LG pushes forward with innovation in consumer devices, home appliance tech

By Steve Brachmann
October 19, 2015

LG-335LG Electronics Inc. (KRX:066570) of Seoul, South Korea, is a multinational conglomerate that focuses largely on the production of consumer electronics, especially mobile devices in recent years. A lot of speculation surrounds LG’s upcoming release of the G4 Pro, which is expected to have a 5.7-inch display, 1.8 gigahertz of processing power and 4 gigabytes of RAM. Enterprise security tools available in the LG V10 smartphone have left some wondering if the electronics developer is trying to gain ground in the mobile security market against rivals like BlackBerry Ltd (NASDAQ:BBRY). LG is also trying to work its way into the growing smartwatch market with the Watch Urbane, the upcoming generation of which will have LTE high-speed data communication technology. In laptops, the South Korean company is bringing its Gram Ultra personal computers, which weigh less than a kilogram, to the American consumer market.

LG is also well known for its home appliance products. In the Saudi Arabian market, the company recently introduced a new series of refrigerators with environmentally friendly features and a dual door-in-door system for better organization of the fridge’s interior. In its home country, LG has unveiled a MiniBeam PF1000 mini projector, which can project a 100-inch screen from a distance of 14LG text cluster inches. LG also devotes resources to the production of chemical products. LG Chem recently announced that it would open and operate a battery plant in Europe that will seek to produce around 50,000 electric vehicle batteries per year. In America, LG is facing a legal battle over the location of its U.S. headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, which some have charged was approved in spite of local zoning laws.

This South Korean consumer tech company is often found among the assignees for patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In 2014, the USPTO issued 2,119 U.S. patent to LG, placing it 11th among all companies worldwide. This is in spite of a much reduced rate of innovation, almost one-third less than the patents the company earned in 2013. With 662 U.S. patents issued to LG in the three months leading up to this writing, it looks like the electronics developer may experience an increase in the total number of patents it earns this year. The text cluster, provided by the patent portfolio analysis tools available through Innography, shows a great deal of innovation in wireless communications as well as base stations.

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Issued Patents of Note: From Supercooling Fridge Compartments to Digital Concert Ticket Systems 

supercoolingWe took note of an intriguing home appliance innovation related to LG’s line of refrigerators protected by U.S. Patent No. 9134059, which is titled Supercooling Non-Freezing Compartment for Refrigerator Appliance. It discloses a cooling apparatus with a cooling space supplied with cool air, a non-freezing apparatus in the cooling space comprising a lower space maintained at a temperature of the maximum ice crystal formation zone, an upper space maintained at a higher temperature, a bulkhead separating the upper and lower portions, a rear space in the lower space, a damper controlling the flow of cool air from the cooling space to the rear space, a cooling passage to introduce cool air from the rear space to the lower space, a discharge passage with discharge holes for discharging cool air from the lower space to the rear space, and then from the rear space to the cooling space, and a second bulkhead preventing cooled air from reaching the cooling passage without passing the second discharge hole. The resulting fridge technology provides a chamber within which a liquid can rapidly be changed to a supercooled state, which means that a liquid can be stored at a temperature below its freezing state without changing to a solid. Home appliances utilizing alternative forms of energy are detailed within U.S. Patent No. 9127850, entitled Air Conditioner Using Photovoltaic Energy. This protects an air conditioner with an indoor device performing heat exchange, an outdoor device performing heat exchange, a photovoltaic cell converting photovoltaic energy into direct current (DC) power supplied to the indoor device and a controller controlling operation of the indoor device to utilize the DC power as demand power required by the air conditioner in an automatic photovoltaic mode. The incorporation of electricity generated from photovoltaic sources is meant to reduce overall power consumption for the air conditioner.

image projectionLG continues to push forward with projector technologies with the technology outlined by U.S. Patent No. 9135891, titled Image Projection Module, Mobile Device Including Image Projection and Method for Operating the Same. It claims a method for operating a mobile device including an image projecting module by splitting an input image into left-eye and right-eye images in a 3D image display mode, driving left-eye and right-eye light sources for outputting different wavelengths, synthesizing light output from both sources, projecting the synthesized light in two directions and performing signal processing to equalize the color regions of the light output from both sources. The image projection method is intended for the convenient display of 3D projected images. Unique and innovative display technologies are also featured within U.S. Patent No. 9147290, which is titled Head Mounted Display and Method for Controlling the Same. The head mounted display (HMD) disclosed here has a camera unit to capture an image, a display unit for displaying augmented reality information, a communication unit to transmit and receive data with an external device, a sensor unit to sense a position of the HMD and deliver that sensed position to a processor and a processor controlling the communication unit to request ticket information from the external device, acquiring augmented reality information associated with the ticket and controlling the display unit to display the augmented reality information. This innovation enables the wearer of an HMD to provide ticket information digitally to an attendant when seeing a concert or live performance without having to present a physical ticket.

robot cleanerRobotics are a big focus at LG’s national rival Samsung Electronics Co. (KRX:005930) and LG also seems to be getting into the race with the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9149168, issued under the title Robot Cleaner. The robot cleaner claimed here has a main body with a plurality of fixing slots spaced apart from each other, a moving device providing a driving force for moving the main body and a bracket on which a cleaning member is mounted with a first part comprising a plurality of fixing ribs and a second part with a grasp meant to be grasped by a user. This robot cleaner has a new bracket configuration which is horizontally movable and holds a damping cloth for wiping.

We also took note of a novel cooking device designed to eliminate unwanted odors and prevent them from affecting the smell of a home, described within U.S. Patent No. 9107972, which is titled Cooking Device with Deodorization. The method for deodorizing air in a cooking device protected here involves exhausting air containing odor-producing materials from a cooking chamber of the cooking device through a first opening into a duct in an electronic component room, selectively deodorizing air passing through the first opening by removing odor-producing materials, supplying external air to a first end of the duct to cool electronic components and discharging the supplied air and the deodorized air outside of the cooking device through the second end of the duct. This cooking device is designed to eliminate unpleasant odors that may be produced when cooking, especially when cooking fish.

 

Patent Applications of Note: Rotating Displays for Steering Wheels and Home Appliances for Indoor Air Quality 

head mounted displayWearable HMDs continue to be a focus at LG’s research and development facilities, as is reflected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20150243079, which is titled Head Mounted Display Providing Closed-View and Method of Controlling Therefor. It discloses a head mounted display providing a closed-view and having a display unit to display a virtual reality image, a sensor unit that senses a real object positioned outside of the HMD and a controller to control the display and sensor units and configured to detect a movement of the real object and provide information on the real object in a part of the virtual reality image. This novel HMD technology provides closed-view immersion in virtual reality while also providing information on real events occurring in the space around a user. A display technology intended for use on automobiles is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150286385, titled Display Device Mounted on Steering Wheel of Vehicle and Control Method Thereof. It claims a display device installed on a vehicle’s steering wheel and having a display for displaying a graphic user interface (GUI) which has an indicator depicting a rotation of the steering wheel, a sensing unit that senses if the wheel is rotated and a controller that causes a display unit to display the GUI rotating in an opposite direction of the steering wheel’s rotation and to display a gauge indicating the amount of the steering wheel’s rotation. This invention is intended to improve on conventional liquid crystal displays (LCDs) installed on steering wheels which cannot compensate for wheel rotation, making it inconvenient to view the display.

Continued development in home appliances from LG is on the way if we’re to judge by the filing of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150275416, titled Steam Generator and Washing Machine Having the Same. It discloses a steam generator having a lower case with a first space for storing water, a heater for heating the lower case, an upper case above the lower case and a steam supply passage in the lower case made up of a second space and a third space for introducing steam generated in the lower case’s first space. This innovation improves upon conventional washing machines using steam cleaning techniques, which can experience lower efficiency levels when it cannot convert all of its water supply into steam. An appliance designed to reduce levels of indoor pollution within the home appliancehome is discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150238644, entitled Home Appliance Including Photocatalyst for Visible Rays. It claims a home appliance including a photocatalyst for visible rays and having a case defining an exterior of the home appliance and a photocatalyst comprised of silver phosphate (Ag3PO4) and titanium dioxide (TiO2) disposed inside or outside of the case and being activated by light having a visible-ray wavelength. This appliance provides decomposition of dust, bacteria and other bits of indoor pollution present in the air with the use of a photocatalyst which is highly efficient and easily prepared.

3D printers have been an interesting area of technology which has developed in recent years and LG is trying to get in on the act with U.S. Patent Application No. 20150283763, which is titled Control Device for 3D Printer. It would protect a control device for a 3D printer having a supply unit for supplying a forming material and a degradable agent, and then a printing unit for printing the 3D object; the control device further comprises a display unit that outputs screen information for setting a use period of the 3D object, a controller that determines the amount of the degradable agent added to the 3D object and generates a control signal for the 3D printer and a communication unit that transmits the control signal to the 3D printer. This control device enables the production of 3D printed objects which incorporate disposable materials without creating additional waste.

side touchMobile electronic devices having more regions for inputting touch commands are at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150268747, entitled Digital Device Having Side Touch Region and Control Method for the Same. This patent application would protect a digital device having a processor configured to set a side grip mode, a touch sensor unit that detects multiple touch inputs to side and front regions and transmits the detected touch inputs to the processor, and then a display unit that displays visual information in the front region. The side grip mode established by this invention reduces the unintentional detection of a user’s grip as a touch input when a device has a side touch input region. Finally, we were intrigued to take a look at the next-generation electronics innovation which is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150266740, titled Method for Preparing Graphene and Said Graphene, Electronic Device Using Said Graphene. The method of preparing graphene claimed here involves forming a graphene layer on a catalyst metal layer, forming an organic-inorganic uncured hybrid film on the graphene layer and curing the film. This innovation establishes the use of graphene, a superior conductive material, in transparent electrodes while maintaining the graphene’s strength during manufacturing.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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