Amber signs key deal with Infineon for consumer smart power

July 08, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Amber signs key deal with Infineon for consumer smart power
Solid state switch startup Amber Solutions has signed a strategic partnership deal with Infineon that could lead to a custom microcontroller.

The collaboration includes two main tracks of effort starting this year. The first track will focus on upgrading the power management architecture in specific product categories, like smart circuit breakers, light switches, outlets, and others, to Amber and Infineon silicon-based solutions. Such categories will benefit from Amber’s intelligent, dynamic power management in a small silicon chip in combination with Infineon’s superior power switch and control technologies, which are ideally suited for these applications. The second parallel track will explore the integration of some of Amber’s proprietary architecture with certain Infineon product roadmaps.

The designs are aimed at replacing mechanical relays and switches in consumer power application such as plug sockets and LED dimmers and adding sensors and wireless links. “We happened to be using their technologies as part of our solutions so it was a matter of time before we showed them what we had. We have been validated by some very large companies and they have tested it,” said Thar Casey, founder and CEO of Amber Solutions told eeNews.

“Our alliance with Infineon is a very strategic inflection point for Amber in the transformation and upgrade of every electrical end-point in all residential and commercial buildings to a modern silicon architecture with embedded intelligence,” said Casey. “Infineon’s significant market footprint, technology portfolio and customer base as one of the largest silicon providers in power, sensor systems, connected secure systems, industrial power control and more, makes this alliance quite compelling for accelerating the opportunity for solid-state electrification.”

“We started looking at the Amber technology a while back with a healthy dose of scepticism but we like what we se so we have been collaborating with Amber on how to bring the solutions to the wider market,” said Steve Bakos, Senior Director, Switching Power for Infineon. “It’s only a matter of time before circuit breakers move to solid state solutions. We are working with the current implantation and we have challenges of getting to a monolithic piece of silicon, which is doable but not necessarily practical. So we are looking at how we do a multichip module (MCM) and we are working with Amber and their customer engagements to take the pieces of the technology puzzle and put them together but it will be a step by step process,” he said.

“The high voltage MOSFETs will stay off chip, with pSOC in two die package with the AC line interface,” said Bakos. “An Amber-specific PCoC variant is on the table, that’s part of the discussion.”

“The PSoC is the core intelligence and with that as a backbone we have a lot of ability to configure and customise. It's not just a matter of the same package but there are thermal issues so there is lots of work ahead of us.” Infineon also has Bluetooth and WiFi chips in its portfolio after the Cypress deal and leading security chips.

“The customer base so far understand the issues in the market. Sometimes they have overkill in their products but they all want to follow some kind of standard,” said Casey at Amber. “As long as it is across as many as possible we don’t have to worry about customisation of ASICs – we will have one with as many options as possible, starting with the dimmers initially, then with circuit breakers to 15A, and the wireless will be separate.”

“However we are not ready to discuss the detail of the software stack,” said Bakos. “We are validating the functionality and looking at the UK and IEC requirements for circuit breakers to satisfy the end markets.”

“We have 13 MoUs to date and 30 engagements in total,” said Casey. “These vary from early engagements with companies in Europe to others that are validating the technology and some are now starting to design what the final product will look like with market strategies.”

One of these is Jasco in the US. “We evaluated Amber's technology and see the disruptive and competitive advantages it can enable in the market for electrical products,” said Mitchell Davis VP Connected Home at Jasco, an electrical products company that designs and develops innovative products to simplify your life and connect your home. “We fully support Amber's alliance with Infineon and are excited to see the results of their work in our product categories.”

“Our teams at Infineon see tremendous opportunity with Amber’s breakthroughs,” said Preet Sibia, Vice President, Power and Sensor Systems Division, Infineon Technologies Americas. “They are addressing a tremendous opportunity in the market, and we are excited about how Amber’s innovative architecture matches up with our multiple product offerings in power, control, compute, sensing and security. This combination will provide value to our end customers’ products in ways previously not possible. We believe the replacement of mechanical-based electrical components is now becoming feasible and we see the combination of Amber’s breakthroughs and our superior switch technology as an important foundation for its wide-spread adoption.”

Amber’s patented technologies include a topology for AC-DC conversion that does not require magnetics or high voltage electrolytic capacitors and is capable of producing a regulated low noise DC output up to 5W of power.  An input voltage independent switch, built with Infineon’s microcontroller and MOSFETs configured in a proprietary and robust architecture, is fully protected from inductive, short circuit, capacitive over-current, surge and over temperature conditions. 

“This alliance between Infineon and Amber is a next level example that the solid-state transformation of our electrical products and infrastructure is at hand. The implications are significant and can help support current and emerging applications in the commercial and residential markets, which continue to evolve with connectivity as a foundation for the future,” said Elizabeth Parks, President of Parks Associates, an internationally recognized market research and consulting company specializing in emerging consumer and SMB technology products and services.

www.ambersi.com; www.infineon.com

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