Wheelings & Dealings: Sony Aims for IoT, Wearables with Altair Acquisition

By Rory Lidstone January 26, 2016

It’s been an interesting ride for Sony over the last few years. The company that once dominated the television industry had to rethink its commitment to HDTVs a few years ago when competitors in Korea—namely Samsung and LG—became the new go-to brands for HDTV buyers. On the gaming front, Sony went from trailing behind Microsoft to being the clear frontrunner in the console gaming space as the PlayStation 4 managed to wow the crowds. Then there’s Sony’s mobile business.

Now that Chinese brands make up 40 percent of smartphone shipments, it’s harder than ever for companies like Sony and LG to compete in a market that is notoriously tough for anyone but Apple and Samsung. And yet, just like with HDTVs, Sony seems unwilling to give up as evidenced buy its newly announced acquisition of Altair Semiconductor for the purchase price of US$212 million (approximately 25 billion yen). The acquisition is expected to complete in early February.

Based in Israel, Altair develops and sells products focused on LTE technology and owns valuable modem chip technology and related software for LTE. In particular, the company’s modem chips stand out in the industry for their low power consumption, high performance and competitive cost. Undoubtedly, the benefits of these chips will be used to enhance Sony’s lineup of smartphones and tablets that have been well received critically, but are largely ignored by consumers.

However, according to Sony’s official statement on the acquisition, buying Altair is about a lot more than traditional cellular devices. On the contrary, it’s about the future of the mobile space.

“LTE is already widely used in data communication for mobile phones, and is also expected to play a pivotal role in the interconnection of the Internet of Things (IoT),” reads Sony’s release. “Going forward, more and more ‘things’ are expected to be equipped with cellular chipsets, realizing a connected environment in which ‘things’ can reliably and securely access network services that leverage the power of cloud computing.”

In other words, by acquiring Altair, Sony wants to move forward with research and development on new sensing technology. In particular, the company plans to combine its own sensing technologies—namely its Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and image sensors—with Altair’s modem chip technology.

The end goal for Sony is to “develop a new breed of cellular-connected, sensing component devices.” Mincing no words, the company has specifically named IoT devices and wearables as ideal use cases for its new LTE solutions.

At this week’s ITEXPO Business Technology conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. the topic of IoT is a hot one.  Gary Audin, Senior Technology Analyst & EDUcast Host, Telecom Reseller will moderate a session  Wed. Jan. 27 at 2:30pm titled “State of IoT” that will explore trends  in wireless technologies and discuss ways cell providers can keep up. 




Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Writer

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