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‘Companies need to step up’: The ever-increasing demand for disinfection during the pandemic

Lighting company Signify acquired Germicidal Lamps & Applications (GLA), including its upper-room UV-C air disinfection portfolio, in June 2020.

Signify | GLA

New ways to clean or disinfect buildings, surfaces and clothes are seeing increased demand, according to tech company leaders.

Eric Rondolat, chief executive of lighting company Signify, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” Monday that many professional environments are looking to its products, those that emit UV light that can degrade coronavirus particles.

“In terms of retail, we see a lot of need for disinfection and for schools, also a lot of need for disinfection and that would be the same in places like … plants, manufacturing plants, warehouses, where this technology can apply,” Rondolat stated.

Signify is developing products such as disinfection “tunnels” that use UV-C light to deactivate the coronavirus, which could be used for grocery carts or airport luggage trollies for example. “Or … in clothes retail so that they are able to put the clothes that have been tried by someone into a UV-C chamber in order to be disinfected for the next customer,” Rondolat said.

In June, Signify said it had tested its latest technology with Boston University researchers and found that the exposure of the virus to UV light helps to “degrade” it.

But, Rondolat added, Signify is looking at applications where there is no human exposure to UV light, which can be potentially harmful. “When we talk about UV and UV-C, it uses wavelengths where the exposure of human body and human eyes has to be limited. But we’ve been using that technology now for 35 years, so we know which type of applications are going to be enabled by using that technology,” he stated.

Rondolat said that both demand from corporates as well as government policy could generate a need for its disinfection technology, which it is making available to other lighting companies. “We need companies like ours to really step up … At the beginning of 2021 we will have eight times the capacity that we had at the beginning of 2020,” he stated. “Now we have more and more countries enabling through standards and norms that technology to be implemented in the right application, so we need … both sides,” Rondolat added.

It’s not just commercial environments that are generating a rising demand for products that sanitize. Samsung‘s senior vice president of its digital appliance business, Mark Choe, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” that the company is seeing an increased demand for products that have hygiene functions, such as dishwashers and air purifiers. Its AirDresser, an in-home closet that steam cleans clothes and retails at £1,999 ($2,619) on its U.K. website, is proving popular, Choe said. “This is a product that uses powerful air and steam  to remove odor, dust and germs and this is a product that’s gaining really great interest globally,” he stated.

Having people spend more time at home during lockdowns has increased their expectations of domestic appliances, Choe added. “This pandemic era has redefined the role of home for consumers … They’re doing everything from cooking, eating, working and exercising (at home) and this has really increased the pace of usage of all the products they use every day, including home appliances and what that has done has increased the expectation of home appliances. What the consumers want is a customized experience that fits their lifestyle as they change their needs,” Choe stated.

  • CNBC’s Sam Shead contributed to this report.

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