Industry News January/February 2017 Issue 1

Samsung Buys Harman International

Late last year, Samsung Electronics and Harman International Industries announced that Samsung would acquire Harman International, a company specializing in audio and “infotainment” solutions, for approximately $8 billion.

In a press release, Samsung stated that the transaction was designed to make it a significant presence in the market for connected technologies, and particularly in automotive electronics, which Samsung refers to as a “strategic priority.”1  More than 30 million vehicles are currently equipped with Harman’s connected car and audio systems.

According to a recent article in Forbes, although Harman is most commonly associated with premium audio equipment, roughly 65% of the firm’s $7 billion in revenues (for the 12 months ending September 2016) actually came from supplying components and developing software for auto manufacturers, including navigation systems, infotainment, telematics, and driver-assistance technologies.2

Forbes also suggested that this is a move to diversify Samsung’s portfolio beyond smartphones in the wake of last year’s Galaxy Note 7 discontinuation.  In any event, Samsung’s significant investment demonstrates a strong commitment to the connected and automotive markets in the short- and long-term future.  As outlined in an investors’ presentation, the companies’ complementary technologies open up possibilities for shared applications among mobile devices, cars, public venues, smart homes, and more.

Connecting the Quantum Dots

Quantum dots, a “hot” display technology for a couple of years now, is showing some movement in terms of major players.  Below are some brief announcements.  It may be too early to say whether the changes represent maturity, consolidation, or both.  We’ll report in more detail in the next issue.

Nanoco Acquires Quantum-Dot Patents from Kodak

Nanoco Group plc, a developer and manufacturer of cadmium-free quantum dots and other nanomaterials, recently announced the acquisition of a group of patents from the Eastman Kodak Company in connection with the use of quantum dots in electroluminescent displays.

According to Nanoco, this patent acquisition reinforces its intellectual property position in quantum-dot electroluminescent displays (QLEDs), a technology with which the company hopes to replace the current materials in organic light-emitting-diode (OLED) displays.

Michael Edelman, Nanoco’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “This patent purchase from Kodak broadens our intellectual-property estate and commercial position in future display technologies.  The vast majority of current displays are based on LCD technology, and we expect LCDs to dominate display sales in the near and medium term.  In the longer term, QLED displays could challenge current OLED displays and we aim to have a strong competitive position in this space in preparation for any market change.  Our current focus remains driving near-term revenue from the supply to the LCD industry of the company’s cadmium-free quantum dots manufactured and marketed by Nanoco and our licensees, Dow, Merck and Wah Hong.” The commercial terms of the patent acquisition are undisclosed.

Samsung Acquires QD Vision

In late November, Samsung announced the pending acquisition of Massachusetts-based quantum-dot-developer QD Vision.  Samsung did not confirm the exact value of the deal but it is estimated to be approximately $70 million or 82.14 billion won.

According to a recent article about the acquisition in The Korea Times, Samsung has been the global TV market leader for 11 consecutive years and is acquiring the QD Vision technology in order to strengthen the technological edge of the quantum-dot TVs it already sells.  In particular, noted The Times, the latest announcement is expected to heat up the already-intense rivalry between Samsung and (OLED champion) LG over the next standard for the TV industry.3

QD Vision was founded by MIT researchers in 2004 and has to date partnered with TV manufacturers including China’s TCL and Hisense and Japan’s Sony of Japan.  Samsung Electronics also announced that it would be collaborating with QD Vision in such areas as heavy metal-free quantum-dot technologies.

Osram Intros World’s First Broadband Infrared LED

Osram Opto Semiconductors is utilizing converter technology for infrared emitters to produce an LED that emits broadband infrared light in a wavelength range from 650 to 1,050 nm. The main target application for the technology at this time is near-infrared spectroscopy for measuring fat, protein, water, or sugar content in food, in a format that can be used at the consumer level.

Infrared spectroscopy detects the characteristic absorption behavior of certain molecular compounds.  If a defined spectrum is directed at a sample, it is possible to determine the presence and quantity of certain ingredients from the wavelength distribution of the reflected light.  This approach is used in the food industry and in agriculture, among other sectors, to measure the water, fat, carbohydrate, sugar, or protein content of foodstuffs, which is often an indication of freshness, quality, or calorie content.

The LED is based on a blue 1-mm2 chip in UX:3 technology (Fig. 1).  Its light is converted into infrared radiation with the aid of a phosphor converter developed specifically for this application.  A residual blue component in the light helps users target the area they want to investigate.

Such compact units for spectroscopic chemical analyses have the potential to open a new range of applications in consumer electronics.  One option is a compact sensor – similar to a USB stick – that would be used with an appropriate smartphone app to measure calories, freshness, or nutritional content (Fig. 1).  Experts expect that it will be possible in the near future to integrate spectro-meters directly with mobile devices.


Fig. 1:  The SFH 4735 (left) is the first broadband infrared LED on the market.  Its primary application is near-infrared spectroscopy, for example, in analyzing food (right).  The chip can serve as a calorie or nutrition sensor in a smartphone, measuring the fat, protein, water, or sugar content in food.  Images courtesy Osram.

New Products Briefly Mentioned
Apple recently began shipping the latest MacBook Pro, which comes with an OLED-based touchbar on the keyboard for quick tool access.
Google's Pixel and Pixel XL, the company’s first forays into the smartphone business, have been getting early positive reviews for clean looks and smooth performance.
LG Electronics is introducing a new laser projector, the LG ProBeam, with an engine that produces a luminance of up to 2,000 lm, enabling home-cinema viewers to enjoy video content even in a bright room.
Volanti Displays, a maker of LCD-based touch-screen monitors, table displays, and video walls and other large-format displays, has announced the availability of interactive 4K collaboration touch-screen displays that use Trello collaboration software and Cnverg’s whiteboard application.  The displays are available in 42-, 55-, 65-, 84-, and 98-in. sizes.

E Ink and Japan Display Form Alliances

E Ink, the well-known innovator of electronic-ink technology, recently announced that it has agreed to enter a long-term strategic alliance with Japan Display Inc., a maker of LCD-based mobile phone and automotive displays.

By partnering with E Ink, JDI will add e-Paper technology to its existing digital signage and mobile-phone offerings.  At the same time, JDI will continue to advance the development, production, and sales of new products using LCD backplane technology, including innovative e-Paper products using JDI’s proprietary LTPS and Pixel Eyes in-cell touch to enter markets such as automotive, dynamic computer keyboards, display cards, education, IOT displays, and many more.  In terms of serving E Ink, JDI’s LTPS technology can improve the performance of E Ink display modules.  •