National Semiconductor's Newest Focus: Home Automation

| About: National Semiconductor (NSM)

By Michael Kanellos

Two years ago, National Semiconductor (NSM) started to push into solar. Now it wants to get into smart grid too.

The company, which turned 50 this year, is looking at ways to provide things like power management chips and microcontrollers to companies that will make smart appliances and technologies for controlling power inside the home, said CEO Brian Halla during an interview. (We visited him as part of a buildup to Intersolar U.S. taking place next year.).

Halla also expressed quite a bit of interest in controllers for streetlights and LEDs.

It makes sense. National essentially makes chips that control some of these functions in computers. One very interesting idea he suggested: the DC home. Right now, Energy from solar panels needs to be converted (via the inverter) from DC to AC so it can be used in the home. It then often gets re-converted into DC. Those conversions cause power losses. Eliminating the double conversion could thus lower power bill.

National, though, will likely concentrate on the home. It won't likely (at least initially) try to provide technology for the components for the wide grid. Why? Utilities will control how and when the grid upgrades occur. Selling to utilities can be demanding and time consuming. Energy efficiency will likely move a lot faster inside the home.