Students collaborate with Philips on Wake-up Light improvements

Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS) is a course in which students perform a sustainability analysis of a product from a whole-systems perspective. Sijme Geurts, Kareisa Hidy, Petronella Tyson, Rutger Verkouw, and Ella Wiles teamed up to evaluate Philips’ Wake-up Light. “We chose the Wake-up Light because in Sweden waking up in darkness is such a relevant matter”, Sijme explains. “In the winter, the sun rises only around noon. Many advised us to get a Wake-up Light to reduce physical and psychological effects of the darkness. 

The Wake-up Light is an alarm clock that gradually increases light intensity to slowly wake users up. In this way, a user’s ‘circadian rhythm’ or biological clock is stimulated to create a natural and comfortable start to the day.

wake up light

The method used for the sustainability analysis was the Templates for Sustainable Product Development (TSPD), with which both current and future aspects such as production costs, materials, disposal options, and social resources are investigated. Philips proved to be a helpful partner, as they provided access to relevant designers, a complete life cycle analysis, and a free testing model in order to acquire all information.

"We did some pretty intensive testing. Not only did we check the materials and packaging, but we took apart the entire thing to see how the weight is distributed, which elements can be produced with less weight or chemicals, and we measured the device’s power use," said Sijme. Also, current and future user needs were analysed, as well as possible improvements in the production chain and disposal route. "It turned out that the Wake-up Light was not scoring bad at all. For comparison, we bought a B-brand device, and on most aspects the Philips model scored better." All this work led to a series of suggestions which ranged from advice about materials, production, user interaction, to future collaboration opportunities.

wake up light

The project received praise from Philips’ head office. According to Nestor Coronado Palma, Director of Sustainability for Consumer Lifestyle, the team showed a new light on the range of options to make the device even more sustainable. "Additionally, what I like is that the team has also written a document on how we can internally apply the TSPD. We use already parts of this method in our EcoDesign process," said Mr. Coronado.

For the students, this course has been quite a learning process. “We were not that comfortable with Life-Cycle Analyses or user needs investigation. It was only when we had a model to compare the Wake-up Light, that we realised how these numbers matter in real life.” Most importantly, the team had advised to switch to LED lighting, because of the lower energy use and lower weight of the electrical components, such as the power transformers. Additionally, the team had described a ‘future vision’ of what the Wake-up Light might look like in five to ten years.

Meanwhile, Philips has introduced their newest model, HF3550. What is interesting is that not only the advice for moving towards sustainability is taken into account (for example, it is equipped with a LED lamp). It seems that the first steps towards the team’s future vision are being made, as an integration with an iPhone is now realized. Of course, one can wonder how many of these decisions have been influenced by the students’ work, but the fact is that Philips is on a sustainable trail now.

Sijme Geurts, Kareisa Hidy, Petronella Tyson, Rutger Verkouw, and Ella Wiles completed the project with an A. In the meantime, they've left the northern region, and sadly returned to their noisy alarm clocks.


Contacts for the Engineering for a Sustainable Society (ESS) course are course responsibles Tony Thompson and Pierre Johnson or Course Examiner Prof. Göran Broman.

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