Chip Makers Work to Navigate the IoT

Carl Weinschenk
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5 Defining Tech Trends that Will Shape Business

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next big thing – for chip makers.

ABI Research released research that suggests that the IoT will represent 28 percent of the wireless chip market by 2021. Commentary from ABI, highlighted at Datamation, is that analyst Andrew Zignani expects much of the growth to come in the form of multiprotocol systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) that support multiple standards.

The range of protocols supported by the SoCs will include Bluetooth Smart, Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi – including the emerging HaLow (802.11ah) protocol -- and 802.15.4. It seems that the latter will account for a good deal of the growth:


Earlier this week, ABI Research predicted that the market for ZigBee, Thread and other 802.15.4-based technologies would grow by leaps and bounds, attaining a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60 percent between 2016 and 2021. By then, 802.15.4 will be supported by more than 28 percent of connected devices, excluding smartphone and consumer electronics.

With that much money on the table, it is not surprising that jockeying for position has commenced. Last week, eWeek reported that Cypress Semiconductor is acquiring Broadcom’s IoT chip business for $550 million. The acquisition includes Broadcom’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and ZigBee products and the WICED brand. Cypress’s goal is to create a high profile in a number of embedded systems, including the automotive, industrial and consumer sectors.

Buying and selling of lines of products and know-how is very important in the complex chip category. Last week, RCR Wireless said that Sequans’ Calliope LTE Cat-1 has been approved for use for voice over LTE (VoLTE) by Verizon. The IoT-specific news in the announcement is that a related module, the VZ120Q, was also certified. The module supports IoT functions in security systems, wearables, health care, in-car applications, tracking monitors, and a variety of other applications.

Intel continues to try to adjust to a new reality. The Tech Report posted a piece that is almost completely a tale of woe for the company. Intel is laying off 12,000 workers – 11 percent of its workforce – and abandoning its Broxton and SoFIA (Smart or Feature Phone with Intel Architecture) SoCs. However, the story says that the company believes that the IoT could represent a silver lining:

Intel told Forbes that it sees the budding IoT market as a potential growth space for a few reasons. The company says the IoT lacks established players, unlike the smartphone and feature phone markets. Intel also figures it has a platform advantage in this space, thanks to the ubiquity of x86 PCs as endpoints and servers.

The IoT has been in the public eye for a while. However, the mechanisms and protocols to enable the IoT to fulfill the fullest vision that has been set for it are just taking shape. Nowhere is this more important – or complex – than on the chip level.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.



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