Situation: This leading Japanese supplier of automotive safety systems worked on reducing “time to fire,” i.e., the time between impact and air bag deployment. The company’s R&D unit discovered a radical new technology for impact sensing that allowed for reducing the “time to fire” by an order of magnitude, compared with the dominant technology at the time. Despite the technology’s great promise, however, management was reluctant to commercialize it. Two issues justified this apprehension. First, management was not convinced that the new radical – and therefore risky – innovation was the best option and that all other potential options had been identified. Second, the new technology had several shortcomings which complicated its implementation. One of these drawbacks was a twofold increase in power consumption vs. that of the current technology. The TRIZ Group was commissioned to help resolve these issues.

Actions: By studying the development of the existing, dominant impact technology, and by using the laws and lines of evolution, we identified all feasible next-generation technologies, including the one discovered by the company’s own R&D unit. Comparative analysis of these technologies convincingly showed that the technology in question was indeed the next most promising one. This provided management with the confidence needed to greenlight this technology for further development. We also used the lines of evolution to pinpoint future iterations of the new technology, thus helping the company anticipate potential moves on the part of competitors. In addition, we identified other possible applications of this technology, largely outside of the automotive market. By applying TRIZ conflict resolution tools to the power consumption dilemma, we developed a design that led to a 96% reduction of that predicament.

Results: The client company initiated efforts to market the new technology to prospective customers. Presently, two leading car manufacturers are seriously considering the integration of this technology within their next generation products.