Marvell, MediaTek unveil new chips to target Internet of Things

Marvell and MediaTek are unveiling new platforms for the Internet of Things and wearable devices, and the chipset companies hope that their announcements will let them capture part of a market they expect to grow as more gadgets besides smartphones and tablets get connected.

Marvell's solution sports a number of different elements, including embedded wireless microcontrollers and RF transceivers combined as a system-on-a-chip (SoC). The platform also includes software and connectivity support for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the Zigbee standard, which is used in home appliances. Interestingly, Marvell's solution also supports Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Wireless Accessory Configuration as part of its software for Wi-Fi chips as well as the software needed to get certification under Apple's Made for iPhone program. That could make it easier for products with Marvell chips to be controlled by iOS devices.

"We see this market as being extremely fragmented," Philip Poulidis, Marvell's vice president and the general manager of the company's Internet of Things business, told FierceWireless. He noted that there are many companies that make things as diverse as sprinkler systems, door locks and appliances that have never put RF chips into their products.

Marvell "wanted to make it very simple to develop applications on top" of its chips, so that developers have all of the tools and protocol support they need to get their gadgets easily connected. That's why the company created its EZ-Connect Software Platform to go with the new chips to help developers get access to cloud-service providers and certifications, among other services.

Marvell envisions the Wi-Fi chip being used in home appliances to better identify faulty parts and facilitate faster repairs; the Bluetooth chip could be used for wearable devices; and the Zigbee chip could be used for in-home furnishings and appliances such as lighting. Poulidis said that the Zigbee Alliance "has made great strides over the last few months to improve" its platform. "From a  technology standpoint we feel it is superior in terms of mesh [networking]," he said. "The cost structure is really efficient."

Meanwhile, MediaTek announced LinkIt, a development platform built to accelerate the wearable and IoT markets. The platform leverages MediaTek's Aster SoC for wearables and IoT products. Aster is a tiny chip that supports Bluetooth LE and has built-in memory for applications.

The LinkIt platform supports application development based on Aster and MediaTek will support developers with reference designs, hardware kits and software development kits.

LinkIt is just the first program that MediaTek is supporting via its new MediaTek Labs venture, which it its pitching as a global ecosystem for developers to create new devices using MediaTek's chips.

Marc Naddell, vice president of ecosystems at MediaTek, told FierceWireless that the Labs initiative will enable new business models for the company and expand on its heritage of providing reference designs.

For more:
- see this Marvell release
- see this GigaOM article
- see these two separate MediaTek releases

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