Last week Deciwatt co-founder Graham travelled to speak at South Korea’s Gwangju Design Biennale (GDB). This prestigious event celebrates design and innovation, with a special focus on products designed to solve significant problems.
Our products on display at the Gwangju Design Biennale
Graham spoke about the history of GravityLight and our future ambitions for NowLight. The GDB includes an exhibition and both generations of GravityLight, along with an older prototype of NowLight will be on display in South Korea for the next two months.
At the start of July, we took part in a ‘Tech For Good’ pitch battle run by Unbound. We competed against five other start-ups by delivering our three-minute pitch to an audience and a panel of judges. All of the start-ups were working on important problems and gave very impressive presentations. We were both surprised and delighted when Deciwatt was announced as the winner!
Our prize was the opportunity to exhibit at Unbound London, a two-day innovation festival that took place on July 17th and 18th. Over the course of the festival we got to demo nowlight to hundreds of people and made some connections with potential partner organisations.
On the second day of the festival, we competed in another pitch battle but this time the winners were our good friends at WeWalk, makers of a remarkable Smart Cane for the visually impaired.
We think what their product is amazing and in future we hope to help them integrate a mechanism for manual power generation. This will ensure that the battery in WeWalk can never run out of power when users are out and about.
We want to tell you more about an important milestone that we have reached. Last week we put our nowlight samples through Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) and Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) testing. Electronic devices are required to pass these tests in order to demonstrate that they are safe and reliable.
These tests may sound like rather dry subject matter but as we will try to demonstrate they are actually rather interesting. What’s more, all the tests are conducted in a room that looks like its part of the set from a sci-fi film!
The emissions from the nowlight PCB (the circuit board) are measured at different light outputs and in different charging states
There are two main purposes of EMC testing. The first is to make sure that an electronic device does not unintentionally emit electromagnetic energy in a way that could disrupt other devices. The second is to make sure that an electronic device does not malfunction or break down in the presence of electromagnetic emissions from other sources.
Electronic devices must be carefully placed when running EMC tests. For example, if the nowlight and SatLight overlap it can be difficult to identify which is the source of electromagnetic interference.
After the tests have been completed the results are reviewed to see if an electronic device is creating emissions above legally allowed limits or if it is vulnerable to emissions from other sources. The good news is that nowlight and SatLight comfortably passed all of the tests!
Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) is the sudden transfer of electricity between two electrically charged objects. In severe cases static discharge can cause bodily injury, and mechanical or electrical failure. In short, there is a risk that static discharge could break a nowlight.
As part of ESD testing, a technician uses an ESD gun to ‘zap’ nowlight with static electricity on all the metal surfaces on the outside of the product, such as the screw heads and the USB port. If exposure to static electricity causes the PCB inside nowlight to fail, it may need to be redesigned. However, we are pleased to report that the PCB passed all the tests.
It has been a busy few weeks at the Deciwatt office and we are pleased to bring you the latest updates about the development of nowlight.
In our last update we mentioned that we had released the order for the remaining electronic components we need to build your nowlights. Previously our manufacturer had advised us that once the order had been released, the lead time for the components would be just a few weeks. Therefore, we were surprised when they informed us that it could take as long as 5 months to source some of the components! As a result, we’ve had to take a different approach to obtaining the components we need for mass production.
As we mentioned in our last update, there is a global shortage of electronic components, driven by huge demand from the automotive and mobile industries. This means that it can take a long time to obtain electronic components, as manufacturers cannot produce enough to meet the demand.
Over the last few months, this shortage has been made far worse by the escalating ‘trade war’ between the USA and China. This has seen the USA impose import tariffs of up to 25% on many products originating from China. Because of this, some businesses have begun to stockpile inventory, in anticipation of even higher tariffs in the future.
Under normal circumstances, the business that manufactures our PCBs would also procure all of the electronic components that we need to manufacture them. This allows our small team to focus on design and engineering. However, because they have said it would take them up to five months to source all of the components, we have taken matters into our own hands.
Over the last two weeks, we have been contacting suppliers literally all over the world to track down stocks of the various components we need. This has gone fairly well, and we have been able to find a supply of most components. However, some components are proving more difficult to locate and it is possible this will delay the delivery of your nowlights.
We are doing everything we can to obtain the components and avoid any further delay. At this stage we cannot say for certain if there will be a further delay and we will keep you updated over the next few weeks.
Those of you who have followed our campaign since its earliest stages will recall that when we first launched nowlight, one minute of pulling on the cord would generate one hour of light.
In September 2018 we announced that one minute of pulling would create over three hours of light. These gains were achieved by increasing the efficiency of nowlight and by adding a new 5 lumens brightness setting, which is ideal for illuminating small spaces such as a tent.
The increases in efficiency were achieved by running the nowlight PCB, and in particular the microprocessor, with very limited power. However, as we’ve continued to work on the PCB, we’ve found its necessary to run the microprocessor at higher speeds, which consumes more power. This ensures that nowlight is reliable and stable.
As such, we now expect that one minute of pulling will create two hours of light on the lowest 5 lumens settings and one hour of light on the 10 lumens setting (which was the lowest brightness setting when we launched the campaign). In other words, we are back to the same level of efficiency we expected when launched the campaign.
In future we think that it may be possible to increase the efficiency of nowlight by running the circuitry with less power. Yet in the short-term our focus is on reliability and nowlight is still far more efficient than other hand-cranked sources of energy.
As you know, we will be partnering with the IFRC to distribute nowlights to families living in refugee settlements in Rwanda and Uganda. We are very grateful to all of you who have made donations as part of this campaign. As of the start of June, there are over 500 units that will be donated to the IFRC thanks to our Indiegogo supporters!
An IFRC volunteer runs anowlight training session during users trials conducted in Rwanda in May 2018
Thank you to all of you for supporting our campaign and for the patience and understanding you have shown us during the development process.