Product: Dyson Airblade
People behind it:
Name: James Dyson and the Dyson team
James Dyson is famous for having invented the cyclonic vacuum cleaner, although he has other inventions to his name (such as the ball-barrow, with a ball instead of a front wheel). But he was not personally responsible for the latest product from the company that bears his name – instead, it was the brainchild of an un-named member of the 420-strong team of engineers and scientists who work for Dyson. While studying the properties of air-flow, it was found that wet hands put in front of a stream of fast-moving unheated air were dried by that airstream.
Traditional electric hand dryers rely on evaporation to dry hands. Washroom air, which contains fecal germs and is laden with bacteria, is heated and blown out. People rub their hands together to speed up drying, but research shows this draws bacteria from deeper skin layers and fingernails. Most people get frustrated and leave with damp hands, but damp hands are more likely to cross-contaminate than dry hands. The Dyson Airblade dries hands completely in just ten seconds.
The Dyson Airblade launched in 2006, and is beginning to appear in a range of environments, including hospitals and design-conscious museums and restaurants. Dyson claims a UK washroom fitted with an AirBlade will save about £1,000 a year on paper towels and energy costs, and will be more hygienic too. Research commissioned by Dyson found that two in three people say hand dryers take too long to do the job, with women and young people more likely than men to think this.
How it fits
Dyson’s track record for producing innovative designs that rethink the existing received wisdom of a particular industry sector has led to some great successes – and at least one abject failure, the Dyson Washing Machine. But with the AirBlade it could have found something as good as its original vacuum cleaner – it looks good, it delivers savings when compared with paper towels and heated air blowers, and it claims to be more hygienic.