Dr. Paul Smith is illuminated by GloveLites at his office in Bangor. Smith designed and now holds the patent on the two-fingered gloves equipped with two LEDs to direct the light in the area of the gloved
Paul Smith was in a single-engine Cessna somewhere over Shelton, Wash., when he got the idea.
“It was dark and the lights built into the aircraft didn’t really work very well,” he recalled. “So I had a red flashlight hanging from a string from the yoke of the aircraft. It was a juggling act. I said, there has to be a better way.”
So Smith came up with the idea for the GloveLite, a “flashlight you can’t drop,” that is built into a glove.
“I went to the patent trademark database and developed my concept. I then went to an intellectual property attorney in Seattle. It took two years and several thousand dollars [to get] my patent number,” he said.
Smith, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Bangor, recently started selling the GloveLite online. The final design is the result of years of research and development. The original prototype was “a bicycle glove and some LEDS and some thread and a couple flat batteries.” The latest version is a two-fingered neoprene glove that straps around the wrist and has LED lights built into the sides of the index finger and thumb. The GloveLite has lights available in three different colors: red for pilots, green for use with night-vision goggles, and white for everyday use.
“The red light doesn’t break down the chemicals that allow [the] retina to see better at night,” he explained.
The world headquarters for Mission Lights, Smith’s company, is a small room located in his OB-GYN office on Mount Hope Avenue in Bangor. A vinyl Mission Lights banner hangs on the wall over a desk with one computer. Stacks of brown boxes filled with GloveLite power packs are stacked high against one wall. Smith, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Army, is the company’s only employee, but he has big plans.
Smith sees a market for his invention. Glove company Mechanix makes a line of gloves with a light on the knuckle called Glove Light, but Smith says the light doesn’t follow your fingertips. “There isn’t a device on the market now, commercially available, that really brings the light to where your fingertips are,” he said.
“It has the potential to go pretty large pretty quickly,” he added.
Feedback from people who have tried the product or stumbled across the Web site has convinced Smith to market the GloveLite to other occupations besides pilots, electricians and plumbers. Photographers have advised him to advertise in photography magazines, and he hopes that one day the GloveLite will be widely used by the military and law enforcement.
“I gave some to a police officer who really likes it, because they hate to turn on the dome light. It just makes you feel exposed,” he said.
“If I can develop something of use to the soldiers on the ground, that would be a wonderful feeling for me to be able to help them a little bit,” he said.
Dr. John Tozer, a fellow pilot and general dentist in Bangor, has known Smith since the obstetrician first moved to Bangor. He takes pride in the fact that he was the first person to buy a pair of the gloves, and remembers telling Smith when they worked together at Eastern Maine Medical Center, “if you ever get that made, I want to buy the first one.” He finds the GloveLite is useful for checking the fuel levels when flying at night in his Cessna 1972.
“I never knew that I really needed it, but it has been just wonderful,” he said. “It’s a slick little device.”
The GloveLite is made almost entirely from parts manufactured in the United States. The only imported part is the power pack, located on the back of the hand, which holds the flat 201G battery — similar to those found in car remotes — and houses the on-off button. The power pack is produced in China.
Keeping production local is important to Smith. Right now, the actual assembly of the glove is done by V&M Gloves in Lawrence, Mass., a company that normally makes baseball gloves. Smith drives down two to four times a month with the power packs, neoprene, lights and lining, which are sewn together by Vinny Palermo at V&M. But eventually, Smith would like for the glove to be totally Maine-made.
“Am I going for best cost? Not necessarily. I would have it cost me more and accept a smaller margin of profit because we have to help each other,” he said.
“That’s the only way that things are going to get better with our economy,” he added.