"With our leading software capabilities and portfolio of energy friendly microcontrollers, wireless, and sensor ICs, we are very well positioned to deliver system-level IoT solutions," Tuttle told EE Times after the keynote.
The Internet of Things generated more than 15% of Silicon Labs' revenue last year and about 10% in 2012. Cable operators such as Time Warner, Cox, and Comcast are eager to push things like home automation and security products, he said. This year, he expects one-sixth of his company's revenue to come from the IoT -- from home automation, security, smart metering, and lighting control to smart buildings and wearable devices.
Silicon Labs has reason to be bullish about the IoT. Half of its $146.2 million of fourth-quarter revenue came from microcontroller and wireless, timing, power, and sensor products. Microcontroller and wireless products alone generated a record 30% of revenue, versus 13% a year earlier. The company attributes this increase primarily to the continued expansion of its MCU and wireless portfolio into the target IoT market.
It also says it gained momentum for the IoT after this year's CES, partly from the huge interest in wearable devices on the show floor. A bigger factor was Google's acquisition of Nest. Silicon Labs' ZigBee wireless chip and networking software are designed into Nest's thermostats and smoke detectors.
Energy Micro: Lightning rod
The Energy Micro acquisition is fueling Silicon Labs' confidence in the IoT market. The Oslo company was known for its power-efficient portfolio of 32-bit microcontrollers and its development of multi-protocol wireless RF solutions based on ARM Cortex-M architecture. The acquisition was "a lightning rod" for Silicon Labs, Tuttle said. Because the scalable feature sets offered by Energy Micro's product portfolio were "several years ahead of us," the acquisition "accelerated our IoT roadmap significantly."
Specifically, the deal expanded Silicon Labs' MCU portfolio by adding nearly 250 ARM-based EFM32 Gecko MCU products, ranging from extremely low-power, small-footprint MCUs based on the ARM Cortex-M0+ core to higher-performance, energy-friendly MCUs powered by the Cortex-M4 core capable of DSP and floating-point operations.
The acquisition is expected to enhance Silicon Labs' radio portfolio with Energy Micro's ultra-low-power EFR Draco radio products.
From CMEMS to IoT SoC? Not so fast
Last year, Silicon Labs launched its first CMOS plus MEMS (CMEMS) products. The technology, which the company calls "disruptive," is allowing for direct post-processing of high-quality MEMS layers for the first time on top of Silicon Labs' RF/mixed-signal CMOS technology.
The CMEMS oscillator family, manufactured by Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. in Shanghai, is used in cost-sensitive, high-volume embedded applications to replace quartz-based oscillators.
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