The Hankook Ilbo : A balanced view of the world

At the end of the 19th century, an American pharmacist developed a new drug. It was made to treat pain, etc., but gained popularity as a light drink to quench thirst and made its name. Coca-Cola is what many people drink today. There are cases where products made with technology that did not exist in the world, such as Coca-Cola, change people’s lives. The light bulb invented by Thomas Edison changed people’s nights, and the projector gave birth to a new art industry, the film. So Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Jae-yong, who recently became chairman, asked the group to “create the future with technology that does not exist in the world.” He believed that only one superior technology would guarantee survival in the future. Companies call this a big gap. It means that with unmatched technology, it widens the gap that latecomers dare not follow. Like Coca-Cola or Thomas Edison, who were start-ups in the past, start-ups these days are changing the world with very different technologies. Merlo Lab, founded in 2012 by Shin So-bong (46), is one of them. CEO Shin developed technology that goes beyond the limits of the current Internet of Things (IoT) and created lighting that innovatively transforms homes and offices. We took a look into its world-changing super-gap technology. CEO Shin, who received a doctorate in wireless communication semiconductors from KAIST, was obsessed with emerging technologies that were not in the market from the start. What he focused on is the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects various electronic products, devices and equipment through wireless communication. However, there is one problem that IoT, which has been in the world for over 20 years, has not been able to solve. It is a communication technology that connects hundreds or thousands of devices cheaply and conveniently. Mobile communication is expensive, and short-range wireless communication (Wi-Fi), ZigBee and Bluetooth, and Bluetooth low power (BLE) are easily disconnected. “The 5th generation (G) mobile communication technology provides good connectivity but is expensive. Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Bluetooth, and BLE lose communication easily when there are obstacles, and when the number of connected devices is increase, the speed decreases and control is lost.” CEO Shin found a breakthrough in the weakness of existing technology. The IoT technology he developed and named ‘Merlot Mesh Network’ overcomes the high cost of 5G mobile communication and communication barriers such as ZigBee, Wi-Fi, and BLE. “The key is to build a network as dense as the stars in the sky, that is, a star network at low cost. Hundreds or thousands of devices can then be connected in total. We have overcome the limitations of IoT for the first time. ” The key is how to build a network as dense as the sea of ​​stars. This requires many communication connectors (routers), which increases the cost. This is where CEO Shin’s ingenious idea to use ubiquitous electric light as a communication device came from. In other words, the light becomes a communication network. “There is no place without lights, such as homes, offices, factories, and streets. The lights with Merlot mesh network technology become a communication network, and the devices connected to it become a connecting device for other devices. No separate construction is required, and most of them are finished, so there are no obstacles. ” Making light a connecting device was solved by developing a small semiconductor called ‘M3000’. “Merlot’s internally developed mesh network and existing communication technologies are incorporated into semiconductors that control light emitting diode (LED) lighting.” The M3000 semiconductor is manufactured by Xfab, a German batch production semiconductor (foundry) company. “To put it in a light installation, you need a strong semiconductor that can withstand a voltage of 220 volts. Xfab makes automotive semiconductors that can withstand strong electricity. This company has been preparing to make strong electrical semiconductors since 10 years ago. We make and supply 100,000 semiconductors for lighting.” The reason why we couldn’t entrust it to Samsung Electronics is because we don’t have production facilities. “Samsung Electronics does not produce high-power semiconductors with strong electric resistance. Taiwan’s TSMC has production facilities, but the production is small.” LED bulbs with semiconductors turn homes, offices, factories and warehouses into smart IoT-connected spaces. “If you install software (app) on your smartphone after replacing the lights, it becomes a smart space overnight. You can control IoT facilities and electronic devices in the space with your smartphone.” “I thought companies would come if I developed a technology that would surprise the world.” The reality was different. Companies did not know the value of super-gap technology. CEO Shin visited top lighting companies such as Philips and Osram, but was blocked at the door. “I didn’t believe in Korean startups that I hadn’t even heard of before. They ask me to show them if they really develop such technology.” So, I even made an unplanned light myself. “I tried to make a prototype by asking a light bulb company. However, as low-priced lights from China swept through, domestic light companies lost their competitiveness and most of them were sold to private equity funds and went overseas. There was no way to no more lights in Korea.” He built a light factory in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province. “We bring in semiconductors from Germany’s X-Fab and produce about 30 types of IoT lights at the Hwaseong factory. We call them ‘Merlot IoT’ lights.” These lights are sold in online shopping malls such as Coupang and its own online shopping mall, ‘Merlo Mall’. The price per unit is 220,000 won for home LED lighting, 100,000 won for buildings, and 80,000 won for parking lots. Semiconductor technology and communication are related, so they are more expensive than normal lights. “It’s a high-end type with a deliberately inflated price, and it’s different from cheap Chinese-made lights.” An interesting thing is home IoT lighting. It has software that can remotely control various electronic products such as TVs and air conditioners, so if you plug in a light, you can use it as a smart home appliance even if it doesn’t have a smart function. “The lights operate the remote control, so you can turn on / off the TV, air conditioner, etc., or adjust the channels, volume and wind strength with the app. Buying the lamps give you a smart home appliance. Korea Land Tai, which is interested in improving the living environment of the common people. We signed a contract with the Corporation (LH) to supply these lights to 2,400 rental housing units in Seoul and Gwangju.” Lighting for factories and buildings also has the function of saving electricity bills. “There is a sensor in the light, so the brightness of the light is automatically adjusted according to the brightness of the room, so you can save electricity costs. In experiments, you can save 35.7% compared to regular fluorescent lights and 23.5% compared to LED lighting.” For this reason, the lights were presented one after the other at the Garak-dong Agricultural and Marine Products Market in Seoul, the Korean Human Resources Development Service, and the Seoul Station Metro Tower building. “The biggest logistics company in Korea has also installed these lights in distribution centers.” The part to pay attention to is the large-scale power outage (blackout) prevention function that went into the lamp. To this end, it has a built-in FastDR function. Fast DR means that KEPCO adjusts the demand for electricity according to the electricity supply. If you participate in Fast DR, the operation of air conditioners or electricity-intensive factory facilities is temporarily suspended when there is concern about a large-scale power outage due to high power consumption. Instead, you will get a discount on your electricity bill. “If you apply by phone from the power exchange the day before, they implement Fast DR by reducing the operation of facilities that use a lot of electricity the next day. As a result, the participation rate decreases.” Merlot IoT lighting applies Fast DR in real time. “When a FastDR request comes in, the lights automatically reduce the brightness in real time.” According to CEO Shin, KEPCO was surprised when it showed this technology in July and August. “I was amazed to see KEPCO executives, including the president, come to adjust the demand for electricity in seconds.” RE100 also requires fast DR lighting, which increases the use of renewable energy. “The problem with renewable energy is that you can’t adjust power consumption to match when electricity production rises or falls. High-speed DR lighting enables real-time demand management, allowing companies to increase their use of renewable energy.” Homes can also take part in the National DR program to get electricity bills back with these lights. “If you express your intention to participate, when the power exchange requires a reduction in power consumption, the intensity of lighting and the operation of home appliances are automatically adjusted. Cash is returned for the reduced power consumption.” After double majoring in computer science and electronic engineering at Handong Global University, CEO Shin completed his master’s and doctoral programs in wireless communication semiconductor at KAIST. After that, he studied wireless communication semiconductors at RF Semiconductor, a semiconductor company, as a special military service exemption, and established Merlo Lab while developing LED lighting, wireless communication technology, and power system technology at Silicon Works (LX Semicon at this when) under Radiopulse and LG Electronics. In 2014, he stayed up all night for three months to develop the M3000 semiconductor and then received investment. “We received more than 30 billion won in cumulative investment from KB Investment, Wonik, KT, Kakao, and POSCO.” 6 billion in sales were achieved last year, and a similar level is expected this year. As the government orders the use of smart lights from next year, next year’s sales are expected to exceed 10 billion won. “I would have earned a lot more if I only sold lights. However, as I continue to develop technology, it costs a lot. Half of the 38 employees are semiconductor and software developers. Starting next year, if the government replaces public institutions or street lights with smart lights, a new market of 700 billion won will be opened.” In the future, he plans to develop a smart building system that controls buildings with IoT and advance abroad. “In the second half of next year, we plan to develop a smart building system that can control building lighting, temperature and humidity, and prevent theft and prevent fire with IoT and take it abroad.”

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