8 Dec 2004
Helping Solve A Deadly Problem(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 06,2004)
Champion In-car Telematics
A hi-tech Hong Kong company has made a revolutionary breakthrough that promises to slash the number of drink-related driving accidents around the world.
Champion Technology Holdings Ltd, working with technology partner TIGER (Telematics In-car Global Engineering Research) Int'l Japan Ltd, has perfected a "breathalyser" car key that prevents a driver from starting the vehicle if he or she is over the legal alcohol limit.
i-KEY is a remarkably simple-to-use technology solution that fits over the car key and gives an instant breath test, without modification of the vehicle or installation by qualified technicians.
The driver needs only to blow the side of the i-KEY to get the "green light" to start the car engine - if the alcohol level exceeds the legal limit, a red light will show and the car key will be disabled.
"This is a major technological breakthrough, making i-KEY the world's first drink-driving prevention device that is independent of the body of the vehicle, enabling all existing cars to be equipped with the device," claims Champion vice-president of corporate development Shirley Ha. "Worldwide invention patents for this innovative key have been lodged and are pending."
She adds that i-KEY has custom-designed electronics integrating a breath analyser with any car key to ensure it can function regardless of the age and model of the vehicle. "The i-KEY has a protruding interlock that blocks entry to the ignition and retracts once a breath sample under the legal limit has been analysed," Ha says.
She claims i-KEY is the world's first working car key device for drink-driving prevention, and has been tested extensively on a wide range of vehicles. "It combines sensors, electronics, computing, telematics and micro-motor technologies that are capable of being integrated into a car key to test the driver's blood alcohol level, and accordingly the driver's fitness to drive." Ha explains.
"We hope that the new device will be made mandatory for drink-driving prevention, and we hope it will become a standard feature in all existing and new vehicles," Ha adds.
Champion In-car Telematics, the Champion Group's technology solutions provider for automotive applications, has formed a global alliance to market and manufacture the innovative key.
"This will initially cover the Chinese mainland, Japan, Korea, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, New Zealand and Australia," Ha says. "Japan will be the first market to officially launch the i-KEY before the end of this year."
The key will be marketed initially under the i-KEY (intelligence and insurance) and d-KEY (drink-driving prevention) labels in order to ensure widespread global distribution.
Ha says the
two companies' R&D departments spent five years fine-tuning
and perfecting the i-KEY, which was developed to meet several
She claims that the device not only has the potential to completely transform road safety, it is convenient, foolproof and only half the size of a mobile phone.
"It's desperately needed on today's roads, since global statistics show that 40% of fatal road accidents are drink-related among which 80% exceed legal drink limits," Ha claims.
Other Champion products include, for example, communications improvements in hospitals, airport security, fire-prevention services and potentially explosive environments such as chemical plants and coalmines.
Champion Technology, which has 2,500 employees, focuses on the mainland, which accounts for 70% of sales, followed by Europe (25%) and North and South America.
"Our business strategy is to continue investing in technology and product development and so remain a global pacesetter providing more value-added services to customers," Ha says.
WRITTEN BY GEOFFREY SOMERS
Japan Eco-Tech Ltd
Edward Hung and his colleagues have a way of seeing proven technology in a new light - literally. Hung is executive director of Japan Eco-Tech Ltd, a company he formed about two years ago with a small group of people he met while studying marketing at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Hung, who also studied in Japan, believed that new uses could be found for Japanese technology based on Chinese thinking. "The Japanese ask how can something be made better - value added," he says. "We ask how it can be made cheaper or less wasteful."
Japan Eco-Tech was established to import Japanese products and materials and find new applications for them, and specialises in working with a patent material currently manufactured exclusively in Japan called Luminosity Enhancement Jacket or LEJ.
"It has various different features, including optical characteristics," Hung explains, adding that it can reflect about 99% of light waves, which is even better than conventional metallic reflectors. "It also has a very high diffusion rate, which conventional reflectors, and even mirrors, do not."
It was immediately obvious to the Japan Eco-Tech team that LEJ could be used as a means of reducing the energy consumption - and hence the cost - of lighting units, or luminaires.
"The Japanese invented LEJ for use in LCD TVs and we have applied its optical characteristics to luminaires," Hung stresses. "We can significantly reduce the wastage and enhance the usage of the light."
Japan Eco-Tech is now working closely with a range of organisations in Hong Kong, on the Chinese mainland and further afield to reduce power consumption while maintaining levels of brightness in illumination systems - sometimes even making improvements at the same time.
This has occasionally involved the installation of new light boxes fitted with LEJ reflectors, but more often the material is retrofitted to existing units, usually resulting in two luminescent tubes in a fitting that previously accommodated three.
Japan Eco-Tech has developed special clips, which allow the new reflectors to be easily attached to the tubes as a barrier between the light source and the previous reflector, and designed cosmetic panels to cover the missing tubes.
The latter, says Hung, have been particularly well received in retail environments where empty light fittings might draw adverse comment. "Other locations in which the reflectors have been installed include offices, factories, subways, car parks and residential units," he adds.
Hung notes that cost savings can be up to one-third of the total lighting bill and rapid. "The payback period is very short," Hung asserts. "It can be as little as 5-6 months and the product can be used for more than 10 years."
LEJ's reflective power also degrades slowly over time. "Starting from 99% when new, after a period of between 10 and 11 1/2 years it reduces to 85%, which is the level of reflectivity of a new aluminium reflector," he adds.
It is also safe: according to Hung, LEJ's ignition temperature is 390? Celsius, almost 200 degrees more than the ignition point for the associated wires and cables. "If it does catch fire, no toxic gases are produced," he claims.
The company has worked with various manufacturers to develop more effective reflectors for torches and free-standing lamps, and is developing more economical backlit photo frames and illuminated advertising panels which can draw evenly diffused light from a smaller number of tubes thanks to LEJ's diffusion properties. "A box which previously required five tubes can now be lit as brightly, and with more evenly distributed light, with two," Hung claims.
Japan Eco-Tech is also currently working on LED-related projects using LEJ reflectors with Philips in Holland and is also reviewing options involving up lights, but Hung and his team are already looking beyond the material's optical characteristics for further innovations such as indoor agricultural environments.
"Our next step will be to expand to the US, Canada, Europe and other places," says Hung confidently. "Anywhere we can help manufacturers to improve their products and users to save energy."
WRITTEN BY ROBIN LYNAM
Japan Eco-Tech Ltd
Rm 606, Opulent Bldg,