By Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, EETimes 08.20.2020
There is plenty of opportunity to make old residential electric infrastructure more efficient. The residential represents an attractive market for companies that offer intelligent control systems.
Startup Amber Solutions has created a series of solid-state electrical control solutions for smart sockets, circuit breakers, and more, providing an intelligent control base within the electrical wiring endpoints of buildings for use by security and automation providers.
The company announced it has signed a letter of intent and six memoranda of understanding with leading global electronics manufacturers. It also announced it has completed and/or is building complete solid-state demonstration models and pre-production products across a range of categories that include intelligent multi-function capacitive dimmer touch switches, 2-wire dimmer switches, intelligent sockets, and retrofit programmable and intelligent circuit breakers Din Rail (Europe) and NEMA (United States).
“People are really scared by issues in their environment, and specifically disasters related to the aging infrastructure in our buildings and our cities. People feel that their very living spaces are no longer friendly, or safe. For example, our society uses the same electricity transmission lines as 15 to 20 years ago or more, which now requires more and more power and therefore requires additional, more sophisticated, and more efficient protection requirements, said Thar Casey, founder, president, and CEO of Amber Solution.
He continued, “So Amber has the opportunity to directly impact this electricity space and bring real benefits and fix real problems. We are the modern architecture in the breadth of electrically powered equipment itself in the outlets where you plug into, the lighting switches, every electrical end point in buildings — even in the circuit breaker itself — to give you complete, the whole building protection with more modern, intelligent and cost-effective energy management and delivery.”
Solid-state control and intelligence
Amber’s solution offers solid-state control with embedded intelligence to provide a cost and efficiency advantage. Amber has secured five patents, 36 of which have been filed to cover both hardware and software innovations, and has received UL component level certification for one of its innovations.
“Amber’s main innovation is a programmable solid-state power management system that uniquely controls the current flow digitally, offering integrated control intelligence — essentially our breakthrough is we control electricity, digitally,” said Casey. The solution introduces a much safer, more reliable, and significantly smarter functional alternative to the electromechanical components of the 1970s that are standard in electrical infrastructure products.
Today’s standards can still lead to electric arcs and fires. The combined intelligence to manage energy dynamically with the digital solid-state structure provides new opportunities to eliminate nuisance AFCI and GFCI trips, support flicker-less LED lights, and provide embedded surge protection in every electrical endpoint powered by Amber’s technologies
“In this case, it’s the 6,000-volt surge protection, which some of our partners want and we already have this completed. And, yet other companies that we’re talking to want to go a bit over that, for very specific reasons — like 10,000-volt surge protection, for example. So we are working on that now. And, because we can dynamically manage electricity, 10,000 volts is not a problem. Our technology supports a wide range of such requirements. Do we need 10,000 everywhere? I don’t know. But at the end of the day, we can fully support market requirements like this and that’s one of the reasons we are getting so much interest from all of these major companies. We can support the specific requirements that they feel are important, competitive and disruptive” said Casey.
Amber’s solid-state solutions are compatible with a wide range of existing automation and control systems and can disconnect live power up to 3,000 times faster than a physical switch can trigger. “By managing electric without moving parts, the risk of fire is dramatically reduced — practically eliminated, as there is no possibility of an electric arc (common with power switches and light switches),” said Casey.
He added, “We can actually be 3,000 times faster than a typical breaker. Why? Because it’s solid-state, and we control the AC switching digitally. Therefore, we can sample and test on the first cycle of the sine wave and determined if this was an arc. And then we can wait. We can wait at zero crossings, and then we can see if that’s going to repeat itself or not. And then if it repeats itself, it’s an arc, we will make a decision to shut it off.”
In addition, Amber’s technology can replace the existing bulky and unreliable drivers with its own, newly patented, Proprietary AC Direct LED Lighting Architecture. This architecture completely eliminated the traditional “large brick” driver for all commercial, industrial and large residential applications. These traditional brick drivers have complex architectures with bad power consumption, reduction of efficacy, and lowering life expectancy due to heat dissipation. Amber’s completely solid-state architecture eliminates these bulky components for simplicity in manufacturing and energy savings.
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Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio
Maurizio holds a Ph.D. in Physics and is a telecommunication engineer and journalist. He has worked on various international projects in the field of gravitational wave research. He collaborates with research institutions to design data acquisition and control systems for space applications. He is the author of several books published by Springer, as well as numerous scientific and technical publications on electronics design.