CIE Research: "Light Years" Ahead of its Time
Industrial Research Assistance Program, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Charlottetown-based CIE Research designed the world's first system for LED electronic display composed of "smart modules". Using this innovation, an indoor or outdoor display image (such as a billboard or sign) can be changed by transmitting only the new data, as opposed to continually refreshing the entire image-a high-efficiency approach that maximizes available bandwidth. This is the first distributed architecture application for electronic display technology. The CIE Research computer controller also enables the operator to change the image on a multitude of display screens in diverse locations, from a single computer. A US patent for the monochrome application of this bitmap technology filed in 1991 was finally granted in 1998 and a patent for the colour application is pending, as are the Canadian patents. The company is manufacturing outdoor displays, which include computer hardware and software, for sales and distribution by its joint venture partner, Electra, of Warsaw, Poland. CIE Research's clients include Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown and Electra.
Employment has been stable over the years with three employees and five subcontracted engineers. In 1999 the company contracted SCL Technologies, Inc. of Amherst, Nova Scotia to manufacture the display panels for shipment to Electra. Beyond the production and sale of display products, CIE Research is vigorously defending its patents with an eye to recovering costs from major manufacturers of flat panel displays and other LED display products whose design is based on Intellectual Property now owned by the company. There is the potential for CIE Research to collect significant revenues from international manufacturers on the strength of its patents.
When he was building his first electronic sign as a student of electromechanical design at Holland College in 1989, CIE Research Founder Archie Banks met an IRAP Industrial Technology Advisor who expressed an interest in his project. Supported by a $3,000 IRAP grant, Banks proceeded to build his first prototype, on the basis of which IRAP and other investors contributed further to the refinement of the distributed architecture technology. In 1991 IRAP supported the company's research on high-speed data transmission and animation which culminated in its application to the US Patent Office. In 1993 CIE Research built a $170,000 sign for the Confederation Centre of the Arts. In 1997, assisted by IRAP, the Business Development Bank, and the Province of Prince Edward Island, the company developed its first production prototype which is slated for delivery to Electra in March, 2000.The company's first large-area full-colour system (14 feet high and 17 feet long) is scheduled for completion in June, 2000.
Alan Brown, IRAP: (902) 566-9398
Archie Banks, CIE Research: (902) 628-1377
"I have an enormous amount of praise for IRAP. What we have been able to accomplish wouldn't have been possible without the National Research Council. They have been very important to us because they helped us develop the product, which was necessary before we could raise capital. The Industrial Technology Advisor is always up to date, and he's always got questions. It's quite a remarkable relationship."-Archie Banks, President, CIE Research