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Atmel marks spot in IoT space

Posted: 25 Jun 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:IoT? Internet of Things? MEMS? vendor?

In the broad-based MCU market, Kazerounian believes Atmel is among the top three in the world. Armed with both very low power microcontrollers and high-performance MCUs in addition to a wide variety of wireless connectivity solutions, Atmel, a mid-sized chip vendor, offers a more advanced and bigger IoT product portfolio than STMicroelectronics and Silicon Labs, he explained. Atmel's competitors are definitely much bigger chip vendors. "We are head-and-shoulders with Texas Instruments," he noted.

In wireless connectivity, Kazerounian pointed out that even a giant like Qualcomm has no ZigBee, no sub-GigaHertz solutions.

Given Atmel's "bigger line-up" of wireless solutions and "broad-based MCUs," Atmel is by far better positioned to profit from IoT than Qualcomm or Broadcom, in Kazerounian's opinion.

Add secure authentication products to the mix for IoT solutions, said Kazerounian, "We have the most complete IoT portfolio."

With NXP's Freescale acquisition due to be completed later this year, Atmel will still face formidable competition from NXP. In fact, NXP is big in the business of secure elements for IoT. It leverages its strong presence in secure chip applications such as smart cards, banking and e-passports.

Kazerounian said, "Atmel is neither in smart cards nor banking cards." But Atmel CryptoAuthentication products, too, employ "ultra-secure hardware-based cryptographic key storage and cryptographic countermeasures"presumably a more secure solution than software-based key storage.

'IoT isn't a market'

In summary, calling the competition among IoT chip vendors still embryonic, Semico's Massimini said IoT is not a market in and of itself. Rather, IoT is a number of tech trends in existing marketscars, automated factories, smart homes and others included, he said.

Those who win the race will be the companies gaining share in the embedded microcontroller business, which, too, is very broad and fragmented.

Massimini pointed out a few key areas that will distinguish an IoT chip vendor from its competitors. First, "having evaluation boards for IoT development is a must," he said.

Second, "software expertise," he noted. "The more fragmented the market is, the more prepared you need to be in providing engineering resources and technical support for IoT system designers who might be working with sensors for the first time." Massimini said that Atmel's focus on this is notable.

As Kazerounian pointed out, not every company is like the IoT thermostat company NEST (bought by Google) which was able to prepare its edge-node device for IP protocols and cloud services. "Small companies don't necessarily have bandwidth to figure out to connect their systems to the Internet," he said. Atmel sees its responsibility as helping customers make their products cloud-ready, and offering the necessary software for cloud connectivity.

Third, "distributors are very important" for IoT, Massimini added. Freescale, for example, has a long history in its microcontroller business. So does Microchip, he said. "Microchip grew up by working with small companies and distributors."

Like those forebears, Atmel knows the embedded MCU business well. In short, Atmel's ducks are in a row. We'll soon see whether they can get up off the pond.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times U.S.


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