Sony is paying around $212 million to acquire Altair Semiconductor, a maker of modem chips and software for LTE wireless technology. The Israeli company makes broadband chips for smartphones and other mobile devices as well as low-power semiconductors for the Internet of Things.
The acquisition is the latest sign that the wireless industry to trying to adapt existing wireless networks to the unique demands of sensors, wearables, home appliances, and connected vehicles. The majority of these gadgets connect using Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which are less expensive and consume less power than cellular technology.
In recent years, there has been growing support for new cellular standards that fulfill the low-power requirement of the Internet of Things. Intel, for instance, has partnered with Nokia and Ericsson to draft a Narrowband-LTE specification. In September, Huawei and Vodafone introduced a competing low-power standard called Narrowband Cellular IoT (NB-CIoT).
Narrowband-LTE is capable of using existing infrastructure to reduce startup costs for embedded devices and connect multiple devices simultaneously, which could make it suitable for sensors inside industrial equipment and cars. New standards will compete with lots of alternatives, including SigFox, LoRa, and Random Phase Multiple Access.
Sony is planning to pair Altair’s chips with its sensor technology. Sony said in a statement that it intended to combine its navigation and image sensors with Altair’s modem chips, with an eye toward making “a new breed of cellular-connected, sensing component devices.”