TI execs ramp up green tech contributions, at work and at home

TI execs ramp up green tech contributions, at work and at home

Summary: The trouble with the Green IT blog beat is there are literally hundreds of things that you could write about every day, often from the same company, but since this isn't the ONLY thing I do to put food on my table, I have to be really selective about which developments I can research enough for a decent post.Since my first conversation with them early this year, I've actually spent some more time with the folks from Texas Instruments.

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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The trouble with the Green IT blog beat is there are literally hundreds of things that you could write about every day, often from the same company, but since this isn't the ONLY thing I do to put food on my table, I have to be really selective about which developments I can research enough for a decent post.

Since my first conversation with them early this year, I've actually spent some more time with the folks from Texas Instruments. They've made plenty of progress on their green technology initiatives in the past few months. So, I figured I'd bundle up some of those recent developments for this latest.

For starters, the company has put together a blog of its own, called TInergy, that goes beyond what a typical corporate green site does.

Sure, it talks about what TI is doing to make its corporate infrastructure and facilities more environmentally sensitive, such as its work to make its fabrication sites compliant with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) guidelines. TI's sustainability executive, Paul Westbrook, says the process was more complex than the original LEED specification suggests. For one thing, the way a company treats water at a fabrication facility is very different than it would be handled at another type of corporate building. The aforementioned fab has been accredited since 2004, and TI has registered two additional buildings for LEED consideration.

But the blog also gathers up topics that have relevance way beyond their own products and you can find a weekly review of public policy developments, which is useful if you're mobile more than you're at your desk, like I've been for the past month or so.

Marketing aside, TI has also introduced a couple of products in the second half that could serve as the lower-powered brains for applications such as energy harvesting or automatic metering. The latest, called the CC430 platform, is a single-chip radio frequency solution that can be applied to battery-powered wireless networking applications such as the two that I've already mentioned. The device is about 50 percent smaller than alternatives, and TI is positioning the new technology as the industry's lowest powered alternative: able to operate with servicing for 10 years or more, even in hostile environments such as crop fields, forests or wineries. The technology can also be used BATTERY-FREE, running off solar power, the heat of a human body or vibrations from movement along the sensor line.

Another product line that was introduced back in September, the Piccolo 32-bit microcontrollers (more formally known as the TMS320F2802x/F2803x) were designed to be used in solar power micro-inverters, LED lighting, hybrid automotive batteries and other applications that are highly cost-sensitive. Keith Ogboenyiya, product marketing manager for the microcontroller line, says the chips (which are technically part of the C2000 series, if that helps) offer advanced power management control that has been cost-prohibitive to introduce in the past. So, for example, the controller could handle variable-speed motors in an air-conditioner or appliance. Ogboenyiya says the new controllers will begin sampling next month (December).

TI says the impact on the solar inverter market will be two-fold, serving to improve efficiency of solar systems that include multiple panels and reducing the amount of time a customer will recoup their initial investment, as a result. In an street light LED application, the new controllers could help improve energy efficiency by 50 percent.

Speaking of practical efficiency, it's worth pointing out that TI's Paul Westbrook actually lives what he preaches. This is an information site about his completely sustainable home in Fairview, Texas, which sits on a little more than two acres. Both passive and active solar technology is featured on the site, as well as wind turbines (although Westbrook's location isn't ideal for the latter). He's been updating his appliances slowly, as necessary. "Part of sustainability is not just dumping something that is working. It's to buy the best quality you can at the time and look for long-lived products," Westbrook says.

It's also worth mentioning that Westbrook's house is close to 12 years old, so this wasn't just some shameless publicity stunt taken up to get more attention for his employer. In fact, the reverse is true: Westbrook used his house to help show other TI executives what was practically possible in the green tech world.

Topic: Emerging Tech

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