Silicon Labs to acquire smart home technology company Sigma Designs for $282M

Silicon Labs, a semiconductor company that manufactures products for the Internet of Things, Internet infrastructure, and industrial automation use cases announced last week that it will acquire Sigma Designs for a cash transaction valued at approximately $ 282M.

In case Sigma fails to meet certain financial conditions, the deal will still go ahead as planned for a reduced amount of $ 240M.

The deal is based on Sigma’s per share price of $ 7.05, a 26 percent premium over Sigma Designs’ closing price of $ 5.60 per share on Dec. 6, 2017. Sigma Designs is a smart home company that provides Z-Wave, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) technology for smart home solutions.

The acquisition of Sigma Designs will help Silicon Labs to expand its offerings in the smart home wireless connectivity market. “The connected home represents one of the largest market opportunities in the IoT. Today, there is no single dominant wireless technology for home automation, and protocols include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth®, Zigbee®, Thread, and proprietary,” said Tyson Tuttle, CEO of Silicon Labs. Additionally, the deal will allow Sigma to expand into Smart TV market.


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Chordant report tots up cost-saving opportunity from smart city tech

Chordant report tots up cost-saving opportunity from smart city tech

Governments, businesses and citizens could save over $ 5 trillion every year with help of smart city tech, claims Chordant report.

Smart city technologies could save enterprises, governments and citizens globally over US$ 5 trillion annually by 2022, according to new research published by Chordant, a newly launched business unit focusing on smart city developments and part of mobile technologies specialist Interdigital.

With higher concentrations of people and businesses located in urban areas, smart city and IoT technology will help cities get better use from existing assets, operate more efficiently and create more sustainable environments, says the report, Smart Cities and Cost Savings.

But IoT and smart technologies can only work, it warns, where a “holistic approach” is taken to collecting data from sensors, sharing it and analysing it effectively.

Read more: Analysis: Connected streetlights illuminate path to smart cities

Economic analysis

The report, which was conducted on Chordant/InterDigital’s behalf by market analyst firm ABI Research, goes on to consider the aggregated absolute cost-savings potential in a smart city of 10 million inhabitants over the next five years. These sums, apparently, are based on the yearly savings already achievable for 75 of the world’s cities with a total urban population of more than 5 million. The report claims that:

  • Governments could save as much as $ 4.95 billion annually, with street lighting and smart buildings representing two areas with the biggest potential to yield savings. Smart street lights alone might be expected to cut repair and maintenance costs by 30 percent, the report says.
  • Businesses operating in smart cities could save $ 14 billion in areas such as freight transportation, by using more energy-efficient transport options including drones, robots or driverless vans and trucks, and through operating smart manufacturing plants.
  • Citizens could achieve savings of up to $ 26.7 billion per year in areas such as utility bills, through the deployment of smart meters and microgrids, and in education with the development of a hybrid education system that mixes online learning with physical classrooms.

Read more: Juniper Research names UK’s top ten smart cities

Much to think about

Internet of Business spoke to Jim Nolan, executive vice president at Chordant about the findings. The potential for cities to save money looks great, we said, but what steps should municipal authorities be taking today to be more sure of reaping those rewards by 2020?

“Key steps would include thinking through their smart city strategy before committing to proof of concept projects [PoCs] with a focus on aggregation of data,” he said. “Most cities, towns, and regions already have significant data sources that are not leveraged or are siloed. Currently, many single function PoCs, [such as] smart garbage bins, smart lighting, environmental sensors and so on, don’t create lasting value as they don’t offer a large, aggregated suite of data sets that can be used to create solutions that save capex, opex and improve the quality of life of citizens – for example, by reducing congestion or environmental impact.”

If cities create multiple, single-focus PoCs with no ability to federate data, he added, these gains will be lost. But, he added, the smart city opportunity isn’t confined to sprawling urban conurbations. Small cities, towns, even villages, he said, can benefit, too, because “the ability to leverage aggregated data doesn’t end at local regional boundaries and integration across towns to broader regional areas creates additional value.”

Read more: Cisco announces $ 1 billion smart cities fund

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Rise of ‘smart wearables’ helps bolster overall market in Q3, says IDC

The total shipment volume of wearables globally saw a 7.3% year over year in Q3/2017 amounting to 26.3 million units, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC).

According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, while the overall wearable market is witnessing a consistent growth trend, a specific growth trend is noticed in the smart wearables (devices that have the ability to run third party applications) market but it is missing from the market associated with basic wearables (devices that cannot run third party applications).

For the quarter, the first place is jointly occupied by Fitbit and Xiaomi, followed by Apple, Huawei and Garmin. Fitbit and Xiaomi’s shipment volumes stood at 3.6 million, followed by Apple with 2.7 million, Huawei 1.6 million and Garmin 1.3 million. In terms of market share, Fitbit and Xiaomi led with 13.7%, Apple 10.3%, Huawei 6%, and Garmin 4.9%.

Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s wearables team, said: "Basic wearables – with devices coming from Fitbit, Xiaomi, and Huawei – helped establish the wearables market. But as tastes and demands have changed towards multi-purpose devices – like smartwatches from Apple, Fossil, and Samsung – vendors find themselves at a crossroads to adjust accordingly to capture growth opportunity and mindshare."

According to Canalys figures from last month, Apple has managed to reoccupy the lead position in the wearable band market due to the launch of the Apple Watch Series 3. A Canalys analyst said that in Q3/2017, the iPhone maker shipped 800,000 cellular-enabled Apple Watch units. The analyst Jason Low commented: “Strong demand for the LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 3 has dispelled service providers’ doubts about the cellular smartwatch not appealing to customers.”

In the meantime, the US wearables market will face a major threat from its Chinese counterpart as it will be overtaken by China’s market this year, according to eMarketer. As reported by The Drum, it has been projected by that 21% or 144.3 million residents of China will wear devices similar to the Apple Watch compared to 20.4% of US residents.

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What smart homes can learn from enterprise IoT

(from left) Roy Vella of Hive, me, Matt Van Horn of June and Rob Martens of Allegion. Photo courtesy of the Target Open House.

This year may go down as the last year that companies tossed connected devices out into the market without a plan for the long-term business model required to support it. Or at least I hope it is. This was a focus of a conversation I held last week in San Francisco at the Target Open House with the makers of several consumer connected devices.

Roy Vella, who is in charge of building the U.S. market for Hive, brought up the idea that when thinking about a business model or even lifecycle for a connected device a company should start with time. As in, how long would the business support the device? Hive sells a series of smart home devices for a monthly service charge.

Vella said the planned life of a product is an essential element in figuring out how much it will cost to support it. More than that, it also gives the manufacturer a clear sense of its responsibilities while providing consumers a clear sense of what they should expect.

I’ve talked about giving connected products an expiration date before, but I hadn’t really thought much about the power that comes with setting a time limit on a connected product. It makes the product look more like a service, and it also sets expectations throughout the supply chain.

The supply chain needs these expectations. I had a conversation ahead of the event with a chip company executive who was bemoaning the fact that one of his clients wanted a security update for a six-year-old connected product. But, as a consumer, my six-year-old connected light switches better get security upgrades, because they are now installed inside the wall.

Which brings us back to the cost of supporting connected devices. The concept is that instead of a piece of hardware, people are now buying a service. If you are in the enterprise or industrial world and reading this, you’re likely nodding along and wondering why it took so long for the consumer device makers to wake up to this.

For example, it’s common to negotiate support for that massive MRI machine software so the vendor services it and supports the software for a set amount of time. In some cases, the supply chain isn’t totally on board as witnessed by medical equipment vendors who are not updating bugs in their older gear, but the idea has been there for decades.

This is controversial in the consumer world because most companies don’t sell their devices as services, a point that June CEO Matt Van Horn was quick to point out. When people buy the June oven, they are buying an oven, not the service of being able to heat food perfectly.

But you can’t have connectivity without costs. Van Horn’s solution is to sell recipes as a service and to sell additional gear for the June oven. This could work. As a June oven owner, I asked Van Horn if I would be profitable as customer even if I never subscribed to the recipe service or bought any more gear.

He told me that cloud costs generally decline over time, which isn’t a real answer. I think we need to get to the point where the maker of a connected device can deliver that real answer. And as consumers, we need to rethink what we’re buying when we buy a connected device. Does that mean I need to pay an annual fee for “access” to my oven? Probably not, but it does mean a manufacturer has to have a real plan when I ask, how long will this last?

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

Life of PI for OSIsoft as smart grids start to roar

Life of PI for OSIsoft as smart grids start to roar

OSIsoft has announced its new connector for integrating data from electricity substations with its IoT platform, PI System.

Operational intelligence company OSIsoft has long had a keen focus on the utilities industry, with executives at the company claiming that over 1,000 utilities companies, all of the grid operators in the US, and hundreds of renewable power specialists use its PI System to manage their business.

PI System is basically an industrial IoT (IIoT) platform, designed to capture data from sensors, machinery and IoT devices in smart grids and apply real-time analytics to it. According to the company, this platform manages over 1.5 billion sensor-based data streams.

Last week, the company announced its new PI Connector for IEC 61850, an international standard defining communication protocols for intelligent devices located in electricity substations.  It is a part of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s (IEC) Technical Committee 57 reference architecture for electric power systems.

This connector will enable utilities to add data from IEC 61850-based devices – such as transformers and switchgear – to their installations of PI System.

Read more: Industrial IoT: Plenty of words, too little action, says GE

Automatically contextualized data

OSIsoft also claims that its new connector will make it easier for engineers at utilities to add new devices and new sources of data to their smart grids and other operational networks. They may want to do this in order to implement new processes for remote diagnostics, for example, or predictive maintenance. The company reckons that the market for IEC 61850-compliant equipment is growing at around 18 percent per year.

At Stedin, an electricity distribution system operator (DSO) in the Netherlands that services around 2 million residential and commercial customers, engineers are currently retrofitting 185 substations around the standard.

To do so, the company is working with OSIsoft to capture real-time data and synthesize it for use by a wide range of employees. As Anne van der Molan, grid strategist at Stedin, explained: “Utilities will need greater visibility and predictability into their operations to meet the demands of their customers in the future. To make decisions adequately, you need adequate underlying data.”

Read more: OSIsoft SAP tool kills the ‘data janitor’

Synthesizing raw data

There are several points of interest in this announcement from OSIsoft. 

First, the use of the term ‘synthesization’ suggests a new type of data analytics. It is used to convey the idea of the IoT platform as a data fabric – a multi-layered piece of software that transforms raw data into business insight, by providing it to employees in context.

Second, we expect to see a lot more people in the utilities sector using the ‘grid strategist’ title, as Anne van der Molan does, as these networks become more intelligent – and more complex to plan and manage.

Third, we were struck by OSIsoft’s term, ‘high-fidelity insights’. This is (perhaps) not just spin, but rather a nod to the type of precision tooling needed in software development as it increasingly focuses on IoT networks.

Read more: Smart meter provider creates app store for utilities using IoT edge devices

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