HomeChipsetsNordic buys Wi-Fi assets from Imagination Tech to mix Wi-Fi with BLE and cellular IoT

Nordic buys Wi-Fi assets from Imagination Tech to mix Wi-Fi with BLE and cellular IoT

Nordic Semiconductor has acquired Ensigma, the Wi-Fi division of UK-based semiconductor and software design firm Imagination Technologies Group, for an undisclosed fee. The deal is for Ensigma’s development operations, including most of its staff, and tech assets and intellectual property.

Imagination Technologies Group is owned by Beijing-based private equity fund Canyon Bridge Capital Partners, owned by the Chinese government. A number of staff in the UK, Sweden, India, and Taiwan will join Nordic Semiconductor; about 15 percent of them already focus on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), where Nordic Semiconductor is already considered strong.

The Trondheim-based outfit said the deal will “further strengthen” its BLE know-how, as well as expand its portfolio and expertise into the Wi-Fi arena, which is gathering momentum outside of homes and offices in industrial spaces, including in mid-range IoT sensing solutions, with the introduction of Target Wake Time (TWT) and Wi-Fi Sensing, to allow for lower-power consumption and sub-centimetre level real-time location system (RTLS) services.

Ensigma employees focused on broadcast IP will remain with Imagination Technologies. Nordic Semiconductor called Wi-Fi the “number-one” missing-link from its wireless IoT portfolio, which covers a range of short-range technologies, including BLE, as well as the long-range cellular IoT pairing of NB-IoT and LTE-M. It said it will be one of the few companies to offer BLE, Wi-Fi, and cellular IoT in combination.

Imagination Technologies said it will  focus on graphics, vision, and AI processing technologies, which contribute most of its business. It wants to align its IP to the “high-growth and high-value segments that are driving semiconductor demand now and in the future”, which appears to stand in opposition to Nordic Semiconductor’s focus on ‘massive IoT’.

Svein-Egil Nielsen, chief technology officer at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “As the global leader in short-range Bluetooth and the emerging leader in long-range cellular IoT, there has long been a gap in between which our customers have been asking us to fill. And although it won’t happen overnight as this an IP acquisition rather than one that comes with Wi-Fi devices ready to sell, we will now be able to add Wi-Fi functionality to future generations of Nordic products.

“We feel excited to have found the perfect Wi-Fi team, with decades of state-of-the-art Wi-Fi design experience and expertise from whom we can learn about Wi-Fi technology. We believe in owning every link in our product chain, and with the Imagination Wi-Fi team on-board we will now be able to add Wi-Fi hardware and software that Nordic has developed from the ground up as we do with all our other wireless product ranges.”

Kjetil Holstad, director of product development at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “What’s just as exciting is the potential synergy between Nordic’s low power wireless heritage and the latest low power evolution of Wi-Fi that now allows battery-powered IoT devices. We plan to now become an active member of the Wi-Fi Alliance and work with…  multiple other major standards organizations to maximize Wi-Fi’s low-power wireless application potential.

“While it is too early to comment on product implications… we intend to create a development platform and environment that unifies all our wireless technologies. One that will bring all the benefits our customers expect… in terms of lowering technological barriers to entry, removing all unnecessary design complexity, and making it easy for customers to add high quality, low power Wi-Fi functionality and features to their products and applications.”

Simon Beresford-Wylie, chief executive at Imagination Technologies, commented:  “With strong focus on graphics, vision, and AI processing, we have amazing alignment with the key drivers of future electronics products… Although Wi-Fi was born in the consumer sector, it is rapidly gaining traction in industrial IoT. With Imagination’s strong focus on graphics, vision, and AI processing, our Wi-Fi IP division will thrive much better long-term within a company that has wireless connectivity at its centre and where it will become a major focus of strategic, technological, and commercial innovation and growth… It’s a perfect match.”

Svenn-Tore Larsen, chief executive at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “We plan to rapidly engage with Nordic’s new employees. I would like to reassure them Nordic is one of the best semiconductor companies in the world to work for, has long successfully operated via a large number of global locations, and that we fully intend to make these new employees feel warmly welcome and become an integrated part of our day-to-day operations and people culture.”

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