GENEVA, Switzerland – Fabless chip company Nordic Semiconductor ASA, well known as a supplier of low power 2.4-GHz radio ICs, is ready to take its business to the next level, which is the combination of wireless transceivers, sensors and digital processing.
Nordic (Oslo, Norway), founded in 1983 as Nordic VLSI, is a public company and made a net profit of $18.9 million on sales revenue of $139.1 million in 2011. But sales declined slightly in 2011 from $141.8 million in 2010.
The company's special skill is in designing low-power wireless ICs for short-range applications such as Bluetooth LE. Nordics chips are sold into a wide range of product categories including PC peripherals, remote controls, gaming controllers, sports and health monitors, audio devices and industrial products.
But Nordic is looking to move beyond RF said Svenn-Tore Larsen, CEO, speaking at the European executive conference organized here by the Global Semiconductor Alliance. Speaking on a panel discussion intended to address what the future semiconductor industry will look like Larsen said: "We have the analog part. What we need to do is integrate more digital and the sensor. We need to establish the platform,"
The concept the wireless sensor networks (WSNs) based on tiny motes that combine sensing, with analog, digital, RF and an energy source has been discussed many times over the last decade. But Larsen indicated that the idea's time may be coming soon. But of course the optimum platform would vary from application to application.
"We are working in five university projects around the world; in asia, the United States and in Scandinavia. It's important to pick right sensor; to pick the right technologies before they get too expensive."
The reference to expense suggests that Nordic is in the mood to acquire technology or companies so that it is in the position to supply complete platforms. "The platform is the selling component," said Larsen.
The obvious risk is that whoever gets to be the prime contractor in putting WSN platform together gets to decide which other components, such as MEMS sensors, RF and MCUs are included.
A number of companies have been making acquisitions and alliances in this area of the past months. Silicon Laboratories Inc. announced the acquisition of IC Sensors Ltd. in October 2010 and MCU company Microchip Technologies Inc. announced it had bought gesture recognition company Ident Technologies AG earlier this month.
Larsen told EE Times: "It could be appropriate to have MEMS expertise." But he added that cooperation is also a workable strategy. "We are co-operating with certain companies in different segments. We have digital expertise in-house already."