Have you ever had a product that broke down in just a few months and had to replace it? You're not alone!

According to EndsEurope, the number of household appliances that had to be replaced within the first 5-years have grown from 7% in 2004 to 13% in 2013—whether this is due to “planned obsolescence” where manufacturers have decreased the lifespan of their product, or due to the better upgrades. Over 2 million tons of waste electrical and electronic items is generated in the UK per year, and recycling and treatment of these materials poses significant health and environmental risks.

Our mission is to inform consumers about the life-span and general ratings of their product based on previous users’ experiences so that they can make the best purchases as they shop online. Through a simple Chrome extension, consumers can go onto major online retailors (Amazon—general, VWR—laboratory), and easily learn how long a product has generally lasted. Additionally, they can inform others of their own experiences of a product.

What it does

Given an online retailer and a product, the extension displays the lifespan of the product.

Analysing Amazon reviews

For now, we only have a very simple, keyword-based method implemented, looking for reviews of the form "worked for X period", "broke after X period" and the like.

The algorithm is as follows:

For each review,

  1. Extract review text
  2. Search for appropriate terms (e.g. "worked for", "broke after") in the text
  3. Search for these time period-defining words in the following 10 words: ..* Day ..* Week ..* Month ..* Year
  4. Extract word before the time-period to get the length of time period
  5. Convert lifespan to months

How we built it

Chrome extension with Javascript and website, both connected to Firebase for data storage. Website has also been deployed to Heroku. Review data was analysed offline using Python (Jupyter notebook).

Challenges we ran into

  • Structured data on product type and brand is difficult to acquire

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We built a functional tool in under 10 hours.

What we learned

  • How to make a Chrome extension
  • How to extract data from reviews

What's next for LifeSpanner

  • Improved design
  • More and cleaner data
  • Dynamic clean-up of data
  • Data input in Chrome extension
  • Deployment for other online retailers
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