Omet ventures into smart controls

Ribes Tech, a venture set up by Omet together with the Italian Institute of Technology, has developed a photovoltaic system, called Daphne PV, that allows mechanical buttons in lifts to be used without contact, which should help limit the spread of pathogens, such as the current corona virus.

Ribes Tech has developed this Daphne PV photovoltaic film to convert mechanical buttons to contactless controls.

Ribes Tech was set up in March 2016, following a meeting between Guglielmo Lanzani, director of the Italian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Milan and Angelo Bartesaghi, late president of Omet back in 2011. That led the two organisations to establish a laboratory in Milan in 2012 to research ways to use printing machinery to manufacture items such as photovoltaic panels. In 2019 Ribes Tech established a new headquarters in Milan, complete with a lab and printing line tailored for organic photovoltaic production. Ribes Tech is currently developing flexible photovoltaic modules for use in home automation, smart cities and the internet of things.

The Daphne PV system is based on the use of photovoltaic materials printed on flexible films. It uses special inks and a traditional rotary printer to make thin photovoltaic films adaptable to any shape.

These films, integrated with a specific electronic board, can be installed over mechanical buttons, such as those of an elevator, so that they can pick up contactless inputs, such as a gesture of the hand. The films can be set up to require different types of gestures, ranging from simply holding a hand for a second near the button, to more active gestures, depending on the application.

Either way, the photovoltaic film detects a change in light caused by the movement of the hand. The solution includes a recognition system that accepts the signal and triggers the electrical activation signal. It can work both if the button is pressed or if the correct gesture is detected. 

This system is said to be relatively cheap, costing around €100 for an entire lift control panel. It’s easy to install as the photovoltaic film and the electronic board can be added on top of existing systems, without interfering with the mechanical functionality of the buttons. This in turn means that there’s no further certification needed as the original system still works. As such, it offers a relatively simple way to reduce the need for people to physically touch potentially contaminated surfaces. 

The system has already been tested in some elevators and is installed in an elevator at the Milan Stock Exchange. It will be available from early 2021. You can find further details from

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