Posted on Wednesday 22 June 2011 by Ulster Business

Lightstep: the college years

Dunmurry-based Lightstep Technologies has signed a major deal with an innovative US university which it hopes will open the door to further business across the Atlantic.

As part of a deal worth £250,000, Lightstep will later this year install its intelligent evacuation system in the new student accommodation facilities of Upper Iowa University, the company's first installation in the US. Lightstep's safety system uses LED lights to form arrows on the floor, steps and lower walls of a building to evacuate people quickly and safely in the event of an emergency. Executive Chairman Kieran Patterson told Ulster Business he hoped that the university would become a showcase for Lightstep in the US and said he believed the system will elevate the UIU facilities to the safest available worldwide. Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private/independent university with a worldwide enrollment of nearly 7,000 students. "We're delighted to be associated with UIU, which is as progressive a university as we are a business. It is our first foothold in the US, but more importantly it is targeted at a sector of the market that the big boys can't handle. We have technology they didn't have and still don't have," he said. "One of the things we're very excited about is the fact that UIU has relationships with other universities and UIU President Dr Alan Walker has regular meetings with other presidents across the states. The university has shown tremendous ability to modernise over the last seven or eight years and it is credit to the people that run the university under Dr Walker's leadership. We have no doubt that it will be a great showcase for our system and we hope that it will open some very significant doors." UIU President Dr Walker has a long history of involvement in fire and emergency management in the US and was introduced to Lightstep's technology by Kay Goss, former No.2 at the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). Visiting Northern Ireland to finalise details of the deal, Dr Walker told Ulster Business Lightstep had the best available solution for evacuation in the new buildings being built on campus this year. "Over the years there have been a number of tragedies across the US in colleges and universities that have resulted in injuries and fatalities of students, largely residential types of fires that have originated in residence halls, sororities and fraternities. The university has a fiduciary duty to provide as safe an environment for its student and faculty and staff as possible and combined with my 30 years of association with the American fire service, that means I am particularly sensitive to this issue," he said. "What attracted me to Lightstep Technologies was that it really is the only one of its kind. I spend a considerable amount of time on airplanes and I have seen the transition from having just exit signs over the exits to the lighted aisles. This system takes that a step further and when you think about it, it just makes sense to lead people out of buildings that way." Dr Walker said his university has a reputation for being innovative and was confident that once the system was rolled out, other colleges in the US would take notice. "I belong to national organisations that hold several conferences each year where we meet with other university presidents. At every one of these there is always some kind of section on campus safety because it is a real issue in the States. I have no doubt that as we roll this project out there will be a lot of interest in it and I suspect that Kieran will be invited to make presentations at some of these conferences as universities continue to search for ways to minimise risk and provide a safe environment for students, faculty and staff," he said. Kieran Patterson said the installation at Upper Iowa University is just the first of a schedule of significant installations over the next three years that will bring major revenue into Lightstep. A number of interested parties are ready to roll out its system in locations such as the Middle East and India, he said. "We have just won a very large order for a hotel complex in India, we are in the process of signing a manufacturing agreement with a company in India and we are working on some very sizable projects in the coal mining industry in India for workers accommodation," Patterson explained. "We also have projects around the World Cup in Qatar in 2022, so the amount of business that is lining up is quite frightening. One of the things that we would have a concern about is whether we can cope with it all. That could mean expansion, or partnership or acquisition. It has got big very quickly."

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