Tech start-up plans €1.2m funding for light to brighten our lives

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A Dublin tech start-up is planning to raise €1.2m this year to fund the production of a new smart lamp it says can improve people’s attention spans and emotional well-being.

IlluminAi, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out, has designed an app it says is designed for a modern age in which many people spend most of their time indoors. It mimics natural light and helps the brain produce and release specific hormones.

The Enterprise Ireland-backed company was founded by Morteza Matkan, an architect who came up with the idea while completing his PhD at UCD.

IlluminAi’s desktop device houses a user’s mobile phone which, using an application developed by the company, provides guided meditation and dynamic views of nature. It’s designed to allow consumers to engage with the outside world even if they can’t leave their desks.

The company aims to bring the desk lamp, aimed at home consumers, to market next year, Matkan said. It plans to sell the device on its own website and through online sellers like Amazon.

But the company has also developed a bigger product – a virtual man-made window that replicates natural daylight landscapes – which it plans to market to businesses and hospitality businesses.

“This product is designed for spaces that don’t get enough light, especially during the darker months,” Matkan said.

“In developed societies, we spend more than 90% of our time indoors. The problem with this is that natural daylight is the primary factor that regulates our biological, or circadian, rhythm.

Matkan explained that during the day, the sky is full of intense blue-spectrum light that helps the brain produce certain hormones. At sunset, red spectrum light helps release serotonin.

“Our biodynamic lighting simulates natural light from sunrise to sunset, changing the intensity, color, temperature and wavelength of light to match natural light,” he noted.

IlluminAi isn’t the only company capable of replicating natural light. There’s a whole field dedicated to it, known as human-centric lighting.

But the company has ambitious plans to leapfrog its competitors, having developed algorithms designed to gather user data and feedback as part of a plan to create a software service that’s cheaper and more responsive than any other option on the market. Marlet.

“There are many companies that provide this type of light, but for a number of factors — including cost — many industries are slow to adopt it,” Matkan said. “So we realized that by developing our own software we could save costs because lighting designers can use our software but their own hardware.

“They can load our software onto their devices and create a human-centric lighting solution that offers a much cheaper alternative to what is currently available.”

For now, IlluminAi hopes to bring its desk lamp to market this year and begin collecting the data that will underpin its future software offering.

“Using our machine learning algorithm, we plan to take the data and refine it in our own software,” Matkan said.

“And once that’s up and running, it will be the first time customers can use their own hardware and our technology.” So it will be cheaper and easier for them, and hopefully more people will start to appreciate the benefits of the lighting we provide.

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