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Two decades ago, Tsutomu Shimomura made headlines for helping the FBI track down computer hacker Kevin Mitnick.

Tsutomu Shimomura.
Tsutomu Shimomura.

Today, Shimomura is still working with advanced technology — albeit in a much different way.

The physicist and computer security whiz is CEO and founder of Neofocal, a Portland, Ore.-area startup developing “smart LED” networks. The company, which employs less than 20 people, just raised a $9 million investment round to help fuel development and marketing.

Neofocal has come up with innovative semiconductor chips that help provide power to products that use “smart LED” more efficiently. The company, which has 30 patents granted or pending, figured out a way to use fewer wires that both distribute power and data over a single conductor network in an LED system, thus reducing overall cost and wiring for manufacturers.

Neofocal President Peter Oaklander.
Neofocal President Peter Oaklander.

“Most systems need separate wires for power and control,” Neofocal President Peter Oaklander said. “Ours uses a single wire to do both of those things.”

Shimomura, who works remotely, was unavailable to comment for this story, but Oaklander told GeekWire that this is somewhat of a “coming out party” for the company. Neofocal launched in 2003 but created the technology it is now pushing to market in 2007.

In his 27 years of working in the semiconductor business, Oaklander says this is some of the more groundbreaking technology he’s seen.

“Our founder likes to say that this is not a ‘faster, better, cheaper’ type of product,” Oaklander said. “It’s totally different and never been done before.”

Oaklander said Neofocal’s initial customers are in the “smart LED network application” area — for example, a company that builds hardware systems to deliver smart LED lighting. But he also noted that the technology can be utilized in other systems.

“We’re not going to just focus on specific applications,” Oaklander said. “This is a fundamental technology.”

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