Growing global awareness of potential eye strain caused by blue light emission from digital screens has sent sales soaring at a small Minnesota firm that makes blue light protection products.
Over the last four years, Eden Prairie-based Eyesafe has seen its revenue increase by nearly 900% off the sale of about 40 million electronic devices, company officials said. Lenovo, Acer and HP, three of the largest computer brands in the world, and display maker LG are among a list of electronics companies using Eyesafe's filtration materials in their latest models.
The global pandemic has spurred an uptick in interest in Eyesafe's products as people spend more time in front of screens.
By 2025, the number of digital devices using its filtering technology will reach half a billion, company officials said. That includes its certifications, which show consumers if the product meets reduced blue light emission standards.
To meet demand from electronics manufacturers, Eyesafe is leasing lab space inside the former Imation headquarters in Oakdale, now known as 4Front Technology & Office Campus. That's a fourfold increase from its existing lab space in Eden Prairie, said Justin Barrett, the company's co-founder and chief executive.
Eyesafe started in 2013 and has raised more than $10 million from private investors to fund the development of its filtration products. The filter materials, some of which are installed during device assembly, redesign light emission and the color filter in screens to reduce blue light.
Eyesafe chemists and engineers created the dye for its filtration materials using input from health professionals. The company also maintains a research alliance on the health effects of blue light with academics at Salus University in Pennsylvania.
The 45-person company will generate between $10 million and $11 million in revenue this year, Barrett said. He attributes its 855% revenue growth between 2017 and 2020 to a growing recognition of the issues of screen time and blue light.
"That resulted in the display industry and consumer electronic brands' reaction to solve it," he said.
During the pandemic, the hours people spent looking at television, computer and mobile device screens increased significantly. Officials at Eyesafe estimate the number of hours people spend on screenshas risen from 10 hours per day in 2019 to 13 hours per day since COVID-19 emerged last year.
Over the last few years, consumer electronic manufacturers have committed to altering their models to reduce blue light emission. Too much exposure to blue light can lead to problems with visual acuity, suppressed melatonin levels and trouble sleeping, according to Eyesafe officials.
UnitedHealthcare Vision, the eye-health business of Minnetonka-based UnitedHealthcare, is further boosting Eyesafe's business by promoting use among its 45 million members of blue-light filtering electronics. Beginning in January, UnitedHealthcare will give eligible members a discounted price on Dell XPS products with built-in Eyesafe technology.
"We feel it's better to be proactive now and get ahead of this issue," John Ryan, chief executive of UnitedHealthcare Vision, said during the recent Blue Light Summit, which Eyesafe started three years ago and co-sponsors with UnitedHealthcare. "We want to incentivize our members to take the issue of blue light emissions from screens seriously."
Also during the summit, China-based BOE, one of the world's largest display makers, announced development efforts for its new low blue light LED displays, to be infused with Eyesafe material.
Adding lab space in Oakdale, and its Eden Prairie office, will allow Eyesafe to not only produce more light emission protection materials for electronic device makers, but expand its own brand of blue light filters for monitors, laptops, smartphones, tablets and screens used for augmented and virtual reality, Barrett said.
These filters, which the company started selling this year, are sold directly to government and educational institutions.
"We're expecting more and more companies, school districts and governments are becoming aware of how blue light impacts activity in the work place and children's eye health, especially given children are more susceptible to this issue," Barrett said. " We fully believe this space will be regulated over time."