Bright ideas: researchers, entrepreneurs, industry leaders at U of T conference exploring future of light

May 19, 2017 – Most associate insomnia with the dark. But Amol Rao (IndE MEng 1T7) says we should pay more attention to our lights.

Rao cites a growing body of research that shows nighttime exposure to blue wavelength light – the type that illuminates our smartphones, tablets and laptops – messes with the body’s internal clock, tricking it into believing it’s the middle of the day.

“Light is like coffee,” explains Rao. “If you had a cup at 10 p.m., most people would expect it to have an effect on their sleep.”

The solution for those unwilling to unplug? Rao says lighting manufacturers will eventually shift the wavelengths of smart bulbs depending on the time of day. In the meantime, he suggests donning a pair of orange-tinted, blue-blocking sunglasses before bed – like the ones sold by Somnitude, a startup firm he founded with partner Daniel Giavedoni.

Somnitude will have its products on display this week at a U of T Mississauga conference held by U of T’s Smart Sustainable Lighting Network (SSLN), the country’s largest and most active cluster of lighting-focused researchers and industry participants. The group, part of the university’s Impact Centre business accelerator, works with lighting manufacturers and other partners to promote the development and adoption of sustainable lighting technologies in Canada.

Rao, who will soon be graduating with a Master’s at MIE, says his graduate studies at the department played an important role in his entrepreneurial endeavour. “I audited the important classes of the Human Factors segment, including the Design of Work Places course, which went into detail on circadian systems and jet lag. These helped me better understand the problem of circadian alignment which has helped refine the direction of the company,” he said, adding that other courses such as Enterprise Modeling, Systems Design, as well as data analytics courses have been very useful “as we’ve been using these techniques to better understand customer data, extract insights and make effective decisions.”

Read more at U of T News. Read more about entrepreneurship at MIE in the latest issue of Momentum.

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