May 14 - Disoriented airport travellers might soon be able to look to the floor to help them navigate their way to their departure gate. Two Dutch companies have collaborated to produce what they call a 'magic carpet', fitted with LED lights designed to guide pedestrians on their way. Jim Drury reports.
These days, you can read the latest news almost anywhere...even on the floor. Germany's Berliner Morgenpost newspaper is using the office carpet to keep its employees up to date. It's the brainchild of two Dutch firms - electronics giants Philips and carpet makers Desso. And while it may appear to be a gimmick, Philips' sales director Ed Huibers says the magic carpet has practical applications. SOUNDBITE (English), PHILIPS LUMINOUS CARPETS SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, ED HUIBERS, SAYING: "We're developing this to improve people's lives or the environment people live in, or working. With this solution we can enhance the safety in the building, we can inform people, help them navigate inside the building, or inspire people." Instead of having to switch on a light, Huibers says hotel guests could use the carpet for guidance through a darkened room at night, or to the fire exits in an emergency. It could also help disoriented travellers find their departure gates at airports. The key is a translucent plastic backing over a thin LED unit, designed to withstand the wear and tear of daily use. SOUNDBITE (English), PHILIPS LUMINOUS CARPETS SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR, ED HUIBERS, SAYING: "We use the cradle-to-cradle carpet from Desso, with the special backing, so we added and replaced materials to make sure the light transmission is as much as possible and underneath we built a LED unit, which is very thin, it's 12 millimetres thick and of course it's very strong, because you have to be able to walk on it or even drive a small car around it, above it, so it's a very strong LED unit." Those in need of directions or new information, simply type or copy text into an HTML site and hit 'send' on their keyboard to change information in real time. The Berliner Morgenpost carpet is only the second to be installed. The other is in the lobby at Philips's Amsterdam headquarters. Philips and Desso plan to launch it commercially this summer, and hope to light the way to a new era of friendly flooring.