Yes, you guessed it, Blueair is one of the companies which experienced a strong market during 2020.
— Our sales have grown strongly globally and we continue to gain market share, says Provins. We have a strong market position in the US and China but is currently growing particularly strongly in the Nordic countries, the UK, and other EU countries with strong 3-digit growth during 2020 compared to 2019. The rapid growth of 2020 is partly an effect of the ongoing pandemic as lots of people have spent more time at home than usual and therefore want clean air in their homes.
When founded in 1996, Provins shares, the company’s vision was to develop the world’s best air purifier to create a healthier indoor environment for both families and workplaces all over the world. In 2016, they’re acquired by Unilever.
— And today, we’re a world leader and extremely fast growing with sales in over 60 countries worldwide.
How have you managed to become so successful?
— The secret is mainly a unique and own developed purification technique, HEPASilent. It delivers more clean air faster, at less noise, and with lower energy consumption. The high performance was also why we, very early, were recognized in markets with significantly greater problems with bad air than the Swedish domestic market, like China and the US. With our strong commitment towards giving children clean air, as they are most at risk when being exposed to polluted air, we’ve also improved access to clean air for 500,000 children in five years. Through our CLEAN AIR FOR CHILDREN platform, we’ve teamed up with governments, schools, hospitals, and NGOs in, for example, China, India, Korea, the US, Sweden, and the UK.
You mentioned the HEPASilent technology. How does that work?
— It captures at least 99.97% of airborne particles down to 0.1 microns in size, kills germs, and delivers high performance and efficiency by combining electrostatic and mechanical filtration technologies. This combination, that we’ve pioneered, delivers high Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR, the global leading standard for air purification performance, based on independent tests performed for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM)) with whisper-silent operation and high energy efficiency. In fact, a Blueair air purifier works so quietly that you can not only sleep next to it, you might even have to check to make sure it is switched on. And on its lowest setting, our air purifier uses less electricity than a lightbulb, says Provins, adding,
— With HEPASilent, airborne particles are charged before they reach the filter. This makes the particles sticky so that they stick on to the polypropylene fibers in the filter more easily due to electrostatic forces, which allows the use of a less dense filter, so more air can be pushed through with less noise and less energy.
Provins shares his best tips when buying an air purifier:
— The single most important factor, is, quite obviously, performance; how well the unit is able to clean your room.
— So, when buying an air purifier always, ask or look into what the CADR is, he tells.
CADR shows how many cubic meters the air purifier will clean every hour.
— The higher the CADR value, the more air it cleans in an hour. The AHAM recommended room size of an air purifier is based on five air changes per hour to ensure continuously clean air in a room, also meaning the unit will clean the air volume in the room every 12 minutes based on the recommendation. Most serious brands are testing all their products according to this standard and the CADR value should be visible on packaging or webpage or similar.
— Another important thing is to make sure that the air purifier is quiet and efficient. An air purifier is on 24/7 and often in the bedroom while you are sleeping, so a quiet operation is vital. Noise levels, measured in decibels, can vary widely depending on various factors, including the setting, energy efficiency, type of technology, filter, and sound insulation. It is particularly important to check the noise level on the lowest setting — the setting it will be most of the time and while you are sleeping. Check the energy efficiency as an energy-efficient air purifier can use as little as 1.5 watts of power running at its lowest setting. That is, as mentioned, equivalent to the energy consumption of an LED-light bulb.
She describes the new base collection Emerge as anything but basic or traditional.
— We’ve worked hard to find the perfect shades to match the modern needs and the highest quality for the long run. In the VR tool we are launching together with the collection, everyone can see how perfectly this collection appears on a large scale with a strong personality.
The Swedish international design brand produces premium flooring to the contract market worldwide and 95% of the family company’s sales goes on export.
— I think Emerge will become a bestseller very soon, Eklund adds.
Tell us about that new VR platform. How does it work?
— We always strive to try out new things and as VR has been in the loop for some years now, we now found the perfect timing to create a world of design where we could express our identity, not only by showing our flooring. Our products come to life with this tool, as it’s impossible for us to create such a space in reality to show them. VR is already used by architects and we’re happy they can be swept away in a cool fantasy world that also works as a reality tool for them.
How will VR change how you and your customers work?
— VR will hopefully become more user friendly for Mac users, and when that happens, I guess it will explode. In the meantime, we will continue to launch our news in this platform to constantly keep it alive. The tool today consists of an office, hotel, and a museum, where we’ll invite guest artists to exhibit. I believe that we have taken the possibilities to create unexpected but trustworthy happenings within our design community. This is something that feeds us with new energy every day.
Just like many other traditional physical events, the Customer Electronic Show ditched the hands-on practice this year. The Las Vegas fair spaces stood empty, but journalists still had a hectic couple of days of keeping up with the many digital presentations, showrooms and conference talks. Out of the many impressive and fascinating news and gadgets that we stumbled upon, we have cherry-picked the must-haves and can’t-misses for the coming year.
LG’s rollable screen
We’ve seen the rollable TV from LG before, but the South Korean tech giant briefly teased a rollable smartphone/tablet in their official press conference. Perhaps our smartphones will be rolled up and folded up in 2021?
General Motors’ airtaxi concept
The abbreviation of this coming decade is eVTOL (electric vertical takeoff and landing). The air-taxi industry is picking up speed, and with the entrance of mobility powerhouse GM, the process might reach new heights sooner than we think.
Yves Saint Laurent has partnered up with Perso in a new smart lipstick. The sleek container connects to an included app that can analyze your outfit’s colour scheme, and then create the perfect red shade for that specific outfit.
Skagen’s sleek smartwatch
Owning a smartwatch usually comes with one big downside — it doesn’t look very good (or like a classic watch). Danish watchmakers Skagen’s new Jorn Hybrid HR keeps the sleek Danish designs, but still packs some impressive technology assets. Track your sleep, your jog routes, daily steps and heart rate without having to master a small touch screen.
The Gardyn home garden
Vertical farming with a built-in AI gardener? Yes, please. This 150 cm tall indoor garden can host up to 30 different plants, and the AI tells you exactly when, and how, to take care of the plants. You fill the water tank once a month, the home garden does the rest.
Razer’s smart mask
As a sign of the times, one of the most hyped products at CES was Razer’s smart mask. Its built-in mic and speaker get your words out more clearly, and the RBG LED lights up your mouth when it gets darker. We do want it, but let’s hope we won’t find a reason to within the next couple of years.
Chamberlain’s smart dog door
Autonymous and smart garage door developer Chamberlain is a breed apart from its competitors, at least with its latest product in mind. The myQ Pet Portal lets your dog get free access in and out of your house with its smart collar, which notifies the connected app when the dog wants out.
Ampere Shower Power Bluetooth speaker
This smart speaker’s name gives you a hint of what to expect. It’s powered by the running water in your shower, meaning that you can listen to your favourite podcast via Bluetooth without fiddling on your phone with wet fingers, or worrying about battery shortage.
Vaonis’ miniature observatory
The Vespera Observation Station is something of a hybrid between a smart telescope and a camera. The station is 68 cm tall and stands firmly on the removable tripod, which allows it to take magnificent pictures of space. Be ready to up the ante on your wallpaper game.
Samsung’s butler robot
It wouldn’t be CES without a proper smart robot. The Bot Handy uses its arm and hand to pour you a glass of water, open doors and stacking the dishwasher. The video material is too good not to miss out.
The augmented reality art project Acute Art is directed and curated by Swedish art curator Daniel Birnbaum, and uses new media and technology to produce cutting-edge visual artworks in VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality) and MR (mixed reality). Although based in London, their playful and avant-garde app can’t be tied down to one place. It can be downloaded for free and works with most smartphones.
Acute Art’s latest collaboration project is called Unreal City, which is curated together with Dazed. It’s described as London’s biggest AR exhibition and comes in form of a walking tour along the River Thames, that originally launched in December. But as UK lockdown restrictions entered Tier 4 this month, Acute Art has released the app to anyone, anywhere.
— The beauty of augmented reality means that rather than extending the site-specific show by popular demand, we can respond to interest and the new lockdown measures by bringing the exhibition to you, said Daniel Birnbaum, artistic director of Acute Art and curator of Unreal City, to Dazed.
High-tech art pieces from Kaws, Nina Chanel Abney, Olafur Eliasson, Cao Fei, Tomás Saracenoand more are now available to view anywhere, meaning that you can curate your own art show in your living room. But make it count, because the exhibition is only available for one month.
Along with already commercialized renewable resources such as solar, wind, and hydro energy, the potential of wave energy is huge, tells Michael Henriksen, CEO of Wavepiston.
— By 2050 it can cover 10% of Europe’s current electricity needs and create as many as 400,000 green jobs, according to Ocean Energy Europe. On a global scale, wave energy could cover as much as 50% of the world’s electricity needs.
The idea to challenge the commercial viability of wave energy came up by three engineers in 2009.
— That’s when we started to develop a proof of concept, and since 2010, various prototypes at different scales have been developed and tested, tells Henriksen. A model at scale 1:30 was tested in the wave tank at Aalborg University in the north of Denmark. Next was a prototype at scale 1:9 tested offshore at Nissum Bredning in Denmark, and the most recent test was finalized with a prototype at scale 1:2 offshore in the North Sea near Hanstholm in Denmark.
The company just became a part of VALID, a project run by Horizon 2020 (the biggest EU Research and Innovation program ever), where they, together with their partners, will accelerate the testing of marine energy devices in Europe’s race towards carbon-neutrality.
And, in December last year, their first full scale test system has been installed at a test site off Gran Canaria in Spain.
— This is the first step to install the full system in 2021, where we will demonstrate our ability to deliver the desired results at full scale, says Henriksen, adding,
— We believe that we can deliver electricity and desalinated water at half the cost that islands, hotel resorts and remote coastal areas are paying today, where the prime energy source is diesel driven generators.
We see a bunch of wave power startups coming. What makes you so special?
— Our technology consists of a series of plates — energy collectors — attached to a string. A commercial system will consist of many strings with up to 32 energy collectors attached. Passing waves will continuously move the energy collectors back and forth. The energy collectors drive pumps that suck in seawater and push the pressurized water into a pipe on the string, and this pressurized water is transported to shore via a main pipe.
— On shore, the pressurized water can be used to deliver desalinated water in a so-called ”reverse osmosis system” and produce electricity via a turbine generator.
— The forces of waves are tremendous, and it is a common challenge for all wave energy systems to tackle these forces. What makes us special is our patented concept of Force Cancellation. Simply speaking, it means that the plates of the energy collectors move in opposite directions and therefore ”cancels out” the force of the waves. And, cancelling out the forces of the waves, the loads on the mooring and the structure are reduced to less than 1/10, hence the costs for these also decrease. The many EC’s (Energy Collectors) can then be moored using only two small mooring points.
Henriksen describes it as due to the length of the string, and the oscillating nature of waves, energy collectors along the string will be subjected to forces in opposing directions.
— This is illustrated [in the figure above] by men, all pulling a rope in different directions. Although the situation for a single man is not affected by this situation, the net result of pulling in different directions is that comparatively small forces can hold the rope.
— Although the situation for a single man is not affected by this situation, the net result of pulling in different directions is that comparatively small forces can hold the rope. Likewise, the energy collectors are subjected to shifting wave forces at any given time, hence resulting in a sharp decrease in the required anchor force. This enables a slim, light, and extremely cost-effective structure.
Advanced simulations and tests by University of Aalborg (AAU) have proven that with more than 20 ECs connected in this way, the mooring needs are reduced to 1/10 in comparison with ECs moored individually, thus cutting the costs dramatically.
— So, because of the patented force cancellation principle, we can produce a slim, lightweight but still robust system. This drives down costs for production and it drives down costs for transportation from the factory. The system is designed from the ”flatpack principle”, so it can be shipped in standard containers. It drives down the cost of installation because you do not need special equipment and ships to put it in place, and the assembly is so simple, that you can use a local workforce to assemble the system, which in turn boosts local employment, says Henriksen.
You mention that the technology doesn’t spoil the view, nor the environment. How can you secure not to affect animal life in the water?
— The impact on the environment is always an important issue. There have been several studies on the impact on the environment from wave energy devices. So far, no significant negative impact has been recorded. The system is characterized as a non-intrusive system with no toxic material. Our experience is that the system creates its own biotope attracting sea growth, fish, and mammals. In our test at Gran Canaria, there will also be an environmental study performed by PLOCAN (the test site). Birds, fishes, or mammals will not get hurt from the device. Of that, we are very sure. What is being and has been investigated is the impact of sound, impact on local conditions, and more. As said, no significant negative impact has been detected. In the North Sea, we experienced the contrary, attracting fish and mammals — including a dolphin which are rare in these waters.
While there are many interesting technologies and initiatives within wave energy, Henriksen believes that Wavepiston will have one of the lowest LCOE/W (Levelised Cost of Energy/Water) in the market.
— This is easy to claim, but hard to prove until we have done our full-scale test and installed the first commercial systems. But it is based on our tests so far, the very low weight per effect of the system due to the mentioned Force Cancellation — which no other technology has — and the modularity of the system, he says, continuing,
— There are several interesting concepts among our colleagues and competitors. Some are a bit ahead of us having tested in full-scale in an ocean environment, some are behind, still working with scaled testing in smaller waves. There are currently no commercial installations disregarding a few, small buoys for instrumentation from OPT (Ocean Power Technologies). While our main differentiator remains Force Cancellation, as we use pressurized water as our media for conversion we have a dual product both being able to produce electricity and desalinate water. This will make us competitive within a short time focusing on the first step on small-scale solutions for islands, coastal communities, and hotel resorts.
The test site at Gran Canaria currently has two energy collectors attached.
— This is the starting point for demonstrating that we can deliver on our promises also at full scale. Later this year, we’ll install the full system and connect to the grid. We have another project together with partners, where we will demonstrate the combination of electricity and desalination. This will also be conducted at Gran Canaria, but will also have the tourist island Isola Piana in Sardinia, Italy, as a case study. Finally, we are just about to embark on a project specifically designed to develop a Hybrid Testing Platform for accelerated testing with methodologies by combining the virtual and physical environment, reducing cost in the product developing process, tackling scaling challenges and lowering uncertainties once fully demonstrated in the ocean.
How much clean, desalinated water will you be able to produce from the technology?
— We have made a calculation based on our test results this far. If we set up 1 string with 24 energy collectors at our test site at Gran Canaria, we estimate it will have a rated power of 200 kW being able to deliver enough electricity to serve approximately 140 households. The same string will be able to deliver 150,000 m3 water per year, if used 100% on desalination, serving approximately 900 households. We are planning to sell the first systems as we enter the commercial phase in 2023. As a reference, a system with 70 strings with 32 energy collectors on each, will have a rated capacity of 15 MW.
Yes, you mentioned it, what’s the next step?
— We are now firmly in the demonstration phase, where we will show that our technology can deliver on the promises at full scale. We expect to be entering the commercial phase by 2023. We are currently crowdfunding to finance the demonstration phase, and have so far raised well over 2 million Euro.
The Polish design studio uses innovative technology to deform metal and to make exceptional products out of it — from mirrors to chairs and tables. Created by artist, designer, and process engineer Oskar Zięta, they celebrated their first decade last year with the launch of the ULTRALEGGERA chair.
— The process of creating it took several years, he says. First, we created a prototype, which we then optimized to increase the desirable lightness and strength. We were subtracting subsequent kilos and later dealt with the subtraction of grams in the last stages. I would compare this tedious process of minimizing the weight of a chair to less than 2 kg to a 100-meter run in which every second less to the finish line is charged with titanic work. The final design is, therefore, the result of material and technological optimization, as well as strength tests — first virtually simulated, and then carried out in the real world.
— You can say that every radius and every perforation of the chair are optimized for lightness and strength. This product manifests the idea of the primacy of construction quality over the form, and Ponti’s Superleggera chair was an inspiration to focus on the issue of lightness in design. The lightweight index parameter is widely used in the aviation and automotive industries, which is dictated both by energy consumption, but also due to the need for economic transport of structural elements. In the world of design, this is not equally important, and we want to show that it is vital in a world overloaded with objects and data.
The weight is 1.66 kilograms. More than a kilogram heavier than Massimiliano Della Monaca’s Estrema chair (0.617 kilograms and officially the world’s lightest chair, but made of carbon fibre and not sustainable), but still extremely light. The secret behind a chair so light and stable, Marketing Manager Magdalena Zięba-Grodzka shares, is a special technology called FiDU, invented and constantly developed by Oskar Zięta.
— It allows us to create thin-walled and at the same time firm bionic objects. They’re inspired by the forms taken from nature such as the delicate but extremely strong wings of dragonflies, durable chitinous shells of beetles, or light and stable pneumatic bird skeletons.
— We’ve used highly developed aluminum alloys, which are characterized by outstanding strength and processing parameters. The precisely laser-cut and tightly welded contours are deformed by internal force under controlled conditions to achieve optimal three-dimensional forms. Then they are welded together. The chair is therefore 100% made of only one material. Due to the slight undulations of the material surface, the deformation process creates a three-dimensional stable bionic structure that is surprisingly durable. And, if it was possible to create an even lighter chair, we would do it!
Recently, ULTRALEGGERA was awarded the MATERIALICA Design + Technology Award 2020 Best of Award in the Product Category, for its mono-material features that make it an eco-friendly product of the future: the world’s lightest chair with a timeless minimalist form.
Four years ago I wrote a blog post called ’The 300 Year Business Plan’ where I elaborated on the concept of long term thinking in the world of business. Now, at the very intersection between 2020 and 2021, it’s more relevant than ever to re-iterate this line-of-thought.
We leave a strange year behind us, however I see this as a great opportunity for reflection and introspection, re-evaluating not only yourself and the way you live, but also how you act in business or in your professional life. I think we can all agree that 2020 provided us with a pause, a break from over-consumption, unnecessary traveling and requestioning the whole value chain.
Most business today thrive on short term perspectives when it comes to revenue, profit and product-cycles, constantly pushing customers or consumers to buy as much as possible, faster and more often. Many of us are also trapped in a system, where quarterly planning (and profits) are fundamental to run a business. Now, of course I’m not arguing against running a business for great return-on-investments, but how sustainable is it really to do it as fast as possible and at what cost to our society and natural resources?
Years after writing the blog post I still like to play with the idea that no business is worth while unless it can survive for at least three hundred years. When I used to believe that chasing unicorns and building long term business didn’t go hand-in-hand, I now think there’s beauty in trying to do both. I mean the point of conscious capitalism is to make the best out of the system we live in; you can still aim for maximum shareholder value, and in the same time provide the highest level of sustainability. What is then the next step?
Carol Sanford is an expert on business design and have helped many companies in adopting regenerative principles. Regenerative business are not only sustainable but also have a net-positive contribution and have full transparency on the interconnectedness between the business and the world in which they operate. According to Sanford a regenerative system is autonomous in its structures and processes, keeping all individuals focused on their contribution to the whole – every single action should benefit the whole system for the better. One of the most effective ways of doing that is through designing products and services so that when they are made and used by stakeholders, good things happen in the world.
Or as Gideon Rosenblatt, expert on the relationship between technology and humans, puts it:
— One of the first steps to building regenerative business is rejecting the idea that your business is just a piece of property designed to maximize returns for your external shareholders. A regenerative business views profits as critical, but not as something to be extracted to boost dividends and share price. Profits are a vital source of fuel to sustain your mission and the full network of stakeholders who fuel it.
Rosenblatt defines business in four categories: A) The Shareholder-Centric View of Business, B) Mission-Centric Organisations, C) People-Centric Organisations and D) Regenerative Business.
There is complexity in managing a company, especially in the long term. In a Harvard Business Review article, authors Kim C. Horn and Joseph Pine II elaborate:
— Leaders today need a better approach. We need first to understand enterprises, along with the humanity and activities that make them up. And this understanding must be developed in light of (i) economic value creation — the primary function of a business enterprise — and (ii) accepting the challenge that an enterprise ought to be able to thrive forever, if it chooses to. (For if your enterprise does not plan on thriving forever, expect it to fail eventually.)
According to Horn and Pine, there are seven laws of regenerative enterprises, that supports longevity as well. These ”laws” are part of solid framework and guidance for business leaders, providing they can answer the fundamental questions
1. The Law of Potential: Who creates value for the enterprise?
Only the enterprise that unleashes potential, through meeting its workers’ innate needs, induces human engagement to its fullest.
2. The Law of Meaning: Why do people come together to create value within the enterprise?
Only the enterprise that infuses meaning, through a shared purpose, effects alignment among fully engaged workers.
3. The Law of Creativity: Where does enteprise create value?
Only the enterprise that liberates creativity, through applying intuition and exercising free will, regularly discovers opportunities for surprising wealth-producing innovations.
4. The Law of Learning: How does the enterprise create value?
Only the enterprise that invigorates learning — through exploring, exploiting, and orchestrating — generates the knowledge necessary to persistently create new value among infinite possibilities.
5. The Law of Humanity: What value does enteprise create?
Only the enterprise that enriches humanity, through the knowledge embedded in its business activities, creates offerings of unquestionable economic value.
6. The Law of Vitality: When does enterprise create value?
Only the enterprise that attains vitality, through its incessant destructive recreation, produces the wealth necessary to survive.
7. The Law of Coherence: In What Ways do these aspects collectively create value?
Only the enterprise that sustains coherence in all its aspects, through ongoing orchestration, regenerates itself to thrive indefinitely.
Hopefully you are now even more convinced that running a sustainable, even regenerative, business is the way of the future. Now comes the hard part; how would you proceed in writing your own 300 year business plan? And why 300? Well, it’s not the exact number that is the key here, it’s going beyond quarterly or short-term business planning. This is by no means going against running an iterative, flexible business, on the contrary the way to survive in the long-term is by continuous re-invention and adaptation.
So to put it short: What kind of vision do you have for your company? What role in society does it play? What contributions to the evolution of our people’s and the planet’s wellbeing can it have? How are the innovation cycles renewing themselves over time, without impacting nature’s ecosystem? How can you protect the company from market threats, competition and regulations? And so forth.
It’s not an easy task, but intellectually one of the most stimulating activities you will set out to do as a business leader and manager. Good luck!
The new prototype is the first glimpse of a vision that Volkswagen hopes will expand the charging infrastructure over the next few years. The charging robot can be started via an app or Car-to-X communication [a new technology letting the car communicate with other vehicles or infrastructure in its near surroundings, that strives to make traveling smarter] and operates totally autonomously. It independently steers the vehicle to be charged and communicates with it — from opening the charging socket flap to connecting the plug and decoupling it — without any human involvement.
— A ubiquitous charging infrastructure is and remains a key factor in the success of electric mobility. Our charging robot is just one of several approaches but is undoubtedly one of the most visionary, comments Thomas Schmall, Volkswagen Group Components’ CEO.
It can even charge several vehicles at the same time, where the mobile robot moves a trailer, essentially a mobile energy storage unit, to the vehicle, connects it up, and then uses this energy storage unit to charge the battery of the electric vehicle. The energy storage unit stays with the vehicle during the charging process. In the meantime, the robot charges other electric vehicles. Once the charging service has ended, the robot independently collects the mobile energy storage unit and takes it back to the central charging station.
— Setting up an efficient charging infrastructure for the future is a central task that challenges the entire sector. We are developing solutions to help avoid costly stand-alone measures. This robot and our flexible quick-charging station [to be launched onto the market in early 2021] are just two of these solutions, says Schmall. He adds:
— Our developments do not just focus on customers’ needs and the technical prerequisites of electric vehicles. They also consider the economical possibilities they offer potential partners.
The robot concept enables the operators of parking bays and underground car parks to quickly and simply ”electrify” every parking space. This reduces any construction work needed, at the same time reducing the potential cost.
Close to a decade ago, Mehrdad Mahdjoubi worked for NASA’s Mars project to find reusable water solutions. Today, his out-of-this-world shower can be another piece in the sustainability puzzle for our planet.