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Monday, October 31, 2016

Top embedded stories for October

By Nick Flaherty

The shifting sands of IoT make for interesting reading through September and October as engineers try to get a grip on how the market is changing. The big story of Qualcomm acquiring NXP hasn't made it through to the list quite yet,but expect that to show up in November along with all the news from the big bi-annual Electronica show in Germany.

In the meantime power and wireless charging continue to be interesting topics, while the movements of MicroEJ and Micrium being bought by Silicon Labs show there is plenty of interest in embedded operating systems. And of course IoT security remains a strong theme with the Prpl Foundation creating an IoT security group for MIPS devices.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Bombshell deal hits the embedded industry

By Nick Flaherty

The $47bn takeover of NXP and Freescale by Qualcomm by the end of the year is a bombshell for the embedded industry. Both NXP and Freescale have major focus on embedded while Qualcomm has not - the main angle is the cellphone and networking business.

While the move will push Qualcomm into the automotive electronics business, there are signficant risks to the embedded divisions. NXP also has leading positions in automotive infotainment, networking and safety systems, with solutions designed into 14 of the top 15 infotainment customers in 2016 but also serves more than 25,000 customers through its direct sales channel and global network of distribution channel partners.

The deal is largely financed by Qualcomm's offshore cash to avoid US taxes. Qualcomm says the transaction is structured to enable tax efficient use of offshore cash flow to rapidly reduce leverage.

“With innovation and invention at our core, Qualcomm has played a critical role in driving the evolution of the mobile industry. The NXP acquisition accelerates our strategy to extend our leading mobile technology into robust new opportunities, where we will be well positioned to lead by delivering integrated semiconductor solutions at scale,” said Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm. “By joining Qualcomm’s leading SoC capabilities and technology roadmap with NXP’s leading industry sales channels and positions in automotive, security and IoT, we will be even better positioned to empower customers and consumers to realize all the benefits of the intelligently connected world.”

The combined company is expected to have annual revenues of more than $30 billion, addressable markets of $138 billion in 2020 and leadership positions across mobile, automotive, IoT, security, RF and networking. 

Qualcomm sees complementary technology leadership in strategically important areas such as general purpose and automotive grade processing, security, automotive safety sensors and RF, as well as mobile SoCs, 3G/4G modems and security.

In networking the new company would be a leader in network processors for wired and wireless communications and RF sub-segments, Wave-2 11ac/11ad, RF power and BTS systems.

Costs will also be slashed.  Qualcomm expects to generate $500m a year in savings in the first two years.

“We have taken significant action to build a foundation for profitable growth and the acquisition of NXP is strongly aligned with our strategy," said Mollenkopf. "Our companies both have substantial expertise in delivering industry-leading solutions to our global customers, built upon a shared commitment to technology innovation, focused R&D investments and strong financial and operational discipline.”

“The combination of Qualcomm and NXP will bring together all technologies required to realize our vision of secure connections for the smarter world, combining advanced computing and ubiquitous connectivity with security and high performance mixed-signal solutions including microcontrollers. Jointly we will be able to provide more complete solutions which will allow us to further enhance our leadership positions, and expand the already strong partnerships with our broad customer base, especially in automotive, consumer and industrial IoT and device level security," said Rick Clemmer, NXP Chief Executive Officer. “United in a common strategy, the complementary nature of our technologies and the scale of our portfolios will give us the ability to drive an accelerated level of innovation and value for the whole ecosystem. Such a strong fit will bring opportunities for our employees and customers, as well as provide immediate attractive value for our shareholders, in creating the semiconductor industry powerhouse.”

Sir Peter Bonfield, Chairman of NXP’s Board of Directors, said, “This is a major step in my ten years’ Chairmanship of NXP, and I am very pleased to see that the board of NXP has unanimously approved the proposed transaction and fully supports and recommends the offer for acceptance to NXP shareholders.”

Sierra Wireless backs Cat-M1 and cat-NB1 to expand cellular footprint in global IoT market

By Nick Flaherty

Sierra Wireless has launched modules for Category-M1 (Cat-M1) and Category-NB1 (Cat-NB1) LTE networks supporting the 3GPP standard for low-power wide-area (LPWA) technologies, which was designed specifically to enable new IoT services.

For businesses developing IoT applications for markets such as energy, transportation and smart cities, Sierra Wireless’ LPWA solutions will simplify wireless integration and system development with cloud-connected modules, lower the cost and power consumption of devices and enable reliable and resilient connectivity links for locations with coverage challenges, such as deep indoors and in rural areas.

“Having shipped more than 120 million cellular modules, no one understands the challenges that businesses face in deploying IoT services better than Sierra Wireless,” said Dan Schieler, Senior Vice President, Embedded Solutions for Sierra Wireless. “LPWA technologies eliminate many of those challenges because they allow cellular to address a broader range of use cases, making it cost effective to connect billions more devices. Our essential and smart application processing LPWA module options make it easy for existing customers to expand their deployments and for new customers to begin designing connected IoT products in applications where cellular previously wasn’t a fit.”

Sierra Wireless has been working with the 3GPP, a global cellular standards development organization, since 2010 to develop a cellular standard for IoT. With the commercialization of Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 LPWA technologies, cellular is now a superior option for many IoT applications that were previously restricted to short-range technologies due to cost and battery life. LPWA technologies now combine lower cost, broader coverage and better battery life with the globally available and secure cellular infrastructure. They are expected to connect more objects in cities, homes, hospitals and stores, and on roads and remote infrastructure, enabling a more connected world.

“LPWA will greatly expand cellular’s IoT market because it was specifically designed to meet the cost, power and coverage requirements for not only traditional markets but also new, untapped markets for IoT applications,” said Dan Shey, Managing Director and Vice President at ABI Research. “As the market share leader in cellular modules, Sierra Wireless is well positioned to help their customers execute on the new business models and opportunities that LPWA will bring.”

Sierra Wireless AirPrime HL and WP Series modules are the smallest embedded modules (22 x 23 mm) to be completely interchangeable across 2G, 3G, 4G and LPWA technologies. They use the CF3 form factor, which is footprint compatible across product lines, providing customers with the option to develop smarter by building their connected IoT product or service on a single module.

“The GSMA’s Mobile IoT Initiative quickly aligned the mobile industry behind common and complementary LPWA technologies in licensed spectrum that were published by 3GPP,” said Graham Trickey, Head of Connected Living, GSMA. “We are very pleased to see the commercialization of mobile IoT technologies taking place. Bringing cellular standards to LPWA is key to expanding its footprint in the developing IoT.”

The AirPrime CF3-based Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 cellular modules are fully compliant with the 3GPP Release 13 standard. The HL Series for the LTE Cat-M1 air interface is in carrier trials now and sampling with lead customers. The HL Series for the LTE Cat-NB1 air interface is in development now and will be trialing with carriers soon. The WP Series will be available in 2018. 

Altair links IoT nodes on first US commercial LTE-M site

By Nick Flaherty

The ALT-120 from Sony-owned LTE chipset provider Altair Semiconductor is being used in the first commercial roll out of the LTE-M network for the Internet of Things (IoT) in the US. 

The ALT-1210 is one of the first chipsets supporting LTE Cat-M connectivity, and the first to enable Cat-M devices on an LTE-M enabled commercial site, which was launched in support of the pilot of AT&T's LTE-M Low-Power Wide-Area network at the AT&T Labs in San Ramon, California.

Similar to its ALT-1160 Cat-1 predecessor, the ALT-1210 enables greater than 10 years of battery life, and featuring Release 13 Cat-M extended coverage and IoT-optimized throughput, provides a lower cost, higher performance solution than proprietary LPWA solutions.

"The Altair ALT-1210 chipset enables the future of IoT today, providing low-cost and low power LTE connectivity for a range of industrial and consumer IoT applications," said Cameron Coursey, Vice President of Product Development, Internet of Things Solutions at AT&T. "We are pleased to extend our strategic cooperation with Altair, leveraging our first-to-market LTE-M enabled site."

"We are very excited to be working with AT&T to enable future advances in the IoT ecosystem and North America's first Cat-M enabled commercial site," said Eran Eshed, Co-Founder and VP of Worldwide Sales and Marketing for Altair. "Altair has a long history of innovation and first-to-market LTE chipsets solutions; in that sense we find a very synergistic relationship with AT&T."

The ALT-1210 is already designed into several module and device solutions by tier one ODM/OEM manufacturers, and is available for commercial deployments in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Samsung's IoT module taps SiLabs' Gecko technology

By Nick Flaherty

Samsung has teamed up with Silicon Labs on wireless modules targeting battery-powered edge nodes for the Internet of Things (IoT). 

The new SAMSUNG ARTIK family is based on Silicon Labs’ low-power, multiprotocol Wireless Gecko system-on-chip (SoC) platform based around the ARM Cortex-M4 processor core. 
The SAMSUNG ARTIK 020 module includes Silicon Labs’ Bluetooth low energy software stack, and the SAMSUNG ARTIK 030 module uses Silicon Labs’ ZigBee and Thread mesh networking stacks. The small-footprint modules (13 mm x 15 mm) are ideal for space-constrained applications and integrate all essential components including the antenna to simplify the RF design process.

The SAMSUNG ARTIK platform is a fully integrated chip-to-cloud solution that helps IoT developers accelerate their product development process, reduce time to market and improve total cost of ownership for their IoT products. The platform provides security from device to hub to cloud to data management.

“As a leader in IoT connectivity technology, Silicon Labs is a valued partner for our new SAMSUNG ARTIK 0 Family of modules,” said Curtis Sasaki, Vice President of Ecosystems, Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center. “Silicon Labs’ advanced wireless SoC technology with support for Bluetooth, ZigBee and Thread connectivity adds an ideal solution for the IoT edge node market and connects with other Samsung hub-optimised modules and SAMSUNG ARTIK Cloud.”

The SAMSUNG ARTIK platform provides the essential hardware, software, tools and SAMSUNG ARTIK Cloud building blocks for development of new enterprise, industrial and consumer applications. Developers can focus their expertise on designing new applications and services rather than building entire systems from the ground up, enabling faster time-to-market.

"Silicon Labs is delighted to collaborate with Samsung in developing new, best-in-class wireless modules, enabling developers to accelerate delivery of secure, interoperable and intelligent IoT products and services," said Dennis Natale, Vice President of IoT Business Development at Silicon Labs. "As Samsung's first certified partner for the SAMSUNG ARTIK module, we are impressed by the strength of the rapidly growing partner ecosystem for the SAMSUNG ARTIK platform and excited about the opportunity ahead. We look forward to helping Samsung deliver on its vision of providing a robust, horizontal IoT platform that includes all of the hardware, software, security and cloud-based technology necessary to meet the needs of diverse customers."

More information about the SAMSUNG ARTIK platform and development tools can be found at For more information about Silicon Labs’ IoT connectivity technology, visit

Consultancy launches IoT security evaluation service

By Nick Flaherty

The race to get new internet-connected products to market and jump on the IoT bandwagon is compromising security and putting customers’ personal data at risk, say security researchers at Context Information Security. 

To address these concerns and help companies to design in robust security from the outset, Context has launched a Product Security Evaluation service. Its researchers and penetration testers are working with manufacturers to test new products or software before going to market. They will also test third-party products prior to a customer buying, using or recommending it, in order to make sure they are not exposing themselves or their businesses to risks. This can be as simple as the psswords used:
Recent news has shown the potential repercussions for easily hacked IoT devices, being used for a botnet that has been used to bring down sections of the Internet, and is up for hire to allow online criminals to make further DDOS attacks.

“While the IoT offers exciting new opportunities, security is one of the major issues holding back mass adoption,” said Neil Biggs, Head of Research at Context. “Both established and new vendors are desperate to seize a market lead, but many do not have the cyber security skills and expertise to deliver safe and secure products that stand up to potential attacks in the real world.”

Context researchers have themselves exposed security flaws in a number of IoT products including Wi-Fi lightbulbs, a Canon printer, aYale smart alarm and Motorola home security cameras. In each case the vendor was informed and Context helped to fix the vulnerabilities.

Espressif Licenses and Deploys CEVA Bluetooth in IoT Chip

By Nick Flaherty

Chinese chip designer Espressif Systems has licensed and deployed the RivieraWaves Bluetooth dual mode technology in its new ESP32 chip for nodes in the Internet of Things.

Espressif is headquartered in Shanghai and is developing chips for low cost wireless connectivity in a wide range of products. The new ESP32 combo chip integrates robust wireless interfaces for 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and CEVA’s Bluetooth 4.2 dual mode, along with GPIO for system flexibility. Designed for ultra-low power consumption, the ESP32 is aimed at mobile devices, wearable electronics and the IoT.
“The IOT is a rapidly growing set of fragmented and multi-faceted applications. The combination of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth offers the best user experience, covering a wide range of use cases." said Teo Swee Ann, CEO of Espressif Systems. "We have chosen CEVA's RivieraWaves dual mode Bluetooth IP because it allows us to address the widest possible range of applications, covering both classic and low energy connections. We are delighted with the quality and excellent technical support, which enabled us to rapidly integrate Bluetooth capabilities into Espressif's ESP32 platform."

“We are pleased to announce Espressif as a licensee for our RivieraWaves Bluetooth IP” said Aviv Malinovitch, vice president and general manager of the Connectivity Business Unit at CEVA. “The ESP32 is an impressive device which will no doubt open up Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to many new IoT products.”

The RivieraWaves Bluetooth IP platforms consist of a hardware baseband controller, plus a feature-rich software protocol stack. A flexible radio interface allows the platform to be deployed with either RivieraWaves RF or various partners’ RF IP, enabling optimal selection of foundry and process node. 

For wireless headset / earbud applications, the RivieraWaves Bluetooth 4.2 dual mode controller, modem and TSMC 40nm radio are an ideal fit and can be further augmented with a low power CEVA audio/voice DSP for noise/echo cancellation, always-on voice activation or other proprietary audio enhancements. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Power news this week

Power News from EETimes Europe By Nick Flaherty


. Oxford start up raises £8m for perovskite solar cell technology

. Smart storage startup raises $85m to build a virtual power station

. Husqvarna teams with BMZ on battery development

. ITU standardises universal charger for laptops


. Living bricks bring power to homes and offices

. High efficiency stacked perovskite solar cells can be printed on plastic

. Harvesting RF energy for longer battery life and free space wireless charging

. Trilayer electrode structure boosts lithium silicon battery capacity by a third


. Intelligent battery charger for automotive and industrial applications fits into IP21 DC-DC converter package

. Semi-custom Li-ion battery packs cut NRE costs

. Baseplate-cooled half-brick DC-DC converter runs up to 500W