Baltic Lite Light is another of the projects entered into the Ajujaht pitching competition, to find the best new Estonian business and help it become a greater success. It's the third project that Charm Offensive will profile, in preparation for the final decision on a winner, on Friday 29th November.
When we talk about Estonian industry, we normally talk about such things as tech startups, but there's another kind of light also shining in this corner of northern Europe. American (and long-time Estonian resident) Duane Bruce's Baltic Lite Light company is based in Tallinn, designing and manufacturing the smartest of smart lights, high-powered beacons that save lives.
Duane explains more. "Our primary mission is to develop battery-driven warning lights, and our entry at the Ajujaht offers 2 types of beacons to locate people in distress situations, the very high-power searchlight whose beacon can be directed in any direction, or a simple GPS beacon with no frills offering coordinates to receivers."
At Ajujaht, the product on display was a dual beacon for search and rescue, known as EP2YE, however a similar product designed to warn of road hazards was also being promoted.
It all started from the same place most great ideas start: an earlier idea that didn't quite work as planned, as Duane explains. "The company was founded at the request of a German friend who had recently started selling a small palm-held LED flashlight with multiple functions designed in the USA and manufactured in Taiwan. That was the original “Lite Light”, weighing only 39g."
"Within a year of initial sales it became apparent that the Lite Light was too weak for use as a warning signal light using the blinking red and white feature; it was also illegal to use a red blinking light in the EU as a warning light for motor vehicles. We decided to build our own external warning signal light and gained the support of VARTA Consumer Batteries in Ellwangen, Germany. We anticipated having a first trial run within 3 years, but made the time-consuming mistake of having the manufacturing done in China – we soon learned that China often does not have quality control management."
A change of plan was needed. "Two years ago we brought almost the entire production to Estonia, where the development of the electronics was made by Enerpoint Saare in Kuressaare and the injection moulding of the polycarbonate parts and assembly of the final product ready for transport to Tallinn for distribution to both the EU and the USA. The first sales of the EP3YE warning lights were made in March of 2013."
The dual beacon not only produces a high-intensity light that allows air crews to see stranded people on the ground, thanks to a beam 265 times stronger than the car warning light, but there is also a clever computerised element.
When the beacon is switched on, it sends out a radio distress signal. "It can be sent to an email address using an API or even to a hidden Skype address, sending tracking coordinates, allowing the receiver to make the decision as to whether a dire emergency is in progress. The electronics and the switching are, again, being developed in Kuressaare"
In situations of life and death, judgement calls by search-and-rescue teams have to be taken in split seconds. A little box designed and built in Estonia is making that task a little easier.
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