Relume Technologies Foresees Growth Driven by Advances in LED Displays, Smart Grid

12/7/10

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circuit boards on which it attaches the LEDs. It also products other related LED products. Its assembly designs are intended to transfer heat away from the LED to prevent premature degradation of the devices. The company is focused on the market for outdoor LED products, which include street lamps, large commercial signs, billboards, and garage lighting.

In general, LEDs have shot up in popularity because they require less electricity and last longer than typical incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. For instance, Relume has retrofitted globe lamps in downtown Ann Arbor, MI, with LED lighting, and each lamp is expected to save the city $1,111 in electricity and maintenance costs over a 10-year period, according to the company. Hochstein says that his firm has seen similar savings for projects elsewhere such as in Arlington, VA.

“Saving a cash-strapped city or town 50 or 60 percent on its energy bill is a big deal today,” Hochstein says.

Yet the firm’s greatest invention might not be directly related to LED technology. The company has developed a networked system for centrally controlling and monitoring street lamps. Its system taps cities’ existing communication infrastructures, using its radio repeaters and public safety radio frequencies. Controlled from a computer, the system enables cities to turn off or dim specific lights or get alerted to those lights that require maintenance, Hochstein says. He adds that Ann Arbor and Oxford have already adopted the firm’s system, which it calls the Sentinel System. The company is also in talks with utilities that are interested in the system for smart grid applications.

Hochstein, who founded Relume in 1994, has been tackling engineering problems associated with LEDs for a long time. During his days as an R&D consultant for the automotive industry, he says, he worked on a project for Chrysler, designing LED instrument cluster lighting. In the early 1990s, he served on the national committee charged with establishing standards for LED lighting in traffic signals, and he became aware of the challenges of managing the heat in lighting devices such as LEDs.

Despite the presence of those large players and the rising tide of overseas competitors, Relume distinguishes itself from the rest with its patented products—which are all assembled under one roof in Michigan. If the company does grow as rapidly as Hochstein expects, it’s unlikely that the founder and president is going to lose focus on some of the core values that have brought the business to where it is today.

“Our view,” Hochstein says, “is be upfront and honest with the customer, prove you can do what you say you can do, and let the chips fall where they may.”

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