Ice detector attracts US interest

MARTA STEEMAN
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2014
Solar Bright
JOSEPH JOHNSON/ Fairfax NZ
BRIGHT: Nicola and Pat Martin of Solar Bright with an example of their road lights that operate to alert drivers of the presence of Ice on the road.

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Christchurch lighting company Solar Bright has attracted the interest of United States companies after its innovative ice-detecting small road light was accepted for patenting there.

Co-founder Nicola Martin said the company had been contacted by several companies in the United States asking if Solar Bright wanted investment.

Martin said one was very large and attractive and it produced gases and freezing agents.

The patent is for its "Pateye" small solar-powered road light which flashes blue when it detects ice on the road. The light sits on the central road marking line and is being trialled by the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Martin said having the US patent confirmed enhanced the small company's credibility.

US companies kept a close watch on new patents in their country, she said.

"We have a couple of interested parties from the States asking us if we want investment . . .one of the companies is very attractive."

That was only a day after the patent was filed. Solar Bright is yet to take it further.

The Pateye is manufactured in China. Some other Solar Bright products are locally made, like its solar bollards.

However, the patent would not generate instant money.

Solar Bright was bringing in income from other lighting products and selling the Pateye to private organisations but the big money would be in selling it to public roading authorities and that would take time.

Martin said the company would need partners for larger scale manufacturing of the Pateye.

"We just can't manage that from here. We will definitely look to partnering, whether it's a joint venture or some sort of partnering with a large organisation with contacts and distribution channels spread around the world. What we are always hoping to do is keep the IP and leverage off that."

The company has about $1 million a year in sales and five staff.

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