Tech giant, Sony has announced the acquisition of Altair Semiconductor, an Israel-based company that owns modem chip technology and related software for Long Term Evolution (LTE), a 4G cellular standard for mobile devices.
LTE is emerging as an alternative to Bluetooth and WiFi because it is also low-power but can be used to connect many devices at once, making it a good option for enterprise use cases. Devices can also use existing LTE infrastructure, including networks owned by carriers, making it cost-effective to deploy.
The Japanese company will pay $212 million for Altair in a move that could strengthen its presence in the Internet of Things (IoT) market, as more devices and appliances come equipped with cellular chipsets and realizing a connected environment in which “things” can securely access network services that leverage the power of cloud computing.
Sony’s purchase of Altair will help it pitch better against other companies that are also working on cellular standards for the Internet of Things. These include Intel, Ericsson, and Nokia, which are collaborating on technology called Narrow Band-LTE (NB-LTE), which in turn competes with Narrow-Band Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT) from Huawei and Vodafone.
The company’s 4G 1150/6401 offering is an LTE Category-0 chipset featuring downlink speeds of up to 1 Mbps. It’s aimed at integration in applications such as wearables, smart meters, lighting, parking, and traffic control, vending machines, and other low-bitrate and battery-operated IoT devices. The chipset incorporates elements such as an on-chip power management unit, integrated DDR memory, and a low-power MCU subsystem with a security framework for customer-developed applications.
With the acquisition of Altair, Sony aims to not only expand Altair’s existing business, but also to move forward with research on and development of new sensing technologies. By combining Sony’s sensing technologies – such as GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) and image sensors – with Altair’s high-performance, low power consumption and cost-competitive modem chip technology.
The acquisition of Altair follows Sony’s October purchase of range image sensor technology specialist Softkinetic Systems, which is based in Belgium and Toshiba’s CMOS image sensors business in December.
IoT in focus
Gauging the competition after only last week when, Dell announced the creation of a new IoT campus in Singapore in partnership with Intel. The new campus will give enterprises and consumers a chance to interact with Dell and Intel IoT solutions as well test the products and consult with Dell technical experts.
Meanwhile IBM has already invested $10 billion in the IoT and related analytics, acquisitions and partnerships. It is also in the process of building a cloud-based open platform to help clients and ecosystem partners build IoT solution through the IBM IoT unit.
The acquisition is expected to close early next month and Sony says it will not have a material impact on the company’s financial results for 2016.