ARM buys Bluetooth players Wicentric, Sunrise Micro in Internet of Things push

ARM Holdings acquired two small companies focused on power-efficient Bluetooth technologies, Wicentric and Sunrise Micro Devices, as part of a broader effort to push into the Internet of Things (IoT) market. Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

ARM said the companies' intellectual property will be integrated to form the ARM "Cordio" platform for IoT applications. That portfolio will complement ARM's existing processor and physical IP aimed at the IoT market. ARM said the Cordio portfolio is available for immediate licensing by other companies.

Wicentric specializes in Bluetooth Smart software solutions aimed at enabling the development of low-power wireless products. Their product line includes Bluetooth protocol stack and profiles for creating interoperable smart products and the link layer for silicon integration, according to ARM.

Meanwhile, SMD provides radio IP solutions including a pre-qualified, self-contained radio block and related firmware to simplify radio deployment. SMD radios all have the ability to operate in sub-1-volt conditions. That means they are specifically designed for low-power situations, letting radios run much longer on batteries or harvested energy.

Power efficiency is critical for IoT applications because if a solution drains less battery it is likely going to be more attractive to device makers and carriers. It also makes the solution more practical and increases the likelihood it will be commercialized.

ARM, best known for providing chipset architecture to the likes of Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), MediaTek, Nvidia and others, has been steadily expanding its presence in the IoT market. Like many other silicon and technology companies, it sees IoT as a huge area of growth in the years ahead as the smartphone market starts to mature, especially in Western markets.

In February ARM acquired Dutch firm Offspark, a leading IoT security software company. In October 2014 ARM created a new software platform and free operating system called mbed to simplify and speed up the creation and deployment of IoT solutions. That architecture can support IoT devices at various levels of data usage and interaction, according to Machina Research analyst Andy Castonguay.

Castonguay said the Wicentric and Sunrise Micro deals make sense because short-range technologies, and Bluetooth low energy in particular, are very important communications protocols for IoT. "You've got so many wearables, household devices and even enterprise-grade devices using Bluetooth LE," he said.

"In a healthcare context it's very important," he said, noting that the technology has been embraced by Continua Health Alliance, which has more than 140 members including Samsung Electronics, Hewlett-Packard, Philips, Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and United Health Group.

"Owning important IP in the Bluetooth arena is a very smart strategic move," Castonguay said. He added the question is whether in the long term ARM will integrate such technologies into its core cellular chipset architecture.

"We see devices that could be multimode," he said, communicating back to cellular networks and to each other.

MachNation analyst Dima Tokar noted that Bluetooth connectivity is "an interesting alternative" to Wi-Fi and that in IoT, the low power consumption of Bluetooth connectivity is very appealing for battery powered devices. "We may soon see routers that support IP connectivity via both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios," he said. 

Tokar added that there might also be "an uptick in interest in Bluetooth connectivity from connected device manufacturers, and ARM is getting ahead of the demand with these timely acquisitions."

For more:
- see this ARM release
- see this IDG News Service article
- see this ZDNet article
- see this V3 article

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