by Kelly Waterhouse

Lens manufacturers see the future clearly and it’s a positive outlook for an industry that understands not only the ever-evolving needs of the consumer, but also that of the eyecare professionals (ECPs) who advise them.

In 2014, lens technology has to keep up with the demands of our fast-paced lifestyles while offering options as diverse as the clientele who purchase eyewear. It also needs to be forward thinking in terms of measurement tools to foster ingenuity and ensure quality control. These are exciting, competitive times and lens technology is anything but static.

“Being innovative means putting the eyeglass lens wearers and their specific needs at the centre of the process; it is this constant quest for improvement that guarantees a high quality of vision and services for the wearer,” said Thierry Cordevant, Director of Marketing, Lenses and Materials for Essilor Canada. “In this perspective, the rapidly evolving technologies that we use in everyday life create ever changing visual needs,” he said. “Whether we think of smart phones, tablets or computer screens, the way we use our vision is influenced by all of these tools as well as by a need for speed and performance in a way that is unique to each individual.”

At Transitions Optical, a new product development model called Life360 forms the strategy guiding their lens technology. A team of 80 researchers and developers created a system that utilizes three techniques—lab testing, wearer testing and real world measurements—to create a full circle approach to meeting a patient’s needs and offer a positive wearer experience in any situation.

“Transitions Optical truly thinks about what matters to lens wearers. Our goal is to be able to offer a product to meet each unique need,” said Matt Dorling, Director of National Retail and Canada for Transitions Optical, Inc. “Things are always changing for patients, whether it’s their career, their general lifestyle needs and activities, or changes in their vision or overall health, which is why it’s important to have a variety of options to offer patients that can meet their specific needs.”

With growing consumer awareness of the hazards related to eye health through the inevitable reliance on technological devices at work, home and play, Nikon is focused on this issue.

“The e-Life series of products will continue to play a big role in 2014 as more and more stress is placed on our vision,” confirmed Alexandra Audet, Technical Consultant for Nikon Optical Canada Inc. “This series aims at alleviating eye strain providing a viable solution to today’s digital lifestyle. Furthermore, there is an increasing awareness of the hazards of blue light, therefore we anticipate a sustainable growth of SeeCoat Blue, our blue light control technology.”

Audet notes that consumers are becoming more demanding in the quality and options they expect from their lens.

“That is why, we at Nikon, continually invest in R&D in order to offer consumers the best possible solution,” Audet said. “We anticipate our new bi-aspheric lenses to be at the forefront this year. With their new sophisticated lens designs, they will offer patients the most natural vision possible.”

Dorling understands the value of the relationship between ECPs and lens manufacturers.

“Our research shows that a high percentage of consumers expect their eye doctor or optician to make a lens recommendation during their visit, however only about half report that a great recommendation was made,” Dorling states. “We want to help empower eyecare professionals to make the recommendations that are right for their patients by offering choice, which is why we make every popular material and design available as a Transitions® lens.”

Dorling adds, “Finding what is right for each and every patient is at the heart of Transitions Optical’s product development. While we are constantly striving to develop new and better products, we are also working to develop new and better measurement methodologies.”

Recognizing the importance of the ECP and patient relationship, Cordevant says it is important for lens developers to foster the lens credentials of these front-line professionals by ensuring they have the most current innovation available. Patients expect that confidence and security.

“The consumer’s shopping experience must be taken into account,” Cordevant said. “Our industry is evolving and one trend will be the introduction of new and more evolved measuring tools which will showcase the eyecare professionals’ expertise and help them create a bond with the consumers.”

 For Maria Petruccelli, Director of Professional Business at Hoya Lens Canada, lens customization is as important as function, which is where Hoya has sets its sights.

“We are creating designs based on their individual needs and accommodating each patient,”

Petruccelli explains. “Specialized designs like the Hoyalux iD MyStyle and iD LifeStyle 2 Clarity and Harmony, focus on incorporating specific individual lifestyle needs, along with frame measurements and prescription requirements, therefore creating the most custom made product available today.”

Working with consumers is key to Hoya’s efforts, Petruccelli notes, particularly when it comes to their specialized dispensing system.

“Our Hoyalux iD MyStyle design is an innovation leader and incorporates several advanced technologies while at the same time providing a unique dispensing system with our MyStyle identifier,”

Petruccelli said. “Consumers are more educated than ever before. When they walk into a dispensary, they want information and they want to be a part of the process. With this progressive lens they can help create the design by answering lifestyle questions unique to them.”

Cordevant agrees, “This year (2014) will therefore confirm the need for personalized lenses, to answer the specific as well as individual needs of wearers. Wearing parameters, according to the chosen frame, but also to visual behaviour, will be integrated in progressive lens calculations at all levels so everyone can benefit from that option. New personalization measurements will also be introduced to offer ever more comfortable vision, in all circumstances.”

He adds, “With regards to Essilor, we can reveal that Nanoptix™ technology, originally developed for Varilux S series, will be applied to a wider range of progressive lenses so that more presbyopes can benefit from its advantages.”

One of the most anticipated launches of the year belongs to Transitions Optical.

“We are excited to introduce the industry to new Transitions® Signature™ VII lenses – which are available to consumers beginning January 7, 2014,” said Dorling. “Transitions Signature VII lenses use our new Chromea7™ technology, which allows the lenses to be more responsive to UV in more situations. They are more reactive to indirect light and even darker on hotter days, as well as being aesthetically more pleasing in grey and brown.”

Dorling states that in wearer tests, the Transitions Signature VII lenses provided a superior wearer experience being preferred 2 to 1 over Transitions VI lenses.

“Transitions Signature VII lenses are replacing Transitions VI lenses as the optimal lens for maximum clarity indoors and responsiveness to UV outdoors within the Transitions family of products, and will serve as our core product with the widest availability of materials and designs,” Dorling said. “I believe this availability, the superior wearers experience and the trust eyecare professionals have in the technology, quality and the brand, will continue to contribute to its popularity.”

“In addition to Transitions® Signature™ VII, our everyday adaptive lenses include Transitions® XTRActive® lenses which provide extra protection from bright light outdoors and indoors, and Transitions® Vantage™ lenses, the only adaptive lenses with variable polarization, for crisper, sharper vision, even in the brightest outdoor glare,” Dorling said.

“And we offer our line of Transitions® adaptive sunglasses including Transitions® Drivewear® sun lenses —designed specifically for the driving task.”

At Hoya, the year ahead is a clear path of advancement.

“HOYA will continue their path of innovation for the independent eyecare practitioner,” said Petruccelli. “We will launch a new version of our EX3 AR coating and continue to maximize our iD technology, where we separate the vertical progressive component on the front of the lens and the horizontal progressive component on the back of the lens for maximum comfort and visual acuity.”

Nikon is renowned as a leader in technological advancement with the development of advanced digital lens designs and innovative coatings. Their future plans are equally impressive.

“We’ve recently introduced, DigiLife FP, a new fully customized backside design adapted to today’s digital lifestyle,” Audet said. “In 2014, we will introduce two new bi-aspheric lens designs that will improve our current product offering. One of these new lens designs will be fully personalized and as always, will be aligned with our philosophy: meet eye care professional’s needs and exceed their expectations.”

Recognizing the importance of variety and versatility, innovation and design, these lens companies share a commitment to broadening the scope of lens technology in a competitive marketplace that will always benefit the end user: the consumer. It comes down to building a foundation of trust and accountability with the ECPs, ensuring they have the tools and the products they need to build a loyal clientele.

“We will continue to communicate with consumers and the optical trade about our entire Transitions® family of products, and work toward our goal of providing unparalleled wearer choice in material, design and availability,” Dorling said. “Our Transitions® family of products includes more choices than ever before—giving eyecare professionals more to talk about with patients, and patients more options to make the decision that’s best for them.”

Audet recognizes that technology is changing, quickly, but sees the advancement as an opportunity for the Nikon brand.

“The optical industry is constantly changing, as mentioned, consumers are becoming more and more demanding and the face of competition is evolving,” Audet said. “Eye care professionals have faced many challenges over the years and have been able to build on these challenges. As always, Nikon will help ECPs in these challenges and provide the utmost in eye care solutions.”

Looking forward, Petruccelli also sees opportunity beyond the lens.

“I see the industry maintaining its path of consolidation, all the more reason for the independent practitioner to adopt the path of differentiation,” she said.

“Hoya will continue to follow the personalization path and offer much more to independents than lenses only. We will partner with them and create marketing tools and innovative dispensing concepts to give them the competitive edge they need in today’s marketplace.”

It’s a new year in lens technology and for ECPs from coast to coast, the options are as diverse as the patients they serve. And that’s a good thing.