The brand has been in the light business for more than half a century, but can it illuminate us on the future of the market?

CatEye on light innovation, the UK and doing what it says on the tin

How many people work at CatEye globally?
We have just under 500 employees. Our head office is located in Osaka, Japan where most of our sales, marketing, engineering and R&D are located. Nineteen in-house engineers focusing on computers and lights allow us more control over design, development and production to the end product. We also have our own manufacturing facilities in Japan and China.

How has the light market changed over the past decade?
The biggest change happened in 2001 when CatEye introduced the first LED bicycle light to the worldwide market. Today most light manufacturers have followed and it’s become the industry standard. LED technology has improved over the last decade in both brightness and efficiencies. It is important we are able to maximise the power of the advanced LEDs. You could have the most powerful LED but much of its brightness can be lost without the correct lens or reflector or other technologies such as ROL technology. ROL repositions the LED to the front of the light facing back at the reflector allowing maximum control of the light being emitted.

Advances in batteries are another area the industry has taken advantage of, allowing compact high-powered lights. Our Nano lights have filled this segment successfully, especially combined with our regulated run times. We know it’s important for consumers to know they can rely in the Lumen amount we specify for the whole run time of the light, not just a small percentage of the total time.

What is behind CatEye’s success?
I believe it’s down to innovation, expertise and reputation for reliability in the industry. We have history – over the years we have been the first to market with many products and technologies. For example we were one of the leading pioneers in heart rate, cadence and altitude computers globally. We went on to lead the market in reliable wireless technologies for computers. We developed the 2.4 GHz sensor including speed and cadence (patent pending). Other patented features such as Click Tec have also been introduced into our computer range.

Our light technologies began way back in 1957 with Japan’s first bicycle reflector. Today we are one of the biggest automated reflector manufacturers worldwide, meeting global certifications. These technologies expanded into our lens technology now used in our LED lights. In fact we were the first to introduce LED bike lights into the worldwide market. Our reflective technologies have allowed us to maintain leadership through the development of Opticube lens, which maximises the brightness and beam pattern of any LED. Today, we offer a whole range of LED lights that meet the needs of both the commuter and off-road user.

The most recent introduction is the Nano Shot Plus light (SRP £99.99) offering 600 Lumen and up to four hours of run time. One of the biggest differences of this light versus many of the competitors is that we are regulated – meaning that we are 600 lumen for the whole run time of the light (not just for the first five to 30 minutes). The Nano Shot Plus little brother (Nano shot at 250 lumen) now has a very aggressive retail price of £59.99. 

Finally, our work in other industries such as road-side safety equipment which we produce for the market in Japan has helped us gain expertise for use within the bike market.

What tech is new and unique to CatEye?
Today we still use technologies that the masses have been unable to replicate due to patents or the manufacturing process, like supersonic welding, processing chips used within our sensors and other features such as Click Tec used on our computers.

In addition we develop all our lens technologies internally with focused expertise leading to our unique ROL technology. Our lens tech helps us construct better designs and more efficiency – our popular Rapid 3 taillight which uses a .2 watt LED in the centre offers better brightness than many competitor products that use more wattage LED such as .5 watts. This gives us the advantage of using only one battery versus two, which then allows a much nicer more compact design. 

How important is the UK market to CatEye?
Very important. The UK is one of our leading markets globally and Zyro has been paramount in driving this success. Due to the close partnership we have established we are able to gain vital information about the requirements of the UK market both through Zyro and directly with the retailers during Open House – a great event held annually. Working in this way creates greater insight, and allows us to influence and shape our global product development plans.

Where do you see the market heading?
This is a question we are always asking ourselves, continually testing new technologies within a fast-paced electronics market. I usually visit Japan at least twice a year and there are always several new technologies being tested in our R&D labs. Some really neat ideas – new and evolving current technologies – I wish I could say more but I think they may ban me from the R&D labs if I say any more at this point!

What sets CatEye apart from competitors?
The CatEye brand is known worldwide. I believe there are several factors that set us apart. We are a brand that owns and operates its own manufacturing facilities allowing us to have some of the strictest QC controls on the market. Strict QC testing means we develop some of the most reliable products on the market. For example if we say a light has a certain lumen we make sure the entire production line meets that claim, limiting any variation in the manufacturing process.

Our testing facilities use the most advanced equipment such as sphere and photometric machines that we can test to all the varying worldwide standards in lights and reflectors.

Our manufacturing experience with other electronic-related industries such as road safety and auto has enabled us to remain market leaders through using some similar techniques.

Which sectors are doing well right now?
Both the commuter and off-road markets are doing well. Government funding into more bike paths and commuter routes in major cities has really helped. Here in the UK, cities like London and Manchester have seen some great investment in this area which has really increased the commuter market. In fact, many commuters are opting for higher-powered rechargeable lights which helps bring the average price points up within the lighting category as a whole.

Zyro: 01845 521700

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