Quantfury Daily Gazette
Smart grooming products to cut recalls
A company as old as Wall Street itself has been making headlines lately in an unusual way. Procter and Gamble (NYSE: PG), a company founded in 1837 with a focus around selling candles and soaps, first gained high notoriety in the 1880’s when it invented a new inexpensive type of soap with one unique selling feature; it floated in water. As hard as it is to imagine that this was once a significant innovation, at the current moment in time Procter and Gamble is trying to break down new barriers in the personal care industry with a “smart” hair grooming device.
The grooming device will be used to aggregate all kinds of information about consumer hair grooming behaviour. You might think this seems completely overboard when it comes to integrating smart technology into daily life, but in fact, Procter and Gamble isn’t even the first one with this idea! L’oreal: OR, a well-known personal care product competitor, has been developing a smart brush since 2017!
The purpose for both of these hair grooming devices is to analyze customer information by connecting to a mobile app to identify patterns through listening to the sound of hair brushing, utilizing pressure sensors to measure force applied to the hair and scalp. This is done utilizing an accelerometer to measure brush strokes, and even include conductivity sensors to determine if hair is wet or dry while being brushed.
The first question for me is; why is this at all necessary? Well, considering that both of these companies are in the personal care and hygiene industry, the potential information that can be accumulated with the company’s existing products can provide the company with information that they would otherwise have to get using large test groups over large periods of time. For instance, gripping pressure measurements, before and after using a conditioner in the hair can give an indication on how well the conditioner works in the customers’ hair since a successful conditioner should create a smoother brush and therefore, less gripping pressure. It’s kind of crazy to think about this, but it’s one of those situations where it’s so crazy that it actually works. In essence, these companies are trying to create a sample of customers with different personal features that would be almost impossible, if not incredibly expensive, to try to manually put together in a test group.
Of course this information could also help companies within the industry to spot failing products faster than having to wait for slowing sales data in the quarterly results, or the dreaded scandals that expose unsafe products. For example, both Procter and Gamble and Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) had product recalls in shampoos, conditioners, and sunscreens earlier this year when it was found that there were unexpected amounts of a cancer-causing chemical called benzene in some of their products. While recalls for consumer products like this are certainly not rare, it’s certainly something to think about when you consider how long these products were in use before being found to have dangerous chemicals in them. A smart hair brush or similar personal grooming product could be utilized in these cases to catch problematic products early, and then deliver an abundance of information to improve products when it comes to R&D.
Of course, given the fact that nothing is ever perfect on the first go around, there could be an entire range of new liabilities with a grooming product that is “listening” to and monitoring consumer behaviour that these companies would have never been exposed to in the past. If I had to bet, I would certainly be looking for the group discount deals on the lawyers that will inevitably be required to protect against the range of new liability!
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