Innovative or Not: Flameless Candles

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Every so often we take a look at a new or iconic product to evaluate the innovation (or lack thereof) behind it. One of us will argue for good, one for bad, and the third will make a final judgement.

Have a suggestion for what we should do next or disagree with our assessments? Have your say in the comments.

This week Reality Television comes under our microscope:

 

Flameless Candles: Innovative

Imagine soft music playing while only the flickering of candles illuminates the room. Sounds peaceful, right? In this atmosphere, it is very easy to slip into a relaxed and stress free mindset. However, as peaceful as they are, candles do pose a hidden danger. Statistically, it has been found that fires due to candles account for over 10,000 deaths each year. In almost each case, the root cause of this troubling statistic ranges anywhere from leaving lit candles unattended to placing them on unstable surfaces or near flammable materials. Perhaps this oversight is due to us assigning so much tranquillity to a candle – it is hard to imagine the destruction and loss they can bring when not used properly. So how can something containing an open flame become safer while still maintaining its ability to create the ambiance we have come to admire? Although it is hard to pinpoint exactly when they first appeared and by whom they were invented, we soon saw stores selling what we now know as battery powered candles. Not only are they completely safe, but they also have evolved to having bulbs that reproduce the flickering light, or even change colors. Sure, the lightbulb and batteries have been around for a while, but taking the step toward changing something that remained unchanged for decades (and centuries?) and modifying it to incorporate these “new” technologies requires innovative thinking. It is for that reason that I say flameless candles are innovative.

Flameless Candles: Not Innovative

Candles have been used by human beings since at least 200 BC to provide illumination prior to the development of electric lighting. Since then, candles have moved into a more niche role, mainly being used for ambiance, scent, or as a source of light during power outages. Flameless candles remove some of the hazards and inconveniences of lighting a wick candle, but at the end of the day are simply another form of electric lighting.

Most flameless candles use an LED to generate light. This technology has been around for some time, and is not disruptive or innovative at this point. LEDs have been used in many other applications that serve the same general purpose as flameless candles —nightlights and flashlights for example, that create low powered light with no heat or fire risk. Scent in these products is often delivered the same way as wick candles, being blended into the wax or material comprising the candle. So to mimic the fragrance of a wick candle, these products essentially have to do the same thing. That’s not particularly innovative in my book.

Electric lights taking the form of candles have existed as long as electric lighting itself, and provided many of the same benefits as the newer flameless candles. Though they have become more sophisticated and popular among consumers, they are not the gamechanger that electric lighting was to candle and oil lamps.

Verdict

Sure, flameless candles have reduced the danger to the user, much in the same way that light bulbs did for everyday lighting needs 100 years ago. That candles persisted this long says more about the ambiance that they can offer a user – be it scent or color or mood – than their function. Modifying existing lighting technology to have a new ‘safer’ design (even that of a flameless candle) can’t be claimed as innovative when it’s already happened with numerous other lighting formats: light bulbs replace lamps; flashlights replace torches or lanterns; Christmas lights replace candles. There are innovative aspects to flameless candles, be it the incorporation of fragrances or the replication of the appearance of a dancing flame, but in its basic form the flameless candle is NOT INNOVATIVE!

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