ST to Strengthen MCU Portfolio via Acquisitions

Article By : Nitin Dahad

The company shored up its wireless connectivity options for its microcontroller line by buying UWB and cellular IoT companies...

STMicroelectronics today announced two separate deals, one to acquire ultra-wideband (UWB) technology specialist BeSpoon and the other to buy the assets of Riot Micro, which was developing cellular Internet of things (IoT) connectivity. With the acquisitions, ST aims to strengthen its wireless connectivity capabilities, especially in support of its STM32 microcontrollers and secure MCUs.

BeSpoon, based in Le Bourget du Lac, France, is a fabless semiconductor company, founded in 2010, that specializes in UWB communications technology, developed over time in partnership with CEA-Leti in Grenoble, France. At CES in Las Vegas in 2014, BeSpoon showed a smartphone concept equipped with UWB, called the SpoonPhone.

The technology gradually evolved and BeSpoon is now focused on enabling live location data in Industry 4.0 applications. The company supports the omlox standard, an open and interoperable networking standard for real-time location in smart factories. With omlox, products from different manufacturers can be networked together in a core zone and various locating technologies (including UWB, Wi-Fi, GPS, 5G, RFID, and BLE) can be easily connected.

omlox standard UWB IoT Cellular
The omlox standard concept, adopted by BeSpoon. The sstnadard enables interoperability between devices using UWB, RFID, 5G, BLE, Wi-Fi, and GPS as used in production, delivery, and storage. (Image: omlox)

Now, its technology enables secure real-time indoor location with centimeter accuracy under adverse environmental conditions. ST said the integration of this key secure positioning technology in the STM32 product portfolio will enable developers of IoT, automotive and mobile communication applications to provide services such as secure access, and precise indoor and outdoor mapping.

ST will acquire BeSpoon from its majority shareholder, Trumpf, and from its founders. In parallel with the transaction, ST and Trumpf will enter into a strategic partnership for UWB tracking technology. Trumpf, a provider of machine tools and lasers for industrial manufacturing, was behind the launch of omlox as a universal interface for many connectivity technologies, with around 60 partners last month. The standard is being promoted now by Profibus, a global industrial standards organization.

Cellular IoT

Riot Micro, based in Vancouver, Canada, designs cellular IoT solutions, borrowing design techniques from Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi to LTE Cat-M and NB-IoT to optimize system cost and power. The integration of cellular communication capabilities into the STM32 portfolio will strengthen ST’s offer for customers developing applications such as asset tracking, metering, and fleet management services.

Riot Micro’s RM1000 device (Image: Riot Micro)

Riot Micro was established as Wimatek Systems in 2007 and then changed to its current name in 2014. Its RM1000 baseband modem chip for cellular IoT utilizes BLE and Wi-Fi architecture techniques to deliver cellular IoT with the low power and cost characteristics of short-range wireless systems. The device is a dual-mode LTE-M / NB-IoT cellular baseband with integrated SRAM and full software stack comprising LTE L2/L3, AT Command stack, and TCP/UDP/IP stack.

While ST already had worked with BeSpoon, we asked what led to the choice of Riot Micro. A spokesperson told EE Times, “ST chose them because their staff is made of senior specialists with expertise in telecommunication products covering signal processing, protocol stack and RF. Together, they have used a development methodology similar to the ones that have been used for optimized Bluetooth Low Energy solutions. This approach results in a much-optimized modem with improved area, power consumption and SW stack memory footprint. Riot has the full ownership of the hardware and software modem technology including protocol stack and applicative layers covers LTE CAT M and NB-IoT protocols.”

We also asked about the timescales and when we’d see STM32 MCUs with these new connectivity options integrated. The spokesperson told us, “We’ve not yet released our product roadmaps for the integration of technology from Riot Micro or for BeSpoon, but this information will be disclosed soon.”

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