Hand in Hand with CleanBands
Like many of us, David Iwankow’s first job as a teen was at a buffet serving food; slicing roast beef and making salads for hungry and unsuspecting guests. At the time he never thought about it, but looking back, he realized that he and his teenage coworkers rarely, if ever, washed their hands.
Years later Dave would have an epiphany, “What if there was a way to motivate and incentivize food handlers to properly and diligently wash their hands?”
In North America, inadequate hand washing is the cause of 9 out of 10 foodborne illnesses. It is the bane of both the food processing and restaurant industries. No business owner wants to harm their customers and furthermore, as any restaurateur knows, once you lose reputation, it is impossible to recover.
The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that restaurant staff only wash their hands a third of the time that they should. That’s a lot of unclean food handling. The recommendations prescribed are wash stations, management training and accountability. The first two points are easy enough; provide more wash stations and train your management, but the third, accountability, proves next to impossible. How does one ensure and prove that their staff are washing their hands?
Having a great deal of entrepreneurial experience, Iwankow set out to tackle this problem. It was a challenging trifecta; could there be a way to remind the worker, comply with all food handling regulations and establish consumer confidence all at the same time?”
The device would also have to be durable, water resistant, wearable, reusable and simple in form and function. The device would also need a name. And so CleanBands was born. This innovative device would be the first of its kind that would overtly demonstrate compliance with a required hand-washing frequency in food establishments.
CleanBands’ first iteration was genius in its simplicity – a simple wearable wristband fitted with a small electronic system that changed colour indicating the length of time between hand washes, informing all parties; the wearer, the consumer, and the manager of the frequency (or lack thereof) of the desired handwashing behaviour.
With robust inspiration and motivation, Iwankow and his team set upon building the first prototype from rudimentary 3D printing and off-the-shelf components. It was admittedly somewhat crude, but the genesis was there.
Perhaps most admirable of David’s many talents – “I’m just a guy who knows a little bit about a lot of things.” he humbly acknowledges, is the recognition of his own limitations. CleanBands now had a physical prototype, but now needed several refinements to really get potential markets buzzing.
An investor friend recommended the engineering firm Enginuity, a team of creative-minded engineers who have a solid presence and reputation within the Canadian start-up ecosystem.
By joining forces with a seasoned, well-rounded team like Enginuity, CleanBands could now boldly advance towards a new level of development and a level of scalability that would, quite frankly, be overwhelming alone. Enginuity offered a streamlined Development Plan that would uncover, or rather discover, the design issues and clarify the challenge.
Design developments and improvements of the band were not the only contribution to the venture that the firm provided. “Enginuity was extremely helpful. They took what we had accomplished so far and built on that idea during our discovery session. We now had a comprehensive document that described where we are right now, especially from an engineering perspective, but also laid down a design path forward”, states Iwankow. Additionally, this type of documentation more clearly outlines the status of the product, thus allowing smooth access to potential funding streams and early adopters.
As an organization, CleanBands now has a clearer path to map out a usability test regime and how to implement an onboarding framework that can broaden that usability. Factor in the honing of the conceptual and preliminary design work, and CleanBands is off to the proverbial races.
The next steps can now immediately be taken towards the future Version 4.0, where CleanBands now finds itself.
Dave and his team continue to adjust and pivot, to include other markets that go beyond the restaurant industry and may now include food production, a monumental opportunity for the organization. These explorations and developments that CleanBands and Enginuity nurture will not only inspire consumer confidence, but industry confidence as well. This will establish CleanBands as the benchmark and industry standard for hand hygiene in both the food service and processing industries.
“What we were able to do was work with Dave’s original, passionate concept and help highlight new and exciting directions”, explains Enginuity Head of Product Development Alicia Ingraham.
She continues, “It’s all about adding perspectives to open new potential avenues to explore. From there you can define consumers so the message can be tailored to allow CleanBands to flex its muscles in a market that is in such desperate need of a solution.”
In the post-covid landscape, the food industry continues to struggle with labour and training, CleanBands has a demonstrable product which speaks volumes of its efficacy.
At this stage in the Product Development Lifecycle, CleanBands is now a robust, waterproof and functional device. They have the system in real-world trials, continuing to learn and refine the technology. CleanBands is now poised to deliver a future in which consumers and managers alike can confidently be assured that their product is being handled with the cleanest of hands.
Iwankow asserts, “We look forward to continuing to work with the team at Enginuity” adding, “to bring our vision & technology to market!”