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6 Questions That Changed My Startup Building a smart, simple, sustainable product

By Samit Choksi

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Design innovation doesn't necessarily require the invention of something that's entirely new, but it does motivate us to design something that's entirely now. Innovation at Thinkphi means taking a fresh perspective on how people use stuff.

The larger goal is to inspire people to think about sustainability and ultimately create behavioral change. We asked ourselves seemingly basic, but characterizing questions such as "how can we take something we use everyday and look at it in a new way? Can we find a new use for it? Could we connect multiple technologies in a new way? How could we revolutionize products in terms of design and performance?

At the confluence of smart technology and state-of the art design, Thinkphi's first product the "UltaChaata' was born. Smart. Simple. Sustainable. We transformed a simple canopy by asking six defining questions:

How can we look at something simple in an entirely new way?

Take water for example, we focused on items that were related to it, such as an umbrella- simple and perfectly shaped to deflect rain and shelter us from it; Now what if we turned it around to perform the opposite function, quite literally, and made it an upturned umbrella to capture rain—this idea lead to both the inception and name of the "UltaChaata'.

How do we find a new use for it for this new upturned object?

At Thinkphi we decided to take it a step further by devising a plethora of uses for it. The upturned canopy was a pre-existing product that was used to shade areas. We then took this canopy and made it even smarter by both directing the flow of water and draining it into a filtration and shading device.

We thought about the universality of the product, and wondered how we could possibly re-contextualize it in time and space?

We wanted it to transform all open spaces, to create a sophisticated urban solution to water harvesting problems, So we designed a product that had an aesthetic that was both charming and sleek while also harvesting rainwater.

How could we connect the product to the users or systems in a new way?

Conventional technology usually connects to the local power grid. We at Thinkphi, did just the opposite. We chose to disrupt conventional technology by disconnecting from it the grid and developed our own outdoor lighting technology that was entirely self-sustained through the energy generated from the installation of a flexible solar module.

What could we change in terms of design and performance?

We crafted a product that would be aesthetically stunning through the installation of ambient lighting that reflects off the canopy. We also increased the efficiency three times by building a three-step filtration system that through a gravitational, activated carbon and a poly yarn physical filter converts charged rainwater to potable standards. So we drew inspiration from simple concepts, transformed its aesthetic and functionality to make it environmentally/socially useful/beneficial but one thing remained...

How do we take it to the next level and not just create a new product, but now product?

We brainstormed about the things we believed characterize this generation-- interaction, communication multifunctionality, and perceptiveness. Thus, we decided to make the UltaChaata something that users could enjoy and interact with by creating a seating arrangement around the new charging station that could charge up to four mobile phones, where one might want to perhaps enjoy lunch with a friend. The Chaata is designed to not only interact with people, but with natural light patterns as well. Through the installation of PIR sensor technology, we designed the lighting on the Chaata that brightens or becomes dims in synchronicity with the diurnal variation of the sun. Our Chaatas can be controlled over SMS using proprietary message strings. Users can now change light colors, collect water flow data or even proactively know when they need to clean our filter.

At Thinkphi we believe that curiosity conquers. We constantly ask "what if?" And then think about how can we? And then, what next? We are determined to not just disrupt conventional technology, but revolutionize it.

Samit Choksi

Co-founder, ThinkPhi

Samit Choksi is the Co-founder of Thinkphi a clean technology company innovating sustainably engineered products that help intelligently conserve water, energy and waste. Prior to this Samit has co-founded and worked at various start-ups in India and Silicon Valley as a software architect and developer. He has worked closely on product development at a Fortune 500 data base technology company while living in the USA. Spending most of his life outside India, upon moving back he was motivated to build products that aspire to have global standards in quality and finish. With a love for the nature and the environment he is currently realizing his dream of building simple but intelligent products that influence user behaviour to conserve earth’s natural resources. Thinkphi’s first product is a patented system which smartly converges water harvesting and renewable energy for open spaces in smart cities, industries, or large campuses.

Studying and living in places like Singapore and San Francisco, Samit self-created a BSc degree in Management and Computer Science. He has filed several patents on messaging technology to his most recent clean tech inventions. Samit has spoken at various conferences including TEDx gateway. He enjoys learning languages, cooking to relax, and reading articles on theoretical computer science.
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