Imagination Sells Ensigma Wi-Fi Assets to Nordic

Article By : Nitin Dahad

Imagination Technologies has sold its Ensigma Wi-Fi development operations and Wi-Fi intellectual property (IP) technology assets to Nordic Semiconductor

Imagination Technologies has sold its Ensigma Wi-Fi development operations and Wi-Fi intellectual property (IP) technology assets to Nordic Semiconductor. The sale covers Ensigma’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies, while Imagination will retain its broadcast IP technology.

The move helps both companies achieve their own strategic visions, so as the cliché goes, it’s a ‘win-win’ for both companies. Nordic Semiconductor said Wi-Fi has long been the number one missing capability requested by its customers, and Imagination Technologies has been considering the sale of its Ensigma business unit for a while as it didn’t entirely fit within the company’s focus on graphics, vision, and artificial intelligence (AI) processing.

The Ensigma division comprised three product lines, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and broadcast, comprising around 90 people. Around 80% of this group associated with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, involving employees located in the U.K, Sweden, India, and Taiwan, will transfer to Nordic Semiconductor. The employees focused on broadcast IP (mostly DAB digital radio chips) will remain with Imagination Technologies.

Nordic Semiconductor CTO, Svein-Egil Nielsen said, “This is a dream come true for Nordic Semiconductor and its customers, particularly in the smart home market. We will now be able to add Wi-Fi functionality to future generations of Nordic products. We feel extremely fortunate to have found the perfect Wi-Fi team with decades of state-of-the-art design experience and expertise. We believe in owning every link in our product chain, and with the Imagination Wi-Fi team on-board we will now be able to deliver to our customers Wi-Fi hardware and software that Nordic has developed from the ground up, as we do with all our other wireless product ranges.”

Imagination Technologies CEO, Simon Beresford-Wylie added, “With Imagination’s strong focus on graphics, vision, and AI processing, we have amazing alignment with the key drivers of future electronics products. In order to focus on these opportunities, we concluded that our Wi-Fi IP division will thrive much better long-term within a company that has wireless connectivity at its center and where it will become a major focus of strategic, technological, and commercial innovation and growth.”

Imagination had hoped to integrate Ensigma into the wider business, as previous CEO Ron Black told EE Times in January 2019 when he joined the company. He said that connectivity was an important part of the business that was often overlooked. When he had joined, there were ongoing discussions to sell off the Ensigma wireless and broadcast IP business, but he said he decided against this.

Speaking to EE Times Europe, David Harold, chief marketing officer for Imagination Technologies, said, “Ensigma has some good customers, and is probably in a better state than before. We always had the vision it would be a more integrated fit with the rest of the company’s business but that it is not how it turned out. It was really like a separate business within. It now has a more sensible home at Nordic.” He said the financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed.

Ensigma, founded in 1986 and acquired by Imagination Technologies for about $7.5 million in 2001, was originally focused on digital audio and speech processing and had customers like the BBC, BT, Hitachi, and Texas Instruments. As part of Imagination, it had evolved to provide connectivity solutions for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, BLE, and IEEE 802.15.4, as well as low-power GNSS IP supporting GPS, GLONASS, Beidou, Galileo GNSS, and several satellite-based augmentation systems (SBAS) including WAAS and EGNOS. With its GNSS IP, the focus was on connecting devices in IoT networks directly to satellites rather than to local communications networks, enabling battery-powered remote IoT sensors and edge devices, wearables, and health monitors that need positioning, navigation, and timing services.

Expanding Nordic’s wireless portfolio

Nordic Semiconductor said the acquisition of the Ensigma business is the perfect opportunity to merge into its global organization a world-class Wi-Fi development team with a proven track record of delivering state-of-the-art Wi-Fi solutions. It also means Nordic will be one of few companies to offer all three of the most popular wireless IoT technologies: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and cellular IoT (both LTE-M and NB-IoT versions).

Nordic CTO Svein-Egil Nielsen commented, “As the global leader in short range Bluetooth wireless technology and the emerging leader in long-range cellular wireless IoT, there has long been a gap in between which our customers have been asking us to fill. And although it won’t happen overnight as this is an IP acquisition rather than one that comes with Wi-Fi devices ready to sell, we will now be able to add Wi-Fi functionality to future generations of Nordic products.”

The Nordic director of product management, Kjetil Holstad, added, “What’s just as exciting is the potential synergy between Nordic Semiconductor’s low power wireless heritage and the latest low power evolution of Wi-Fi that now allows battery-powered IoT devices. We plan to become an active member of the Wi-Fi Alliance and work with them, as we have and continue to do with multiple other major standards organizations and bodies, to maximize Wi-Fi’s low power wireless application potential using our decades of ultra-low power wireless expertise. He continued, “While it is too early to comment in any detail on specific product implications of this acquisition, I can say that we intend to create a development platform and environment that unifies all our wireless technologies. One that will bring all the benefits our customers have come to expect from Nordic in terms of lowering technological barriers to entry, removing unnecessary design complexity, and making it very easy for Nordic customers to add high quality, low power Wi-Fi functionality and features to their Nordic-based products and applications.”

This article was first published on EE Times Europe

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