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TI taking tech for cutting cell phone energy to other markets

Energy efficiency to the masses, or at least the medical device industry, says TI.

Texas Instruments wants to export what it knows about curbing power consumption in phones to the world outside.

The Dallas-based company has already come up with a series of chips that can be inserted into portable ultrasound devices to cut power consumption by up to 20 percent. The new chips also reduce signal noise by 40 percent.

The idea behind the push is fairly simple. The company has already made the silicon, and with some tweaks, can sell it to other customers. Much of the work TI has conducted in power management for cell phones was not performed because of high electricity prices, said Bill Krenik, chief technical officer of the wireless terminal business unit at TI.

TI later this year hopes to make a splash with the third generation of its OMAP platform, a collection of chips for making cell phones.

Cell phones used to be huge and batteries are one of the more costly components. (Remember Michael Douglas with that shoe phone in the movie Wall Street? He probably gave himself radiation therapy.) TI thus originally concentrated on energy efficiency to reduce the size and costs associated with lithium ion battery packs. Carriers also continued to want longer run times on their phones, he added.

"In a phone, you are limited to a couple of watts," Krenik said during a visit Monday to CNET "There is a thermal limit too."

Along with medical equipment, the company will also look at digital TVs. No one wants to put a 50-inch plasma on the wall that's blowing more heat than the furnace, after all. TI has come up with one component that cuts digital TV power by 6 watts, said Dave Freeman, system engineering manager at TI. (Freeman further added that TI sells a lot of digital signal processors, the same chips TI sells for cell phones, and for the inverters that go with solar panels.)