Hutt at Heart
Dr Mark Glenny and Evie Haverkort
Dr Mark Glenny and Evie Haverkort

There’s a paint revolution going on in our town

Did you know that you can turn your lounge walls into a light switch just by touching them?  Resene’s Research and Development team has created touch screen technology in a can. If you don’t like light switches or if installing a light switch is inconvenient or presents accessibility challenges, Resene has a solution for you and it comes in the form of high tech paint.

Smart technology

With just a couple of light taps on a wall you can turn your lights on or off, or do some straight-forward programming through an app and change which walls turn on your lights. Imagine a simple tap sequence at the front door that turns off every light in your house at once, a reprogrammable chalkboard or world map on a child’s bedroom wall that can double as a geography and technology education tool. There are hundreds of possibilities for this new technology which are only limited by your imagination. To sum it up the tech in Resene’s SmartTouch paint is, well, smart.

Based on some physics (capacitive sensing), chemistry and sheer kiwi innovation SmartTouch was created at wholly owned New Zealand company Resene in Naenae Lower Hutt. SmartTouch combines a conductive coating with a controller that creates a very small electric field around a painted surface, and then measures when that field has been disrupted such as when a person touches it – just the same as a smartphone touchscreen. Although it can measure very small electrical changes, it only activates when those changes match a chosen pre-set pattern, and it continually adapts to the environment around it too. So if you’re playing indoor soccer don’t worry your lights won’t be flashing on and off!

Person holding paint can with smart touch logo on it. (A power on button)

Continual innovation drives success

The product developer of SmartTouch is Dr Mark Glenny. With a PhD in chemistry Mark is Resene’s Innovation Research Manager where he is justifiably proud to be part of the 15 strong R&D team.

“It is fantastic to see an idea become a commercial reality and we encourage our staff to not be constrained by current uses of paint. Our R&D team has a big focus on science and is continually looking for innovations in our products. We are also very much focused on the future and how paint can be used to innovate and support innovation such as the application of our paint on the daggerboards and foils of America’s Cup yachts.”

Resene’s place in the Hutt Valley

“We are also very proud to be based in Naenae and have been here for 27 years,” says Mark Glenny. Committed to employing local talent, Resene is one of the biggest employers in the Hutt Valley and has one of the largest scientific research teams in the country.

“Resene values enquiry and inquisitive minds and more often than not we can find this in our own community. That is the big advantage of being based in Lower Hutt amongst so many innovation-led and high-tech manufacturing companies. We are looking forward to showcasing SmartTouch at Te Wā Heke and especially enabling young people to see what the possibilities are as they are the future innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Evie Haverkort, who has a background in bio-medical sciences and is the Business Development and Technical Support lead for Resene, will join Mark at Te Wā Heke on 24 and 25 May to showcase SmartTouch. “Visitors will be asked to solve a series of puzzles using touch points to turn on lights. When people get to experience science first-hand you see their joy as they discover that the concepts behind these cool products are also really interesting, says Evie.

High tech with a heart

The Resene team never stops innovating and thinking about the next big things in the evolution of paint. So what are they working on now? “We are 75% through manufacturing lighting boards which teachers can reprogram for kids,” explains Evie. “This is a collaboration with a specialist education provider, Conductive Education, based just around the corner in Naenae. “Up to 16 different actions for each of four touch areas on the boards produce different lighting effects, and the boards can talk to each other across a classroom too.

“The purpose is to encourage physical movement including providing a learning opportunity on cause and effect, and counting. The teacher and students can programme in different light sequencing via an app on a phone. Our electricians, builders, and painters have gone above and beyond and made a really great looking solution that combines technology and hands-on ingenuity – which is what Resene is all about,” says Evie.

So watch this space and visit the Resene exhibition at Te Wā Heke to experience more science, technology and, without a doubt, some pretty cool innovation from right here in Lower Hutt.

Rainbow board using SmartTech by Resene
Rainbow board using SmartTech by Resene

Resene employs 850 people nationwide with 150 working at its head office in Naenae which manufactures paint. Around 30 people are also employed at another manufacturing site in Upper Hutt.

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