Little chip saves big on computer power

September 12, 2016

 

current rfSTOCKTON — The Central Valley may not be Silicon Valley, but innovative technologies are still emerging from here.

One potentially groundbreaking innovation comes from Current RF, which produces chips that reduce energy emissions from electronic devices. It also recycles the energy that does come out and provides cybersecurity at the same time.

“The biggest thing about this is nobody knows it exists, so we’re sort of working our way out of a small pinhole into the world,” said Current RF founder Michael Hopkins. “We’re projecting really being profitable sometime next year.”

Hopkins, who works out of Huddle Co-Work in downtown Stockton, is close to securing a partnership agreement with a company in Texas to mass produce the chips.

Hopkins got the idea for the Current RF technology about four years ago when he was on an airplane. He was thinking about the fact that every time there’s an instruction instituted in a computer, which is called CMOS logic, there’s a surge of current. That surge is what Hopkins wanted to harness.

“I was thinking, if there’s any way I could get ahold of that, that source of power that everyone’s struggling to reduce by every possible method, but they’re not hitting root cause,” said Hopkins. “If I could hit root cause on that, then I start winning the game.”

From there, he began developing the chip, which is called CC100 technology IC, to harvest that energy. Initially, he wanted to connect the chip to a computer’s motherboard. But over time, he realized the technology could be adapted to other forms and has developed a product called Powerstick Exodus.

Now, Current RF has configured the technology to fit in a USB port, a lightning connector, an SD card or a cellphone case. With the chip technology developed, it can be executed in other forms too.

Essentially, the chip takes in that current, reprocesses it and puts it back on the same supply line. After doing some tests with his daughter, who was into computer gaming, he found his chip could extend her laptop’s battery life by 30 minutes. He gave it to other contacts who saw similar results.

“It started out as anecdotal,” said Hopkins. “Then we sort of applied what we could apply until we had a meter that we plug in that can measure the power that’s drawn out of this computer.”

By harvesting and recycling the energy, the technology also cuts down on the use of AC power and can reduce utility costs. Current RF hopes to partner with internet payment company, PayPal. He has run tests on its systems and found how much it could save on electricity.

“It’s a roughly $3 to $4 per server per month reduction in the utility bill, which is pretty substantial,” said Hopkins. “It’s roughly 3-5 percent essentially.”

Another big benefit of the technology is cybersecurity. Interestingly, that was a byproduct that came about by accident. In February, Hopkins was reading a paper and began to see the possibilities in that realm.

The chip blocks the emissions of currents, which reduces the energy. But it can be used to block hackers who also gather those currents and use them to compromise systems.

“Every computer has a signature, as far as its operating system, and if you listen long enough and you know what to look for — and these guys know what to look for — then they can start reconstructing cyberkeys,” said Hopkins. “We’re taking the edges off, so they can’t really recognize anything.”

The technology is a potential step forward in cybersecurity.

“Cybersecurity companies will tell you they can’t prevent a hacker from getting in,” Hopkins said. “We’re really the only solution that can block that initial entryway. That’s key.”

Hopkins grew up in North Carolina and graduated from NC State with a degree in engineering. Conceptualizing and developing the technology was right up his alley. But he needs help to mass-produce it.

He hopes that’s where the partnership with the Texas company will come in. He’s not naming the company, but he said it has industry contacts and can help facilitate the process.

“The biggest business problem we have is not the technology, it’s getting in front of the right people that can make decisions,” said Hopkins. “The bottom line is we’re looking for corporate contacts to initially get this in front of that can see the benefit of saving power, or cybersecurity or battery-life extension.”

Hopkins said that if that partnership works out, Current RF could be profitable next year.

“Then it goes up from there into the millions in the next couple of years,” he said. “So in five years, we really should be raking in a lot on the return on the investment we’ve put in so far.”

For more information on Current RF, visit its website, www.CurrentRF.com.

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