In September this year, the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Plastic Logic, a Cambridge-based company, successfully incorporated graphene in a transistor-based flexible device. The result was an active matrix electrophoretic display like the screen that e-readers use, except that it is flexible plastic instead of glass. Researchers of this flexi-screen combined graphene-imbued backplane electrophoretic imaging film so as to create an ultra-low power and very durable display. In the future this could be swapped for liquid crystal or organic light-emitting diodes to create the LCD and OLED screens we’re familiar with from our mobile devices and televisions.
Recent experiments with graphene have found it making electronic equipment more transparent, highly flexible (more flexible than indium-tin oxide and the like), strong and durable, and offer unparalleled electrical conductivity. This opens the gates to a whole new future of foldable electronics.
In another research experiment, scientists at MIT discovered that crumpling a piece of graphene sheet yielded properties that helped create highly stretchable supercapacitors that enhanced storage capacity in electronic devices. When put to commercial use, this technology will highly benefit wearable and implantable medical devices that not only need to be flexible but also have high power-storage systems.
Samsung’s giant leap
While many research institutions are experimenting with this block of supercarbon, Samsung and Nokia are undoubtedly the two prominent corporate researchers in this segment. In fact, in April this year, Samsung announced its “groundbreaking method” of commercializing graphene for electronic devices such as flexi screens for wearable and other futuristic equipment. This synthesis method for growing a single crystal wafer graphene with a large surface area was discovered by The Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University.
So what’s special about this discovery? In the past, a multi-crystal synthesis resulted in deterioration of the supercarbon’s electrical and mechanical properties. This meant that the wafer was not viable for commercial application and therefore, limited its range of application. Samsung’s effort to repeatedly synthesize a single crystal and enlarge the surface area of a graphene wafer is a giant leap towards ending the shortcomings of a multi-crystal surface.
Samsung’s graphene knowledge bomb
On February 27 this year, Samsung filed for a patent that has the potential to become a key patented technology for touch screens. The patent (US 20140055407) describes a touch display that comprises of a touch substrate, sensing electrodes and a touch processor. The touch substrate senses the touch of the user and may be made of flexible material (like plastic). The sensing electrodes are spaced apart on the touch substrate and are made of material whose resistance value varies according to a force applied. Graphene may be used as sensing electrode material, thereby allowing the display to sense the amount of force applied by the user.
In a bid to overcome the brittle properties of the sparsely available Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), Samsung in its patent numbered US 8390589 describes a technology that uses nanostructures such as Graphene as the transparent conductor in a touch screen display. The display has two transparent conductors separated by a spacer and a transparent substrate is placed on both the conductors in the following manner:
This structure renders the device with higher power efficiency, which is becoming a much needed property in today’s power-crunch world.
Yet another Samsung patent – US 8294972 – comes as a boon for a large number of mobile users who often find it difficult to read data displays under bright light. The patent describes a method to include graphene or a graphite layer that is imbued with the property to absorb light in accordance with the electrical field applied to it.
Have you ever encountered a situation where your watch and the time indicated in the office clock differs, missing an “on time entry” with a subtle difference of seconds? Is it because your watch is not timed correctly or has the battery gone down? Did you ever stop by to ponder the precision of your watch? Have you ever felt that you are following the wrong time? The answer to all these questions is quiet simple; the time displayed in a watch is all inaccurate. Surprised? Conventional mechanical watches provide inaccurate time due to the effect of gravitational forces on its various components. Watchmakers have always tried to battle the effects of gravity on a timepiece’s balance assembly. How do I get a watch that provides me an accurate time? “Tourbillon” Technology is the answer.
For centuries a tourbillon watch has been considered as one of the most complicated, ingenious and exclusive timepiece technology. Only the world’s most qualified watch makers were and still are able to make them. A watch with tourbillon movement remains a manifestation of a superior and the most exceptional type of watch, a luxury captured by select audience of addicted connoisseurs because the limited and the essential components of these tourbillons remain scarce.
Time it right
The latest release of Roger Dubuis’ novel Genevian watch brand “the Excalibur Quatuor” is a perfect example that affirms this age old truth. Costing $1.1 million a piece, this looks like a time trender!
The Excalibur Quatuor seizes the brilliance and creativity of Roger Dubuis better than any other model. It represents innovation and features a completely original power reserve indicator, while respecting the great tradition of watch making.
The four sprung balances, which are the pulse of a mechanical watch, have been set at 45° angles to take both gravity and the wearer’s movements into account, providing unparalleled accuracy. By distributing the effects of gravity across the four balances, these effects are negated, thus resulting in a more consistent timekeeping rate, irrespective of the position or motion of placement of the wrist watch. All the technical details aside, the movement is quite dazzling to behold and the sound of four balances ticking brings to mind the whirring of a machine.
Peek into the Tourbillon
In a single axis tourbillon, the entire escapement is housed in a rotating cage, and the whole assembly is constantly moving. No matter what position the watch is in, variations in the timings are essentially canceled out. The balance wheel does not just turn endlessly in one direction, rather, it moves back and forth, like a revolving pendulum, also known as balance wheel oscillation. The consistency in the back and forth movement of a balance wheel creates accuracy in the watch. For this reason, the tourbillon is often used at the seconds counter in a watch. The reason why balance wheel rotates in all possible direction is to nullify the effect of gravity caused by frictional and magnetic force.
The first registered patent on Tourbillon technology was filed in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet. Lot of patenting activity has been going on since then in this technology.
There is some uniqueness in tourbillon watches designed by every manufacturer in the market. The figure depicts the working model of an Excalibur watch prior to the invention of Excalibur Quatuor. Roger Dubuis holds a design patent (USD636692S1) for the working model of the Excalibur watch.
The advancements in tourbillon technology made Roger Dubuis come up with a unique watch with four tourbillons placed at fixed angles relative to the plane of the dial. This advanced model eventually turned out as Excalibur Quatuor. Roger Dubuis has filed a patent application for the same.
The figure illustrates the distribution of patents in Tourbillon technology across the world. A larger chunk of patents is held by Chinese manufacturers, who provide Tourbillon technology at a cheaper rate. These Chinese watchmakers have become a potential threat to major Swiss brands. Major players in this niche industry are Swiss manufacturers such as Breguet, Greubel Forsey, Richemont Group etc. In spite of having a lot of products in Tourbillon technology, Luxury brands such as Omega, Zenith do not have significant patent assets.
If you think, the markets for these niche watches are dropping down. Well the answer is no, the buyers for these aesthetic and unique watches are growing. Players like Greubel Forsey, Omega have designed watches that provide world time on par with the earth’s rotation. There are masterpieces which work in anti clock direction, watches displaying the different phases of a moon, anti-magnetic watches etc. Well, with tourbillon technology growing in importance by the day, will watchmakers modify these antiques to work with precision?
Interesting you say, Mr. Icahn. Can you be finally writing about Apple and Nuance opening doors for a future we’ve seen as part of science fiction? Or is the industry going to see the reemergence of the three ‘musk’eteers? It will be fascinating to see Apple, Nuance and Tesla mix their secret ingredients to cook up a perfect “D” we’ve heard about recently. Batmobile for all! Or maybe it’s an appeal to go open source, only time will tell.
Carl Icahn holds close to 19% stake in Nuance and 0.88% in Apple. So the most likely thing we’ll find in the letter will have something to do with Nuance. Market speculations regarding the mysterious tweet puts Nuance and Apple stocks on a bullish trend. However, let’s look at the pros and cons of this arrangement from an IP and technology perspective.
Apple will profit from this as its speech recognition back plane is powered by Nuance and with little to no tweaks it can go about its business as is now. On the other hand, if Samsung decides to buy Nuance, which has been rumored to be up for sale, Apple will have to make a major overhaul to Siri and might just end up breaking what is fixed and smooth.
Nuance holds seminal patents in the Speech Recognition domain and irrespective of who buys Nuance, anyone who wants to implement SR technology will have to get into some kind of agreement with it. Having said this, is Nuance holding a monopoly? Or will we see a paradigm shift in the near future?
To get answers to these questions, simply ask your smart assistant to watch this page for updates, and sit back while we beam you to the wonderful world of voice recognizing smart virtual assistants.Earlier Posts »