By GREGORY ZELLER //
Eddie Cross got the drop on his first-ever invention 15 years ago, when he took a tumble inside a local bank branch, slipping on a wet floor and flopping to the floor. He wasn’t seriously injured, but the spill certainly got the wheels turning.
Cross’ breakthrough moment came years later, while the Nassau University Medical Center maintenance mechanic was dealing with a flood inside a new NUMC facility, hauling drying equipment – including large fans – from one wet spot to the next.
“We had a major flood in one of the buildings we acquired, and that’s when it hit me: a floor dryer that would always be in place when you need it,” he told Innovate LI. “No more fans to schlep around, no more need for guys with mops and ‘wet floor’ signs.”
Enter Cross’ The Time Saver, a forced-air system designed to dehydrate floors in public areas where moisture often gathers – think restroom and entry foyers – leading to dangerous slips and, lawsuits being lawsuits, potentially expensive falls.
There are a number of portable floor-drying devices on the market, Cross conceded, but his prototype “separates the men from the boys.” Designed to be built directly into the walls or otherwise fastened in place, The Time Saver is as much a convenience as a floor dryer.
A working prototype – built for Cross by Westbury tinsmith Max Dobler – incorporates an electric-fan blower, a heating unit and a motion sensor, kicking on for a range of five to 15 minutes whenever someone passes through a hallway or restroom. The warm arm is directed by ducts directly to floor level, providing quick, automated drying whenever there’s a splashdown.
“Most times, when people use a restroom, they wash up and shake their hands dry, and the floor gets wet,” Cross noted. “This is meant to prevent slips and falls by quickly drying up that residual water.”
It’s an intriguing and potentially lucrative idea, according to Brian Fried, founder of the Nassau County Inventors & Entrepreneurs Club, which heard a presentation from Cross at its September meeting. Innovations for hand-drying are fairly commonplace – motion-detectors on paper-towel dispensers and hand-blowers, for instance – but the market for an innovative floor-dryer is wide open, Fried noted.
“There are a limited number of solutions to this type of problem in public bathrooms,” he said. “Many people put in big fans or try to find other ways to keep the floors dry, but prevention is tough. And this can help with smells in bathrooms, too.”
Fried’s not the only one who thinks The Time Saver smells like a winner. A rudimentary model – low-powered fans, no heating component – is already in place inside a newly renovated Dunkin’ Donuts in Five Towns. “It’s a smaller concept,” Cross noted. “A little undersized, but it’s working.”
With design and utility patents pending (he’s also filed to trademark “The Time Saver”), the inventor is now focused on building “a more presentable, finished and detailed prototype” to share with investors and potential manufacturing partners. The original models were built by Dobler based on “something I drew up on a piece of paper,” Cross noted, but financial backers and professional designers “are going to want to know that you did the R&D and covered all the bases.”
He incorporated Inwood-based Ducted Floor Dryer specifically to help secure funding, noting “everybody says you have to be a company to get funding,” and his appearance before the Inventors Club was meant specifically to find the right partner to move The Time Saver along.
“You’re never really sure who to turn to,” Cross said. “Everybody wants to take your money, but you have to find the right people to give you guidance.”
Even the inventor isn’t sure about his next step. There are several possibilities, including securing funding on his own and then hiring a manufacturer, or possibly licensing out his designs to a manufacturer who can run with them.
Whatever move he’s going to make, the uncertainty hasn’t stopped Cross from pushing The Time Saver. He talked that Dunkin’ Donuts manager into giving the device a try, and just this week, Cross came upon a construction job in Woodmere and stopped to discuss The Time Saver with the contractors on site, floating the notion of incorporating the device into their designs.
They said they’d get back to him, Cross noted, but whether or not they do, “there are lots of possibilities.”
“There are a lot of ways this can go,” he said. “Right now, my main goal is to get funding and move this project to the next level.”