthetic control arm for a trial — an alternative to a placebo or standard of care in studies where all participants desire the therapeutic under development. This synthetic arm — a virtual twin — enables life science companies to create safe, effective and affordable therapies while reducing or eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and natural resource utilization and realizing ethical and sustainable business practices. Virtual twin experiences such as synthetic control arms will transform the trajectory of healthcare. They will have a profound impact on patient outcomes while fueling our ambition for a sustainable planet. The future is here, and the time to act is now.

LIFE SCIENCES IN THE POST COVID-19 WORLD

It typically takes more than eight years to discover, develop and commercialize a medicine. To defeat COVID-19, the industry had to pivot. Researchers collaborated on an unprecedented level, and regulators moved fast without compromising safety. Decisions that pre-pandemic took weeks were made confidently in days, allowing the healthcare industry to develop and deliver a vaccine in just a few months.

Imagine just how far the industry can go if we unite around a mission and harness the technology and science as we did for COVID-19. We can eradicate scourges like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or a host of rare diseases.

Human ingenuity will continue to fuel progress in healthcare, and digital and virtual capabilities will fuse sustainability into this progress. As long as there are patients grappling with diseases and desperate for hope, we have not a minute to waste. As an industry, we have a particular responsibility to deliver better experiences and better outcomes for patients — in less time, at less expense, and with less environmental impact.

Rama Kondru, Ph.D., co-CEO & head of R&D, Dassault Systèmes Medidata

Learn more about how virtual twin experiences are helping people live healthier lives

A new recipe for CPG success

How consumer packaged goods companies use digital technologies to accelerate product reformulations

Lindsay James
13 October 2021

6 min read

Fast-changing consumer expectations – especially health and sustainability concerns – are putting tremendous pressure on consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to reformulate their products, fast. Computerized simulation technologies that can help companies zero in on replacement ingredients and predict their influence on product performance are helping to accelerate the industry’s response.

What is one of the biggest trends in consumer packaged goods (CPG)? In a word: reformulation. In fact, a recent survey by Consumer Goods Forum found that 98% of CPG companies are reformulating at least some of their products.

Rik Pepermans, independent CPG industry consultant. (Image courtesy of Rik Pepermans)

"The C in CPG stands for consumer,” said Rik Pepermans, an independent consultant who focuses on the digitalization of research and development, and the former IT innovation lead at multinational CPG firm Unilever. “Consumers decide in-shop what they want to buy, and that’s a fast decision. The CPG industry spends a lot of effort understanding consumers. This evolving insight has to be translated into an evolving product – and this often means reformulation.”

Two strong consumer trends are driving the changes: health and sustainability. For example, Kerry Group, a global taste and nutrition company, in a report titled “Sustainability in Motion,” observed that almost half (49%) of global consumers today prioritize sustainability. In fact, it’s estimated that these customers will have spent more than $150 billion on sustainable products by the end of 2021.

Juan Aguiriano, group head of sustainability at Kerry, believes that to achieve such goals, the food and beverage industry has a responsibility to reformulate its products in a way that will meet these growing demands – and that it needs to do so as fast as possible.

Juan Aguiriano, Group Head, Sustainability, Kerry. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

“The food and beverage industry uses a lot of planetary resources and is responsible for over 25% of greenhouse gases,” he said. “At the same time, there are 2 billion people who are either overweight or obese, and 700 million that go to bed undernourished. We need all stakeholders to be committed to overcoming hunger and malnutrition. However, this is not only about securing enough food for our global population; we also need healthier and more sustainable food.

“Today, 30% of food is wasted,” Aguiriano continued. “If, as a society, we can reverse the trend of food waste, there would be more than enough food to feed the world. Consumers are waking up to these facts,” and Kerry addresses the challenge with a range of natural preservatives.

Kerry developed Acryleast, which reduces the formation of acrylamide, a suspected carcinogen, in baked goods, so that it does not affect the product’s quality, flavor, aroma or texture. Such breakthroughs are critical to reformulating foods to improve shelf life, sustainability and health. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

THE REFORMULATION IMPERATIVE

Reformulation is the key to making food and beverage CPG products last longer, be more nutritious, and use sustainable ingredients and production methods.

“In the food and beverage industry, we need to reduce the sugar, salt and fat in a wide variety of products, but without impacting the flavor,” Aguiriano said. “There is a growing awareness of food waste and a need for the food industry to do more. Most of our customers would like to extend their shelf life and, in doing so, reduce waste, but this is not a simple task. Changing one ingredient can have a significant effect on food safety and the food’s overall organoleptic properties. We also need to replace less sustainable ingredients and processes with ones that are fully traceable and that are produced with less energy and minimal resources.”

The sustainability challenge is particularly difficult.

“One might think that sustainability expectations just add a series of additional acceptance criteria to a long list: use only ingredients that are sustainably sourced; limit energy consumption; limit waste, and so on,” Pepermans said. “Of course, this is the case; but when products don’t meet expectations, they must be reformulated.”

Robyn Mandalakis, independent CPG industry consultant. (Image courtesy of Robyn Mandalakis)

P&G, for example, has launched a new Tide Eco-Box laundry detergent that contains 30% less water and uses 60% less plastic than its conventional product. Because of its smaller size, more of the product can be shipped with fewer trucks – resulting in a lower carbon dioxide (CO2) impact.

Consumers welcome such changes, but many also are paying more attention to the ingredients inside the package.

“Many consumers are now requiring sustainable ingredients that support a circular economy, healthy living and protect our planet,” said Robyn Mandalakis, an independent CPG consultant who spent 29 years with Colgate-Palmolive. “As we know, competition is all about speed. In order to achieve speed, roughly 90% of CPG product development is reformulation, while only 10% is delivering truly new products.”

CREATING A NEW RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

But how can firms be sure of optimal results? And how can they arrive at those results faster, to deliver the products that customers are demanding now?

“There are so many choices,” Pepermans said. “Which ingredients do you change? How much of each ingredient do you use? Which production process uses the least resources? What packaging is optimal? The number of combinations of these choices is far too big to be explored manually. There are simply not enough experienced formulators to keep up.”

Reformulation is a complicated business. Success requires firms to first understand their products, ingredients and processes.

Therese O'Rourke, Chief Technology Officer, Europe and Russia, Kerry. (Image courtesy of Kerry Group)

“That makes it easier to take the product apart and reformulate it,” said Therese O'Rourke, Kerry’s chief technology officer for Europe and Russia. “It is all based on the expertise of our development and application team, backed by analytical, taste, nutrition and sensory expertise.”

Kerry’s scientific expertise helps its teams to understand not only the ingredients used, but also the interactions between them.

“Our regulatory department has a deep understanding of food legislation and they are very future-focused, scanning impending changes so we can proactively support our customers,” O’Rourke said. “An example of this was the recent introduction of EU legislation, which limits the amount of acrylamide, a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during high-temperature cooking. We anticipated this change in legislation and, in response, we launched Kerry’s Acryleast, a natural ingredient, which can reduce acrylamide levels in baked goods by up to 90%.”

Kerry also has taste experts, flavorists, sensory and analytical scientists responsible for ensuring that the company can reformulate without compromise. “Our panel of expert tasters provides in-depth information about sensory profiles to ensure reformulation does not have an impact on product signature taste,” O’Rourke said.

But how can firms be sure of optimal results? And how can they arrive at those results faster, to deliver the products that customers are demanding now?

“Changing one ingredient can have a significant effect on food safety and the food’s overall organoleptic properties.”

Juan Aguiriano
Group Head, Sustainability, Kerry Group

“There are so many choices,” Pepermans said. “Which ingredients do you change? How much of each ingredient do you use? Which production process uses the least resources? What packaging is optimal? The number of combinations of these choices is far too big to be explored manually. There are simply not enough experienced formulators to keep up.”

THE DAWN OF DIGITAL

As with so many complex challenges, digital technology can lend a hand. With capabilities that include molecular modeling, digital simulation helps researchers to accurately predict the properties of an ingredient, how that ingredient will interact at a molecular level with the other ingredients, and the best processing methods to achieve the desired results – without the need for extensive and costly lab testing, and in a fraction of the time of physical tests.

“Companies can develop products even faster if they have the ability to predict formula performance when swapping ingredients, without having to do any physical testing,” Mandalakis said. “If you manage to eliminate testing you not only gain speed to market, but also huge cost savings. Testing is both expensive and time-consuming. Sustainability demands and speed to market are the biggest use cases for reformulation technology today.”

With a digital solution that predicts successful results in less time, Mandalakis said, researchers can model many more formulas than would be possible with physical experimentation. “You can also optimize the ingredients in new and improved ways,” she said. “It’s a key selling point for digital transformation and formulation technology.”

Convincing scientists to trust the results – particularly for new ingredients that haven’t been modeled before – will take time, however.  

“In order to model a product and predict performance you need to have all the formulation data, together with all the test data on the ingredients and prior formulations,” Mandalakis said. “Only then can you apply machine learning to predict how the new formula will perform. A huge change management effort is still needed to get to this point.”

Nandakumar Subramanian, PLM/LAS/MES Customer Success Lead, North America, Tech Mahindra (Image courtesy of Nandakumar Subramanian)

In fact, many CPG companies still work in silos that separate scientists in R&D from production and manufacturing experts, who all need to collaborate to achieve successful reformulations.

“The globalization of the industry brings a greater need for effective collaboration,” said Nandakumar Subramanian, PLM/MES/LAS Customer Success Lead for North America at multinational technology firm Tech Mahindra. “We’re often dealing with multiple processes – they could be region specific – where teams working in different countries, or even time zones, can have trouble collaborating effectively. Or they’re business-unit specific, or anything else. What researchers need to do is to break down those process silos and harmonize those processes together into a single stream of work.”

Mandalakis believes that more success stories can help accelerate digital simulation adoption. 

“There’s a need for strong internal advocates who can sell formulation technology solutions to senior leaders with compelling business cases,” she said. “However, as more and more digital natives enter the scientific population, I think it’ll be an easier change-management effort to move companies into digital labs in the future.

Learn more about molecular modeling for CPG product reformulations

Smart bathrooms

Smart application of technology improves bathroom function, cleanliness and sustainability

Alex Smith
8 October 2021

4 min read

Modern consumers want spa-like bathrooms, but beauty is not enough. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with increasing awareness of environmental degradation, they also want products that deliver improved sanitation and a reduced environmental footprint. To discover and deliver these breakthroughs, product-makers increasingly turn to technology.

The average person spends over two years of their life in their bathroom, making it one of the most important places in our homes. Updating a bathroom also represents one of the best investments a homeowner can make: Remodeling magazine reports that in 2021, homeowners can expect to recover more than 60% of what they invest in a bathroom remodel; in some markets, homeowners can even expect to return a profit.

347

The number of gallons waster per year by a single faucet dripping 10 times a minute

Today, however, homeowners are demanding more from their bathrooms than comfort and beauty. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, and with growing awareness of climate change and other environmental issues, they also want their bathrooms to be sanitary and sustainable.

“I believe COVID-19 turned everyone into a germaphobe,” said Shea Pumarejo, owner and principal interior designer of Texas-based Younique Designs, and a member of the United States’ National Kitchen & Bath Association. “Anything we can do to limit our exposure to germs by touching surfaces will decrease our likelihood of getting sick.“ Solutions include touchless technology, which exists in faucets, self-flushing toilets, soap dispensers and hand dryers. Another innovation that is taking off is the use of anti-microbial technology such as Microban, which is baked right into tiles and countertops. These approaches have been used in hospitals for years, but since COVID-19, are becoming more popular in the residential market.”

On the sustainability front, conserving water, energy and even toilet paper can significantly lower a home’s environmental footprint. For example, a single faucet dripping 10 times a minute wastes almost a gallon of water a day, or 347 gallons a year, the US Geological Survey estimates. However, presence-detecting technology installed in a faucet can alert users to an incomplete shutoff, avoiding such waste.

“Technology can make a big contribution if it is used for the right reasons, rather than simply to add gadget features,” said Hugo Volpei, founder and CEO of French toilet designer and manufacturer Trone. Volpei points to the water jet featured on many toilets in Japan, which can reduce the need for toilet paper. Atomizing nozzles on a shower head, meanwhile, can control how the stream of water breaks up and disperses, reducing waste.

Efficient designs through simulation

Technology plays a significant role in such innovations, from the design stage to the user experience. For example, digital technology used in the bathroom can control the thermostat to save energy, manage the volume of water coming from taps or project entertainment and information onto mirrors.

Simulation software plays a significant role in creating more efficient designs in bathroom fixtures. From ceramic structural resistance, toilet flow simulation, electromagnetic compatibility between devices to a full virtual compliance of standards, simulation tools give the manufacturer the ability to optimize and improve the design sooner in the product development process which accelerates the time to market and reduces cost. For example, using a virtual model to simulate the flush of a toilet or the flow of water from a shower nozzle helps manufacturers identify which parts of the design are creating inefficiencies and improve upon them.

Image courtesy of Trone

“The idea is not to create objects connected to gadget functionalities, but to tackle the problems we face every day.”

Hugo Volpei, founder and CEO, Trone

Virtual models also allow manufacturers to be more sustainable. For example, they can help anticipate the shrinkage that occurs when a ceramic bathroom fixture like a toilet or a sink is fired. This process usually requires two or three rounds of physical molds. By creating and testing the model in the virtual world, not only is the overall cost of the design process reduced but fewer materials are wasted by eliminating unnecessary physical prototypes.

Finding sanctuary

While consumers want technology-enabled conveniences in their bathrooms, however, they want it to remain unobtrusive.

“This moment of our day is quite special, as it provides a brief escape from constantly connected technology,” Volpei said. “However, we believe that technology can improve our comfort, while respecting this moment of disconnection. For example, we are looking to integrate a patented technology into toilets that purifies the air and eliminates even the slightest odor by releasing ozone. The idea is not to create objects connected to gadget functionalities, but to tackle the problems we face every day.”

Pumarejo also believes technology can enhance the bathroom experience without intruding on the respite many people seek in the space.

“I believe a bathroom should be a sanctuary,” she said. “I love using ambient lighting in a bathroom to create a spa-like experience. I love designing a shower system that creates an experience for the user, whether it be with the use of body sprayers, a rain shower head, or even an aromatherapy system.”

Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet (image courtesy of Kohler)

For those who like a little techno-glitz, however, the Numi 2.0 Intelligent Toilet from Kohler, for example, offers a heated seat, Bluetooth speakers, ambient colored lights and Amazon Alexa integration, providing the ability to ask the toilet about the weather as you start your day. The Toto Flotation Tub, meanwhile, simulates a weightless, zero-gravity experience while you’re in the bath, and comes complete with massage jets, LED mood lights and a capacitive keyboard. And there is more coming: the global smart bathroom market reached a value of US$ 4.46 in 2020 and is expected to have strong growth in the next five years.

Options abound

The industry trend, then, is all about options: smart bathroom technology can simultaneously help homeowners feel good about environmentally sound choices while enhancing sanitation and improving relaxation. Whether looking for a simple moment of disconnect or a gadget-filled, futuristic experience, people have more options than ever when it comes to designing their dream bathroom.

“We all appreciate amazing lighting and shower systems at upscale hotels,” Pumarejo said. “Why shouldn’t we have that same experience at home every day?”


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