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Silicon Labs pursues IoT with Energy Micro

Posted: 11 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:wireless embedded? IoT? microcontroller?

Texas-based mixed-signal chip company Silicon Laboratories is set to acquire fabless low-power microcontroller start-up Energy Micro, as it tries to establish itself as a major player in the wireless embedded and Internet of Things (IoT) markets. The deal is said to be worth $115 million in cash up front with an additional $55 million payable over time in deferred and earn-out payments and if the acquired company meets certain performance goals.

Energy Micro, a late stage privately-held Norwegian company, was co-founded in 2007 by Geir Forre, president and CEO, who had previously founded Chipcon ASA, a mixed-signal and wireless chip company, which he sold to Texas Instruments in January 2006 for $200 million.

Energy Micro was one of the first companies to develop 32bit microcontrollers based on a licensed ARM Cortex-M3 core with an emphasis on low-power and battery operated applications. Energy Micro has been largely self-funded although the company did announce a venture capital round of $13 million in March 2010. At the beginning of 2013 Alf-Egil Bogen joined Energy Micro as chief marketing officer from Atmel and made an investment of $2 million into the fabless microcontroller company. However, it remains unclear if any, Silicon Labs purchase would represent.

Energy Micro is developing multi-protocol wireless RF solutions based on the Cortex-M architecture and the combination of low-power MCUs and radios are designed to enable applications for the IoT, smart energy, home automation, security and portable electronics markets.

However, Energy Micro did make a mis-step as it tried to add a radio capability to its Gecko range of low-power MCUs. Energy Micro's Draco radio product family was originally announced on March 2, 2011 at the Embedded World exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany with the claim that parts, including a Cortex-M0 based system-chip, would sample in the fourth quarter of 2011.announced that it would. That now overdue line of radio-enabled microcontrollers is now due in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Silicon Labs has its own line of ARM-based microcontrollers but the company said that Energy Micro's portfolio complements Silicon Labs' 32bit MCU, Ember ZigBee and sub-GHz wireless products and targets a growing embedded market. The acquisition will expands Silicon Labs' MCU portfolio, adding nearly 250 products ranging from low-power Cortex-M0+ based devices to up Cortex-M4 based MCUs' capable of DSP and floating-point operations.

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