How Consumers are Driving the Future Use of UVC LEDs
By James Peterson
Water quality is increasingly a topic of concern across the globe. The days of consumer confidence in a clean water supply are fleeting and because of this, water treatment products are facing requirements to become more like consumer electronics and health and wellness products than ever before. In the developed world, the state of drinking water has been taken for granted because of decades of reliance on municipal systems that provide homes, offices and public buildings their water supply, while in developing countries, similar water quality challenges emerging around rapid urbanization is at hand. Regardless of the issue’s origin, consumers are now becoming more responsible for their water quality and shifting responsibilities are changing the market to focus on POU and portable products.
The future of the water technology market will hinge on how organizations differentiate themselves and drive revenue, while elevating consumer confidence in water. UVC LED technology, particularly in water purification, is reaching its peak opportunity for manufacturers to integrate a modern method of purification and disinfection. In a time where aging infrastructure and improper maintenance ultimately endanger delivering safe water, POU assurance will prove to be a new and essential competitive advantage in the market.
Increasing contamination and outbreaks
In 2018, we saw a wave of water crises across the country, even in places like Disneyland, where 22 people were affected, including one death. These outbreaks are happening at a higher frequency, often a result of failing infrastructure. In fact, according to the American Water Works Association,1 the price tag for remediation to prevent its further decay is upward of $1 trillion over the next 25 years in the US alone. Although there is a concern about trusted water delivery, there has yet to be significant progress when it comes to improving municipal water infrastructure, most likely due to the high price tag associated with making those changes.
Previously (and certainly in recent media focus), chemical contaminants like lead have been the culprits, which has created consumer concern for what is happening in this aging infrastructure scenario. Increases in water contamination and boil-water advisories, however, have created a more significant concern across all systems: bacterial contamination. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report2 that studied the period between 2000 and 2014, bacterial outbreaks quietly and consistently rose to be over 59 percent of all water outbreak events in the US, the leading culprit that doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
Growing consumer demand
Because consumers’ water quality knowledge is often limited to problems they can see, it is becoming more important for consumers to get ahead of a potential, invisible hazard. Water contamination by microbes, such as Legionella pneumophila, cannot be detected without the right technology. It is not an issue that can wait until it becomes a problem. This is a growing fear in communities as outbreaks increase and immediate action (like boiling water every time you want to consume water) is impractical. Consumers have already reacted to some of these fears by driving explosive growth in the bottled water market, but the variety of products that has emerged in that sector also show a clear demand for new experiences with how consumers access their drinking water. Innovation in the water treatment space will drive consumer interest in methods like UVC LED purification, which inactivates microorganisms in water to make it safe for human consumption. As the water treatment market continues to evolve, consumers will demand practical products for protecting residential water at the point of use, while manufacturers will require product designs and experiences that are more aligned with consumer expectations.
At-home purification does not stop at the tap in one’s kitchen; it’s becoming a standard practice in home appliances such as coffee makers, refrigerator-door dispensers and even shower heads. This new level of consumer awareness around water quality is creating a demand that manufacturers can answer with recent technology advancements. As a proven method of purification through the inactivation of harmful microorganisms, UVC LED technology provides consumers with more control over their water treatment choices and empowers manufacturers to create differentiated products that meet this shift in consumer demand.
The future of UVC LEDs
UVC LED technology provides an opportunity to build consumer confidence and trust in water quality. For manufacturers, it provides a simple plug-and-play installation to incorporate purification and disinfection capabilities. No longer constrained by the significant size of filter cartridges and UV lamps, purification technology can begin to emulate existing home as well as wearable health and wellness consumer products.
Purification technology like UVC LEDs also enable consumers to receive real-time monitoring of their source water with parameters like UV transmission. Products that feature front-facing alerts can share updates about water contamination in real time at the point of dispense, empowering consumers with knowledge about their water supply and helping to build trust in their products and the water they dispense. This kind of information into a consumer’s connected life can improve product engagement and create lasting perception of value in new product offerings.
The future of water safety technology
An increase in waterborne illness, as well as several destructive natural disasters impacting water supply across the globe, show that unlimited access to clean drinking water should not be taken for granted. These crises are driving shifts in market adoption that are indicative of who is beginning to take initiative on water quality concerns. Much like fitness trackers and social-media wellness trends in an app-driven world, consumers are taking charge of their own health and looking to ensure that the water that runs from their faucets is safeguarded with the right technology.
Over the coming years, a stronger demand for advanced products and technology that ensure water safety for consumers will drive innovation in the industry. To keep up with the evolving market, product developers must address consumer concern with water safety, which will become easier as more advanced water technology becomes ubiquitous across the globe. UVC LEDs are changing the way that consumers gain access to a reliable pure water source with POU technologies. Adding advanced appliances to a kitchen, bathroom or office is an increasingly attractive and productive way for consumers to ensure clean POU drinking water at home, work or even the water fountain at a local park.
1. “2018 State of the Water Industry.” American Water Works Association. https://www.awwa.org/Professional-Development/Utility-Managers/State-of-the-Water-Industry.
2. Hlavsa, M.C., Cikesh, B.L., Roberts, V.A. et al. “Outbreaks Associated with Treated Recreational Water–United States,” 2000-2014. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018, 67:547-551. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6719a3 and https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6719a3.htm.
About the author
James Peterson is responsible for the strategic direction of Crystal IS products focused on water markets. He develops business models for UVC emitters and ensures these product lines meet specific customer needs in water markets. Prior to Crystal IS, Peterson co-founded Vital Vio, a company that designs, engineers and manufactures LED lighting systems that reduce bacteria and other organisms from at-risk environmental surfaces.
About the company
Crystal IS, an Asahi Kasei company, is a manufacturer of high-performance UVC LEDs. The company’s products are suitable for monitoring, disinfection and sterilization in a variety of applications, including commercial and consumer POU water purification, as well as infection control in air and on surfaces in healthcare industries. For more information, visit cisuvc.com.