FORBES 6/2020 – interview
Understand the light
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The Kačík brothers founded the company focused on lighting technology, design, lighting-technical, energy and safety audits at the age of 18. Part of their graduation work at the electrical engineering industry was a study of the state of public lighting, from which it is drawn in Slovakia to this day.
It rarely happens that a child in primary school already knows what he or she would like to do in the future. In the case of the brothers Eduard and Richard Kačík, this was the case. Already at the age of 12, they were interested in lights, light bulbs, discharge lamps and watched whether and how the lights were lit at their housing estate in Petržalka (part of Bratislava). As a 15-year-old, they already worked as a part-time worker for Siemens, and at a very young age they managed dozens of workers in the maintenance and reconstruction of public lighting in Bratislava.
After the electrical engineering industry, therefore, their path was clear – the twin brothers aimed it at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Informatics of the Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava. In college exams, they even occasionally jumped at each other. “We didn’t catch up, at that time we started the company and so we actually studied alongside work,” says Eduard Kačík with a smile.
Today, within the family company Lightech, they are engaged in design, forensics and audits in the field of lighting technology, energy and road safety. Eduard is also the vice-president of the Slovak Lighting Society and, for example, is also involved in educating people in the field of lighting technology and lighting. They do not complain about the lack of work, nor did the coronacrisis slow them down too much. On the contrary, it allowed them to partially go around the missed ones.
“Korona helped us catch up with the slip at work, we moved from a three-month failure to a monthly one,” laughs Eduard Kačík as he and his brother greet us in the office. Only recently, the company has moved to its own premises in Zlaté piesky and the brothers have managed to manage the company and the work itself in the company has recently become more concerned about the building and its tenants.
Right at the beginning of the meeting, it leads us a mistake that their company would deal primarily with the installation of lighting. “We provide lighting, but first and foremost we are designers, forensic experts, energy auditors. In addition to sitting at a table, we spend a lot of time outside, we also do night measurements, for example. It is true that projects can be done from anywhere in the world, but in order to be really useful and meet the needs of the cities, it is necessary to verify everything directly in the field, “explains Eduard Kačík.
In 2019, their company achieved a turnover of 2.4 million euros and reported a net profit of 80,000 euros. They currently employ 28 people and co-operate with others externally, often self-employed people who help them with implementations in different regions.
As Eduard explains, about 40 percent of their work is in the public sector, the rest are private clients. Their references include, for example, the lighting of Štrbské pleso, a ski slope in Poland, which they realized for the company TMR (TATRY MOUNTAIN RESORTS), but also designs and realizations of public lighting of many Slovak towns and villages, sacral buildings, sports grounds or private houses and gardens.
So what is the essence of their work? “We propose measures in terms of lighting, energy and security. What we put on paper will come to reality in the better case right away, which is mostly true for private investors, and in the worst case, maybe in five years. But what we are proposing will serve for 20-30 years, sometimes even longer, “says Eduard Kačík. The longer application time of the solutions they propose usually applies to the public sector, which still has a long way to go in the field of public lighting and related solutions.
And since everyone is currently thinking about what the crisis will cause in their fields, the Kačík also offer their point of view. According to them, the situation caused by the fight against the spread of a new coronavirus pandemic represents a great chance for the use of new technologies not only in the field of lighting technology, but also for disinfecting areas, objects and surfaces with the help of UVC radiation, data transmission using light and the acceleration of the introduction of new standards in the field of lighting or power engineering. “It may make someone angry, but mostly all improvements in the technological field start crises, so we have been waiting for changes in society for a long time,” adds Richard Kačík.
AT WORK FROM FIFTEEN
Since at a young age they started working in the field of reconstruction of public lighting in Bratislava, at the age of 18 the Kačík brothers were ready to establish their own company. The experience of participating in the Junior Achievement NGO project also helped them with this. As part of one of her programs, the brothers were part of a student team that simulated running a private joint stock company.
“Pupils studied how the company works, learned the necessary theory and had to put it into practice. We did real business, produced products. For example, we made and sold t-shirts. It was very useful, because as young people we were able to try out how business is done, what is behind it, how to manage people, how the production process works, sales, “recalls Richard Kačík.
With the theory of business, experience from this program, as well as real cooperation in the field of public lighting in Bratislava, the 18-year-old Kačík did not hesitate and founded their own company. Since lighting in the streets, parks and buildings has been their passion since primary school, they were able to collect more data about it in the capital than the city itself. “We’ve been doing it for about 12 years, it’s been our long-term hobby, which we’ve been doing really hard. We made an inventory of materials, city property in the field of public lighting, “explains Eduard. On their own initiative, they often reported to the city where the light needed to be replaced, and the groups of people who replaced the lights or painted the poles were actually managed by the Kačík. “We wanted Bratislava to light up.”
As true enthusiasts, they also engaged in collecting and built one of the largest collections of light sources and old lamps. They also contributed to the publication of a book that talks about the history of lighting in Bratislava. From cooperation with Siemens and other suppliers, they gradually moved into design activities, as in the 1990s and later it was necessary to set up public lighting projects in accordance with the standards and specific needs of local governments.
“Since then, we have been designing lighting reconstructions, smart technologies in the streets, from cameras to traffic monitoring, traffic intensity monitoring and lighting control. Already 20 years ago, we designed lighting, which in some cases is only beginning to get into practice today, “says Eduard Kačík.
● “When we talk about public lighting. we are talking about carriers of all possible technologies. With their help we can measure, manage, monitor the air, bring savings in energy consumption “
And the numbers, which were also processed by the Kačík, also show that there is something to catch up with. Even during high school, in their final school-leaving thesis, they dealt with the topic of the reconstruction of public lighting in the Slovak Republic. It was a 200-page material from which it is still drawn today and on the basis of which, for example, the financing of public lighting reconstruction in the first and second programming period was provided from the European Structural Funds or the Norwegian Financial Mechanism to minimize the country’s investment debt in this area. areas.
They also dealt with this topic intensively during university. “We went through almost all towns and villages, conducted audits, generalized the data and determined or estimated Slovakia’s investment debt in the field of public lighting of the country and identified goals where it should get in 5-10 years,” says Eduard Kačík. According to the available knowledge, the investment debt in this area in 1990 was at the level of around 1.2 billion euros. “It means infrastructure, cables, distribution, the entire energy network. Unfortunately, the privatization of energy companies has not brought significant investments in the meantime, and today it is already estimated at around 3-4 billion euros at the level of investment debt, “he adds.
A good lighting project is much more than just installing the luminaire itself. “Light is far from just a lamp, this is a multidisciplinary matter. We must be architects, doctors, psychologists, artists, physicists, builders, photographers. Whether it is a stadium, a street or a square, households or offices, it all has its users, and we must prepare the design to meet the needs of the people in the space. We must also be energy professionals so that the proposed solutions do not consume more energy than necessary. Today, software engineering has been added to this, we must also control data security, understand the principles in the field of programming, “explains Eduard Kačík.
According to him, there are also companies on the market that make such designs for free and their primary goal is to sell lamps.
“These companies have something in stock and they want to get rid of it. This is not a very pure game. And unfortunately, the customer, whether it is a public administration, a private person or a developer, sometimes does not even know what he wants or exactly what he needs. This is also the reason why, in addition to our regular work, we also try to educate people in these areas so that they understand the light more and can define their needs, “he adds.
THE FUTURE OF LIGHTING
For years, there have been studies and proposals that allow cities to improve their self-governments with many benefits for their citizens. Thanks to reconstructions, for example, they can build lighting with power charging stations, cameras to monitor traffic or people’s movement. And thanks to existing technologies, much more can be achieved with lighting.
Kačík are convinced that family businesses are the basic pillar of the economy. “When you do something as a family business, it has a different value than when you work in a corporation. Although family members sometimes quarrel and sometimes shout at each other, their main goal in all circumstances is to survive, to overcome even the most difficult crisis, “thinks Eduard Kačík (left).
“We have had the LED metal age here for 7-8 years, now is the IT age. Thanks to the available technologies, we can combine many things. When we talk about public lighting, we are not just talking about lighting, but about carriers of all possible technologies, power points for any possible technologies. With their help, we can measure, control, monitor the air and at the same time bring savings in energy consumption, “says Eduard Kačík.
However, in addition to towns and municipalities, the Kačík also cooperate with private investors, solving assignments for industrial enterprises, halls and administrative buildings, both in the field of design and implementation. “We enjoy creating office lighting so that office lighting is made so natural for all users of these spaces – this is the so-called human-centric lighting approach,” says Richard Kačík.
LIGHT AGAINST VIRUSES
As he adds, we are currently experiencing another innovative turning point, which is the introduction of UVC technologies into standard lighting. And Lightech is also trying to incorporate this innovation into its projects.
What is it about? UVC is ultraviolet radiation which has disinfectant effects. Its use can be accelerated by the current global experience with the spread of the new coronavirus. UVC Radiation can be used to disinfect surfaces, areas or air. Kačík are already creating development projects in the field of education, the use of lighting fixtures using UVC radiation to schools and kindergartens that we perceive as sensitive to disinfection and quality lighting, and also want to focus on large developers who provide retail space or offices at a higher level.
Every change brings new demands for new solutions. In this case, it is a demand for disinfection, the quality of the indoor environment. These solutions will soon be technologically ready, “says Eduard Kačík.
As Richard adds, the crisis is also an opportunity to improve the quality of lighting using so-called biodynamic lamps, ie lighting that supports the biodynamics of human hormonal behavior during the day – helps increase vigilance during the day, gives a person a good feeling in space, brings greater work efficiency.
Another major topic in the use of light is, for example, data transmission through lighting, this solution is known as Li-Fi. According to Eduard Kačík, this is a higher level of lighting application in the data infrastructure. “If we calculate Wi-Fi in this building, for example, we have 27. And I’m not talking about IoT technology, where each device creates its own network.
We will soon be inundated with electromagnetic smog, and in the future it will be necessary to create some kind of clean zones without wi-fi. Data can also be transmitted by light, this technology has been known since the beginning of the use of LED luminaires, and such data transmission is also many times faster and safer, ”he explains.
Such solutions can also be transferred from the office to the street, so that street lights de facto create a data network for autonomous vehicles. What will be in 10 or 20 years in the field of light and related technologies has been known for a long time. “We may not even have to shine with light anymore, because we will have glasses that will multiply some wavelengths for us and we will be able to create high energy savings. These will be topics that we will solve in the next 5 – 10 years and in those 10 years there will be specific solutions in the infrastructure, “thinks Eduard Kačík. ● FORBES 6/2020