Last month, LG quietly introduced a new true wireless earbuds called Tone Free. At first glance, the LG Tone Free looks like regular TWS earbuds with in-ear style and a stem that stuck out of your ears. However, it came with a case, which is actually called a UVnano case. This part “UV” stands out for a lot of reasons. The prominent one being the ongoing pandemic and ability of ultraviolet rays to kill germs. UV rays have been used in the industry to kill germs before but they are harmful to human beings. However, it seems prime for a wider adoption including in the form of lightning solutions. Havells is leading this effort in India. Also Read - BGR Talks: ZEE5 CEO Tarun Katial speaks of managing an OTT platform in the times of Covid-19
“Lighting is no longer just about lighting solutions,” Parag Bhatnagar, SVP and SBU Head at Havells India Ltd explains. “Lighting is now about connecting smart lighting solutions with the well being of consumers,” he added. During a call, he explained how this pandemic has opened a new opportunity for an entire industry, which has remained fixated on one idea. He told me that Havells is working on lighting solutions that will be able to “disinfect 100 percent germs in the surrounding.” However, he is also quick to note that there has been a lack of innovation in this industry. Also Read - Xiaomi alone witnessed strong global smartphone sales growth in Q1 2020 amid Covid-19
Unlocking a new potential
As a primer, it is important to note that sunlight emits three different types of UV rays. The UVA makes up the vast majority of the radiation reaching Earth’s surface and is capable of penetrating deep into the skin. The second is UVB, which can damage the DNA in our skin and is responsible for even skin cancer. The third – UVC – is not as widely studied as the other two. It consists of a shorter but more energetic wavelength and is filtered out by ozone in the atmosphere. However, researchers have identified this wavelength to be capable of destroying genetic materials, be it in humans or microbes.
Bhatnagar told me that Havells plans to use UVC to destroy germs in the living areas. As a seasoned executive with decades of experience in the lighting industry, Parag Bhatnagar told me right at the start that the company is mindful of the hazards. He explained that the first products from Havells using UV light to kill germs will be aimed at the B2B market. Havells says that tubular lamps with UV technology will launch in the next three to four weeks. He further told me that these lamps will have alarms and intelligence built-in to avoid any humans coming in contact with these new lamps capable of disinfecting an area.
Havells has been a name associated with trust in the market. With its UV-based products, trust has an even bigger role to play. In order to ensure that, Bhatnagar confirmed that the products will meet all the international standards for safety out of the box. Secondly, the company is making sure that their claim to disinfect an area is 100 percent accurate. “We don’t want to be early in the market but rather accurate,” Bhatnagar explained the philosophy. The difference between you getting infected by a disease might lie on the surface that you come in contact with. With the outbreak of COVID-19, there is a race to develop products that can disinfect these contact surfaces both reliably and effectively.
These days when I scroll through my Instagram feed, one of the most frequent ads that I see is for a UV light sanitizers. These so called compact devices aim to sanitize compact devices like smartphones, keys and other tiny objects, which you might use or touch at regular intervals. These devices claim to kill up to 99 percent of germs seen on the surface of your gadgets. Their success is feasible thanks to devices like smartphones becoming more common. Bhatnagar says these devices are selling but they are not intuitive. He also told me that the goal should be to kill 100 percent germs and that’s precisely what Havells aims to achieve with its own product lineup.
Bhatnagar also clarified that it’s initial products aimed at businesses as well as the consumer market will look identical to existing products. However, they will have optical sensors to detect humans and immediately turn off the UV light. He also explained that the initial design includes the lights being used as a lighting solution during the day. But it will switch to a disinfectant role at night when there won’t be employees in office. They will have contactless control to precisely time their use as a light or a disinfectant. When I asked him if this would make LED bulbs or fixtures more expensive, Bhatnagar said it won’t be. He added that sensors and technology are already there but will be used in the face of this pandemic.
Smart Lighting and IoT
Lighting has been responsible for the way humans behave and evolve in the society. Almost 150 years, when lighting became generally accessible, it allowed humans to spend more time at work. This allowed for greater earnings and thus increase in spending potential. Since then, we have seen lighting evolve from incandescent light bulbs to CFLs to LEDs recently. Bhatnagar says incandescent light bulbs where about lighting at any cost. It came at a cost called loss of energy. The came CFLs, which were energy efficient but not ideal for the environment, since they used mercury. The latest development is LEDs, which are both energy efficient, environment conscious and inexpensive.
Bhatnagar has had a front row seat to this transformation and he says, we are only getting started with smarter lighting. While speaking to BGR India, he explained that smart lighting does not mean commanding a digital assistant to change the color of your light bulb. “Smart lighting is not thought through because it’s being introduced from Chinese suppliers,” he added. He thinks there is a disconnect between suppliers and manufacturers, which has led to consumers being unable to unlock full potential of smart lighting solutions. When I quizzed him about the description for full potential, he says smart lighting should lead to a smarter lifestyle and thus elevate the well being of people.
“The right kind of lighting solutions could help with eye strain and blue light emitted by electronic devices,” he explained. Havells says around 25 to 30 percent of the consumer market will use smart lighting solutions in the next couple of years. In the B2B market, he says the adoption of smart lighting has grown due to COVID-19 outbreak. Havells, like others in this business, offers smart lighting solutions with support for Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri. Havells is also relying on its in-house expertise where engineers help consumers get maximum out of these lighting solutions. He says every room or a household is distinct in terms of lighting used and energy consumed.
Havells helps these consumers understand the energy or light required to illuminate their rooms. Once that part is resolved, it helps them connect these lights to their favorite digital assistants. After that, they can set their own command to get the right configuration for their mood. He says there are smarter algorithms being designed to change the lighting according to blue light emitted by computing devices like laptops and smartphones in the home. With 5G set to roll out by 2022, Internet of Things will allow for better communication between devices. Bhatnagar says social distancing and no-contact usage will drive adoption of IoT-based lighting solutions in the professional market.
Education is a challenge
Havells is thinking like a technology company here by laying out groundwork for smarter lighting that elevates well being of its consumers. The first step is definitely the smooth roll out of UV-based products that promise to kill 100 percent of germs in your house or an office. However, the word UV comes with caution marked all over it and there is an asterisk associated with its use. Bhatnagar says the real challenge for his company would be to educate consumers about the potential risk and how it is being mitigated. For this, the company plans to rely on digital media platforms to spread the message.
Once the message gains traction and the roll out of UV-based products happens smoothly, Havells wants to tap into adoption of smart lights and IoT to offer even better lighting experience. The future of lighting, according to Bhatnagar, should be easy to use, seamless and involve zero contact once they are installed. He imagines voice or personal computing devices being the console to control these lights. With the working age group being the strongest and millennials open to adopt new technology faster, Havells is confident of this transmission being smoother than the switch from incandescent lamps to compact fluorescent lamps.