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Optics are all around us

7th Dec 2020

Wherever we go in the world, we are never too far from an optic. In fact, nature itself provides us with everyday examples of the universality of optical phenomena and light; such as rainbows and iridescence, for instance. However, look a little bit close to home, and you’ll find humanmade optical components in and around your home. Whether it’s in the kitchen, bathroom, lounge or utility room, it’s surprising to learn just how many optics live alongside us every day. Here, Knight Optical – the industry-leading supplier of metrology-tested, premium-quality optical components – runs through some of the most common optics found right within your home. 

 The majority of today’s homes are well-equipped with the latest technologies. With the appeal of smart homes on the rise, we only expect to see this increase in the coming years, meaning optical components will have an even more permanent place within our homes.

So, where can we find optics within our homes? Let’s start with the heart of the house, the kitchen.

Cooking Up a Storm in the Kitchen 

Modern-day kitchens feature an abundance of high-tech equipment – from dishwashers and washing machines to premium touchscreen smart kitchen appliances. Often driven by sensors, the kitchen’s current technology features a whole host of optical sensors to enable operability for the simplest of tasks. Take, for example, a dishwasher. How does the machine know when you need more rinse aid or salt? Well, sensors within the device measure the quantity of these substances and alert the user of any replenishment required via an LED light.

As technology evolves, engineers are striving to improve the ability of our kitchen appliances in a bid to offer the best features amongst their competitors, and this is not a new tactic. Take, for example, Honeywell. Back in 1997, Photonics Spectra reported on a “sensor that helps scrub away that troublesome” lasagne by sensing “conditions during the wash cycle and adjust accordingly1”. Twenty-three years later, and inventions such as Cloud-connected cameras within dishwashers are being explored2.

As well as dishwashers, optical components can be found in a few kitchen devices, such as:

  • Smoke Alarms: Perhaps one of the most critical technologies in the kitchen, optical smoke detectors are regularly equipped with a collimated lens.
  • Coffee Machines: If you’re lucky to have a high-end coffee machine to make your mornings a little brighter, you may be surprised to know that some contain optics. Many high-tech coffee machines are employing the use of optics to identify elements such as the identification of a filter holder3; for example. Optical components utilised for these modern-day machines include Cube Beamsplitters, Gratings, Lenses and Mirrors.

Lifting the Lid on Optics in the Bathroom

Probably the most obvious place to look for optical components within the bathroom is the in-vogue motion sensor bathroom mirror, where Moulded Optics such as Planoconvex and Aspheric varieties are often used. However, look a little deeper, and designers and manufacturers are looking at the whole spectrum to create the next generation of toilets.

Take, washroom manufacturer Cistermiser, for example. Using infrared (IR) sensors, the bathroom specialist has created a motion-activated toilet flush that reduces the need for unnecessary touching surfaces in the bathroom. Another example is a 2005 paper, where the idea of a toilet disinfectant was explored using IR sensors4 – which, dependent on application, of course, require a range of IR optical components.

Providing Entertainment in the Lounge 

From TVs and game consoles to smart speakers and autonomous hoovers, there are many nooks and crannies where optical components can be hiding in the living room. One of the more apparent uses is within a TV remote, which operates on the IR wavelength to send signals to the screen and respond to the controller’s commands.

However, with autonomy on the rise and the lounge one of the most lived-in spaces of the home, there are more ‘smart’ features found here. A smart temperature sensor is a great example, where sensors report back to a thermostat device with the temperature of the room it’s placed in. Another model of smart home technology is the ability to prepare a home for the owner’s arrival with devices turning on automatically, blinds closing for the evening and lighting dimmed according to the homeowner’s mood. These elements are commonly controlled and established on smartphones (which can be actioned via a thumbprint or face recognition); however, innovators are pushing the boundaries and exploring other identification processes. In a 2020 report, for instance, the prospect of using ear recognition is explored as a means of gaining access to smart home controls, due to an ear print’s “uniqueness” and “stability”5.

To be a part of such a compelling and forward-thinking industry, such as the smart home and appliance sector, and to support such discerning requirements is a privilege. Here at Knight Optical, we look forward to continuing our support for ground-breaking home tech both now and in the future and anticipate being a part of the next generation of smart home technologies.

Why Choose Knight Optical? 

Here at Knight Optical, we supply a range of optical components for home tech applications. Discerning engineers and manufacturers rely on Knight Optical not only for the premium quality of our output and in-house state-of-the-art Metrology Laboratory and QA Department’s capabilities but also because – as well as a range of Stock Optics (available for next-day dispatch) – we also offer a range of sought-after Custom-Made Optical Components. If you are looking for premium-quality, bespoke optical components, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the Technical Sales Team today.