EINDHOVEN, Netherlands A magic wand, an electric dress, an intelligent building and a high definition stereo 3-D TV. These are just four of the concepts driving work at the sprawling headquarters campus of Philips Research here.
The latest product ideas are rooted in the traditional TV and lighting businesses that made the Dutch electronics giant famous. But these days the projects are being pursued in a new corporate climate of open innovation.
Market demand and time-to-market are key tenets of the new philosophy. Thus some development teams are groomed early on as possible spin-off companies and all projects invite suppliers, customers and even possible competitors to engage in the research work at its earliest stages.
That's a radical change from the days when engineers spawned projects that were often held close to the vest and did not always have a link to real markets.
"When I came here in 1984, it was a closed lab and sometimes you didn't know who your customers were," said Terry Doyle, a senior vice president at Philips Research who oversees work in lighting technology. "Now we know who our customers are and who their customers are," he said.
Outside companies are quick to see the cost sharing benefits of the collaboration. What's trickier is finding a way all those involved get a good return on their investment. "That's often where the trust element comes in," Doyle said.
Philips is trying to create plenty of opportunities to build trust. Its High Tech Campus here--once the sole bastion of the Dutch giant--now also is home to as many as 80 other companies, mainly small startups. A former Philips lab that includes a small prototyping fab has been set up as an open facility where startups can try out new technologies and even run small batches of products.
Doyle's most recent collaboration is with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, half a world away. The two will explore ways to create more energy efficient buildings by creating controls that handle both lighting and heating systems and simulation tools to model more efficient buildings.
In Philips' vision, tomorrow's smart buildings will use networks of wireless sensors to track comings and goings of their occupants and changes in sunlight. The data will feed into complex algorithms that adjust the intensity and color of LED lights and the amount of heat and cooling needed to balance comfort and energy efficiency.
The result could be more than 40 percent savings on in-building lighting alone which represents as much as 19 percent of all energy use, Doyle said. Thus "a lot of the future of lighting is in solid state technology," he added.
The vision is driving a number of research projects at Philips beyond the Berkeley lab collaboration. For example, engineers have demonstrated LEDs that hit 100 lumens/Watt, up from about 70 lumens/W today. Their goal is to reach 200 lumens/W.
The group is also researching battery technologies such as ways scavenge energy so that wireless sensors could someday last up to the average 30 year lifetime of a building without needing a battery change. An effort with NXP, the former Philips Semiconductor group, is looking at ways to store charge in silicon blocks that could be integrated in a wireless sensor chip.