Ember buys world-leading 802.15.4 radio technology; targets fast-growing market for 'ZigBee' compliant products
Technology licensing deal with UK-based Cambridge Consultants Ltd. and integrating experienced development team positions Ember to offer single-chip ZigBee solution in 18 months
March 29, 2004 - CAMBRIDGE, UK and BOSTON, USA Ember Corporation today announced that it has purchased one of the worlds deepest portfolios of 802.15.4 radio frequency (RF) integrated circuit technology from Cambridge Consultants Ltd. (CCL) and hired the engineering team that developed it.
These strategic moves enable Ember to offer radio, network and software in an integrated 802.15.4/"ZigBee" package that serves the rapidly emerging market for low-cost, low-power networking applications. The market for ZigBee chips is expected to reach half a billion units by 2008, according to analyst Kirsten West of West Technology Research Solutions. "The potential size of these new wireless markets totally dwarfs anything we have seen so far with early consumer wireless standards," West said.
The CCL deal gives Ember exclusive rights to CCLs 802.15.4 single-chip architecture, which supports low-power radio communications in demanding environments such as industrial facilities as well as license to use CCLs library of low-power radio components and a wide range of digital communications intellectual property. The deal also sees a further two years of CCLs integrated circuit development services to accelerate product development.
Paired with Embers embedded mesh networking intelligence, CCLs radio technology will create a single-chip platform for mesh networking applications such as building security, heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation; inventory control; industrial controls; and transportation infrastructure safety monitoring. CCL is one of the worlds top developers of wireless applications, integrated circuits and intellectual property for low-powered, embedded radio.
"This acquirement proves our commitment to the market and to consolidating key intellectual property networking and radio in one product," said Ember CEO Jeff Grammer. "Companies developing 802.15.4-based products need radio and networking technologies that interoperate seamlessly, instead of spending valuable development time stitching them together. Coupling our current partner-based development strategy via Chipcon with outstanding in-house expertise makes Ember the sound choice for these companies."
The development team, now part of Ember, will be the core of an expanded European presence based at CCLs facilities in Cambridge, UK. Ember Europe now becomes the "fabless" silicon arm of Ember Corporation. The subsidiary also includes Embers existing UK sales and service staff and former CCL associate director Jim Schoenenberger, who takes the position of director of business development.
"Wireless technologys installed base is a tiny fraction of whats possible," said Nick Horne, Ember Europes director of semiconductor design. "By the middle of next year a perfect time for the markets volume ramp up we expect to have the networking and radio functionality that application developers need on a single chip."
Ember will also port its EmberNet mesh-networking platform to the CCL platform, and continue EmberNet development for next-generation products.
About ZigBee Alliance
ZigBee: Wireless Control That Simply Works
The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies working together to enable reliable, cost-effective, low-power, wirelessly networked, monitoring and control products based on an open global standard. The ZigBee Alliance is a rapidly growing, non-profit industry consortium of leading semiconductor manufacturers, technology providers, OEMs, and end-users worldwide. Membership is open to all. Additional information can be found at www.zigbee.org.
About Cambridge Consultants Ltd
Cambridge Consultants Ltd. (CCL) is one of the worlds leading product design and development companies. It has a long track record in wireless applications, and works at all levels of the technology from developing ICs and silicon IP for low-power embedded radio, through the design of mainstream wireless devices such as mobile phone handsets, to high-end professional radio applications. Its portfolio embraces standards such as GSM, DECT, Bluetooth and ultra-wide band (UWB), as well as industry-specific protocols such as air traffic control, and its work has previously led to the spin-out of successful wireless-oriented companies. In addition to wireless expertise, CCL has a library of digital silicon IP including processor and DSP cores optimised for low power applications, and a library of analogue IP that has been proven on major silicon foundry processes around the world. These elements provide further essential ingredients for the single-chip wireless solution, as control is typically required in addition to a radio. CCLs royalty-free RISC processor core, XAP2, is integrated into the market-leading Bluetooth chip for example, and has been the heart of tens of millions of ICs delivered by various CCL clients. For more information click here.
About Ember Corporation
Ember removes the barriers to embedded networking. Embers self-organizing, self-healing, wireless mesh technology is uncompromisingly robust, easy to use, and flexible. The EmberNet networking platform gives forward thinking companies the means to create products that do more by communicating better. Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, Ember Corporation is a privately held company with investments from Polaris Venture Partners, GrandBanks Capital,
Dr. Robert Metcalfe, DFJ New England, Stata Venture Partners, RRE Ventures and DFJ ePlanet and is focused on enhancing sensing and control products through wireless connectivity. More information is available at www.ember.com.
An analysts view of the market
The market analysis firm West Technology Research Solutions (WTRS) - who work extensively in low-power radio markets - forecasts a very strong future for ZigBee wireless networking. Its estimates predict rapid growth to a likely annual demand for over half a billion chipsets within four years (chart). Home and building networking and automation is expected to lead the technology's adoption, accounting for around three quarters of this total in 2008. Stronger take-up in the industrial sector will follow, but this is always likely to lag behind home and building sectors until industrial OEMs and users are convinced that RF (radio frequency) signals will not interfere with existing equipment, and that security is adequate.
"The potential size of these new wireless markets totally dwarfs anything we have seen so far with early consumer wireless standards," says Dr Kirsten West, Principal Analyst with WTRS. "That's why the ramp-up will be so much faster, as there are simply such a huge number of applications that could benefit. Monolithic ZigBee solutions will be a very important factor in moving quickly to high market penetration, as they will offer the price that's needed for high volume applications."
WTRS expects to see a lot of ZigBee product and technology announcements during 2004, and for design-ins to start in earnest in 2005.
This firm's forecasts are based on a proprietary technique which makes extensive use of macro economic factors, a technique that has proved very successful in predicting realistic Bluetooth chipset sales through the downturn.
This information is derived from WTRS's report: 'ZigBee: The Future of Dispersed Automation'.
West Technology Research Solutions, LLC, 2247A Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA.. t: 650-940-1196; http://www.westtechresearch.com
Contact Cambridge Consultants Ltd.