MADISON, Wis. -- Ceva Inc., a leading DSP-based IP platform licensor, has snatched up RivieraWaves, a privately held Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity IP vendor based in Sophia-Antipolis, France.
RivieraWaves, a red-hot startup founded in 2010, has 29 employees, mostly R&D engineers, with a marketing and sales staff of one. Nonetheless, it has already signed up more than 25 licensees, including Dialog Semiconductor, Renesas, and Celeno Communications. RivieraWaves has “many more blue chip semiconductor companies as its licensees, whose names I am not allowed to say,” Gideon Wertheizer, CEO of Ceva, tells EE Times in an interview.
The acquisition will help Ceva beef up its connectivity portfolio. Wertheizer also sees an opportunity for Ceva to scale RivieraWaves’ business substantially. To top it off, the startup’s acquisition will add an immediate boost to Ceva's annual IP licensing revenue in 2015.
During a call Wednesday with financial analysts, Ceva revealed that its combined 2015 licensing revenue is expected to grow by 25%. This is hardly chump change, considering that Ceva's annual licensing revenue in recent years has been $22-24 million.
Ceva will pay about $19 million to acquire RivieraWaves. Ceva's initial payment, at closing, will be about $12 million, with the rest contingent of RivieraWaves’ certain performance and other milestones. The two companies have agreed on a two-year retention plan for current RivieraWaves employees.
Werthiezer lays out two basic markets where Ceva can take advantage of RivieraWaves’ connectivity IPs. First is the infrastructure market. “We see among our customers -- those who build small cells and access points based on the Ceva DSP platform -- an almost immediate need to run software-based WiFi algorithms, in addition to LTE processing,” he explains.
Second is the mass market looking for hardwired connectivity solutions. “A lot of our customers lack connectivity in their SoCs developed for tablets, smartphones, and wearable devices. The demand is very big.”
As with any other company in the electronics industry today, Ceva is keeping an eye on the anticipated growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) market. With the acquisition of RivieraWaves, Ceva said that it hopes to extend its reach to include wearables, the smart home, connected cars, and the IoT. Noting that ABI Research predicts 35 billion connected devices by 2020, while Cisco forecasts 50 billion, Werthiezer explains, “It’s basically a market of billion devices that we’re talking about.”
Asked about the competition on the connectivity IP market, he stresses the difficulty of implementing wireless technologies either in hardware or software. “It's complicated. It ultimately requires system-level understanding,” he says.
As a result, according to him, there are “only a few players in the connectivity IP market.” However, he adds that Ceva sees Imagination Technologies as its main rival. Imagination late last year announced a WiFi, Bluetooth, and FM combo IP in one configurable solution called Ensigma.
Even before the RivieraWaves’ acquisition, Ceva wasn't oblivious to its customers’ demand for wireless connectivity solutions. As for WiFi, Ceva has worked with Antcor S.A. in Greece, which provides software baseband IP for the communications and connectivity chip industry. “We are still working with Antcor, and a few of our customers are using Antcor’s software 802.11ac WiFi IPs,” says Ceva's CEO. “The company still remains in our eco-system.”
For Bluetooth, Ceva has had an internal team working on it. Earlier this year, at the Linley Mobile Conference, Ceva pitched its TeakLite-4 DSP v2 architecture, with 50 new instruction sets, saying it now can handle Bluetooth connectivity (Classic or Low Energy). At that time, Ceva explained that the connectivity enhances the same single DSP core running other functions, including audio and voice software packages, always-on user interface (UI) functions, and a full suite of sensor-fusion capabilities.
Werthiezer says RivieraWaves’ Bluetooth solution, focused on Bluetooth Low Energy, complements Ceva's own Bluetooth development, whose activities are centered on the “dual mode” of Bluetooth Classic and Low Energy. “We can offer choices to our customers,” he adds. Over time, these separate Bluetooth activities will merge, he says.
Beyond 802.11ac and Bluetooth Low Energy, RivieraWaves’ wireless connectivity IP development activities include 802.11ah (using sub 1 GHz license-exempt bands to provide extended-range WiFi networks), 802.11p (vehicle-to-vehicle communication for automotive), and future versions of Bluetooth.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times