IBM announced today it has developed a chipmaking process to incorporate both sensors and wireless radio frequency communications capability on a single computer chip.
The advancement could provide Big Blue's customers with an opportunity to develop products to better manage the power usage of "smart" buildings, transit systems, and "smart grids" in real-time.
The IBM CMOS-7HV technology could also be useful to small electronic devices with a battery, such as smartphones.
The company says its technology can cut production costs for manufacturers of small electronic devices by as much as 20 percent, by combining the capability of what was formerly done by the work of multiple chips into a single power-management chip.
But IBM says its power-management chip could have the biggest impact on the alternative-energy industry.
The technology can produce inexpensive power-optimizing chips capable of reducing the amount of power "leaked" by a solar panel due to real-world interference by as much as 57 percent, according to IBM.
If the IBM CMOS-7HV technology can help to increase solar panel efficiency and lower production costs as much as Big Blue says it can, the new technology could drastically lower the cost of solar energy.
At the very least, a less expensive chip capable of real-time power regulation could lower the cost of solar-panel manufacturing, a market where power management is no doubt critical.
Many of the chips will also be American-made.
The primary manufacturer of the chip will be IBM's Burlington, Vt., plant, which the company said is already booked through mid-2011 to produce specifically designed power-management chips for existing customers.