NEW YORK – Rambus Inc., a company best known for its memory technology IPs and an army of in-house lawyers to protect them, this week came to Lightfair in Philadelphia to pitch the company’s patented lighting solutions, branded as Pentelic.
“Rambus in lighting” isn’t exactly a phrase well known in the electronics industry – at least, not yet. But given the rapid evolution of the lighting industry today, Rambus, already armed with a 10-year licensing deal with GE on advanced LED-based lighting products, is seeing a big opportunity.
System-level IPs for lighting
John Langevin, director strategic development responsible of lighting at Rambus, explained to EE Times: “Many of us are familiar with IPs associated with LEDs themselves, surrounding materials or high brightness features of LEDs -- often developed by LED technology companies like Cree.
“What we are doing in lighting is to take advantage of such LED technology advancements and bring system-level IPs, especially in optics space, for LED-based lighting.”
Rambus’ expansion in to the lighting IP business has been enabled by acquisitions of a couple of innovative lighting technology firms and their inventors.
In late 2009, Rambus got advanced lighting and optoelectronics technologies from Global Lighting Technologies (GLT; Chung-Li, Taiwan). Rambus also hired Jeff Parker, the inventor of GCT’s technologies, and his team, now working at Rambus’ lighting and display technology center in Brecksville, Ohio. Parker is now senior vice president in the lighting technology unit at Rambus.
Earlier this year, Rambus fattened its lighting portfolio further by acquiring patents and technology from privately held Imagine Designs Inc. (Campbell, Calif.) The patented innovations include technology for general lighting, LCD backlighting, and micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) displays, according to Rambus. Through the transaction, Imagine Designs’ founder and principal inventor Brian Richardson also joined Rambus as a technical director in the lighting and display technology business.
Under a new investment model practiced in its acquisitions, Rambus buys intellectual property from small companies, then works with the inventors to develop the technologies in an effort to leverage the competitive landscape.
Lumens per square foot watt
Newly designed lighting fixtures enabled by Rambus’ Pentelic portfolio are equipped with edge-lit, high-efficiency features. In a departure from the lighting industry’s conventional “obsession with lumens per watt,” Pentelic offers lighting designers a flexibility to control “ray angle” and “lumens per square foot watt,” explained Rambus’ Langevin. “With Pentelic solutions, we can efficiently direct and apply the maximum amount of light to precisely where it is desired.”
Included in the Pentelic lighting solutions’ technology portfolio are: LED-to-light guide coupling technology, delivering 93 percent to 96 percent of total LED output to the light guide (TrueEdge technology); technology enabling custom light distribution patterns (MicroLens optics); optics producing a highly collimated, highly efficient light output that delivers precise ray angle control (VirtuOptic); and compact reflectors capable of producing tightly controlled efficient and high-beams ideal for spotlights (SolidCore). The first two technologies original come from Jeff Parker’s GCT; the last two technologies are developed by Brian Richardson, when he was with Imagine Designs.
Rambus will be licensing these technologies to lighting designers and supply chains that manufacture Rambus-qualified LED products.
Langevin stressed that technologies used in the Pentelic lighting solutions are “not new; they are based on proven technologies.” He said, “You can apply them toward lighting today, in high volume.”
I never said anything negative about Rambus. They provide patent protection services for these inventors which is valuable and legitimate. That they kept the inventors on the payroll doesn't change the fact that they are a legal services company, not a technology company.
I think that the LED technology is both important to EE Times readers and to the environmentally inclined. Having used CFLs (and not liking the performance, but liking the savings) I am looking forward to LED lighting really taking off. It just needs some funding, solid research/technology and low cost manufacturing. I will look forward with some expectation of good things.
I beg to differ. If you are a technology inventor yourself, looking for a home for your business to grow while getting help to protect your own invetions from your competitors, Rambus might be just the company you may want to talk to. That's exactly what Rambus has done with Jeff Parker and Brian Richardson.
Rambus, to those technology inventors, represented a third option. (they gave up looking for VC money or getting aquired by a bigger company -- instead they came to Rambus)
Rambus could have just bought their patents and become an evil "patent troll," as you imply in our comment.
But instead, they hired the invetor and his team; and created a platform to work with them on their business.
Yes, this is no longer Rambus as we know it as a memory technology bully.
But we do believe that the company is presenting a new business model worth being considered by EE Times readers.
Perhaps EE times should not be covering Rambus anymore. They are not a technology company any more. They are a patent agglomeration and litigation company. As such they should be covered by "Legal Times", not EE Times. Other than Sony, there have been no voluntary customers for Rambus technology since they were dropped by Intel. It is possible that their technology development over the last five years is more for PR than for profit. Clearly, the benefit Rambus can provide these small lighting companies is legal muscle to protect their patents.
Energy efficient LED lighting already has advantages over CFL lighting: reliability, rapid start-up, and cold tolerance. Regardless of all the positive press about CFL, the very slow start-up of bulbs (especially those replacing 75 watt or higher incandescent bulbs), poor performance in the cold, and their ongoing premature failures discourage consumers who replaced existing bulbs. With advances in LED color temperature, all that remains is to manage their heat dissipation and make them cost effective for home use and they'll be winners.
With respect to heat dissipation, the examples seem to have distributed lighting rather than point-source lighting. The use of light guides could also help reduce heat dissipation issues even if the final release area is highly concentrated.
It appears that the initial products will be relatively expensive, high-design lighting. (Not only would high-design products already be expensive (so the cost differential between incandescent and LED lighting would be a less significant fraction of the product costs) but LED lighting--especially with light guides--could allow designers much more freedom in creative expression.) Such targeted marketing should allow the market for LED-based lighting to grow gradually as the technology matures.
(Just stating the obvious.)
LED lighting technology is advancing rapidly, and some of the pictures show the design versatility now possible. I hope that the designs are also affordable, which would speed up adoption. Was there any indication of retail costs? Also, from the pictures, it was difficult to see how they deal with the heat dissipation.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.