Thursday, January 24, 2008

From low wattage to killer of bacteria

An air-conditioner capable of killing viruses, such as the avian flu virus? At least, this is what LG Electronics Indonesia (LGEIN) claims its Neo Plasma Plus Ion air-conditioners can do in various ads. "LG introduced Plasma technology in its air-conditioners in 1999. This technology has since been improved upon in many aspects," said Ariawan Ferianto, head of AC product marketing of LGEIN when launching its latest air-conditioner recently.

LG plasma air-conditioners have special filters that reportedly make them suitable for the health-conscience. Technology-wise, these AC models have an ion generator that reportedly releases millions of hydrogen and oxygen ions into the air, which interact with the air to form OH- ions. The OH- ions in turn seek out and destroy bacteria and viruses, which contain negative ions.

OH- ions are useful to destroy bacteria and viruses and are therefore beneficial to people using this particular air-conditioner. In addition, the air-conditioner freshens the air by removing hazardous pollutants, releasing anti-bacteria elements into the air and eliminating bad odors.

The Neo Plasma Plus Ion products have a five-layer filter, each with its respective function, ranging from filtering moderate-sized particles like dust and fungi to reducing chemicals that can cause sensitive eyes and neck pain.

LG claims that this neo-plasma technology can destroy 99.99 percent of air-borne viruses, as verified by a series of tests conducted by Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of China, a standard health laboratory for virology research. It has also been verified by Osaka Prefectural Institute of Public Health in Japan.

Regardless of the its reported ability to destroy viruses, this air-conditioner, ads for which have starred singer and TV actress Agnes Monica, is popular among customers in Indonesia. No fewer than 35,000 Neo Plasma Plus Ion air-conditioners were sold in 2007, an increase in the premium air-conditioning market share from 20 percent in 2006 to 25 percent in 2007.

Air-conditioners capable of destroying bacteria are not produced only by LG. Samsung also applies micro plasma ion (MPI) technology in one of its air-conditioners. Like the LG technology, Samsung's MPI technology is claimed to be able to remove the corona virus, which is related to SARS, and the flu virus. The "good-sleep" mode of this particular air-conditioner maintains the room temperature at a level that is conducive to a good night's sleep.

This Samsung air-conditioner also has a multi-air purifying system, including a silver-lined evaporating and filtering machine, an anti-allergy filter, a filter to eliminate bad odors and a filter for catching bacteria. All this helps remove various hazardous elements, particles and dust. As air-conditioners have become increasingly more affordable in Indonesia, they have become hot items. After buying a television and a refrigerator, a family often decides to buy an air-conditioner. The number of people buying air-conditioners increases from year to year.

That's why Sharp consistently introduces new models. One of its prime products today is the Plasma-cluster Sayonara air-conditioner. This product is reportedly power efficient and suitable for a house with an electricity supply of between 900 and 1,300 watts. This air-conditioner has a Jetstream feature, which can cool a room in a very short time with a very strong blow of air.

Sharp's Plasma-cluster ion technology produces positive and negative ions in a particular quantity to destroy hazardous micro-organisms in the air such as viruses, fungi, allergens and bad odors (e.g. cigarette smoke) so that the air quality in a room will be better and healthier.

This model also has a four-way auto air swing feature to ensure that air is evenly distributed in a room and an anti-rust evaporator feature, which can lengthen the durability of the evaporator and prevent the evaporator from rusting. The auto re-start function and low voltage also enables it to continue to operate normally even when the voltage drops to 160 volts.

For the Indonesian market, PT Sharp Electronics Indonesia has set its sales target at 10,000 units, particularly for its hi-end air-conditioners intended for upper-class consumers. Sharp hopes that all these products can improve the brand image of Sharp in the domestic air-conditioner market, where it has secured about 10 percent of the market, just below Panasonic and LG.

Besides the three aforementioned strong brands, a number of newcomers must also be taken into account. One of them is Haier. This Chinese air-conditioner maker has introduced two superior models: HSU-09LR03 and HSU-12LR03. To meet the present demand for household equipment, these air-conditioners have an attractive design. Like other air-conditioners on the market, Haier air-conditioners also use a microgen filter to minimize and overcome bad odors and remove fungi. Believe it or not, these air-conditioners also reportedly produce Vitamin C, which is good for your skin. With these superior elements, Haier, which controls 22.5 percent of the Chinese market, is bound to make its presence felt in the Indonesian market.

The Indonesian market is indeed lucrative and interesting for air-conditioner producers. As for competition, it is quite tight in the air-condition business. This is obviously marked with the presence of upper-end and new players. Besides well-known brands like LG, Sharp, National, Samsung and Electrolux, there is also another new player, Sanken. Without an appropriate strategy to capture the budding market, targets may not be reached because of the increasing competition. (Burhanuddin Abe)

The Jakarta Post, January 24, 2008

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