MADISON, Wis. — Keyssa, a Campbell, Calif.-based tech company, unveiled last week an industry initiative called “Connected World.” The company lined up its big investors, including Foxconn and Samsung, to proclaim that momentum is building for Keyssa’s mmWave technology.
Keyssa’s technology is designed for extremely high-speed data transfer between mobile devices and connected devices.
If you didn’t know Keyssa, you might be forgiven for thinking that this is yet another startup chasing down a decades-old, yet-to-blossom, very high-bandwidth wireless connectivity market — similar to WirelessHD and WiGig.
However, on closer examination, it becomes clear that Keyssa has no interest in a wireless technology horse race. Keyssa wants the connector market.
Keyssa has developed a lower-cost low-power mmWave wireless chip, operating at speeds up to 6Gbps. More important, it has a tiny ready-to-use contactless connectivity module. Focused on manufacturability, Keyssa designed the module to meet all system-critical electromagnetic and mechanical requirements.
Keyssa sees this chip as its crown jewel. Its mission is to replace connectors with low cost, low power and the reliability that can entice system OEMs to implement in Keyssa’s mobile and other system products.
One question looms large, though.
Can Keyssa’s technology stand a chance against the tried and tested connectors everyone is so accustomed to using today?
Keyssa sees its key in the industry’s insatiable appetite for speed. “Managing higher speed signals using copper, especially in smaller and smaller form factors, has become a significant engineering challenge,” said Keyssa. Systems engineers have begun seeking alternatives for device-to device connectivity, the company claims.
Interestingly, Keyssa sees this limitation as more evident in internal connections. How do you handle a board-to-board, or camera-to-application processor connectivity, when the signals that must be transmitted are becoming so big?
Meet Eric Almgren
Before getting further into the story, let’s meet Eric Almgren, Keyssa CEO, who represents the human factor behind the technology.
A founder of Silicon Image, Almgren can be described as one of the few lucky engineering executives who got a second chance to leverage everything he did right [or wrong] with the previous technology he championed. He now has a do-over at a different company.
Almgren ran Silicon Image for 11 years. He has already seen one runaway success with HDMI. He knows what it takes to win the market. He watched how his customers wrestled initially with the new connectivity technology.
When Silicon Image acquired SiBEAM in 2011 (Almgren was still Silicon Image’s CEO), Almgren also saw his company struggle with the push for SiBEAM’s WirelessHD.
WirelessHD is a proprietary technology designed for HD video content to be wirelessly transmitted to consumer electronics products. It operates on a 7 GHz channel in the 60 GHz Extremely High Frequency radio band.
Silicon Image was hoping to turn it into a broadly accepted wireless version of HDMI. This has yet to happen.
In October 2012, the same month he left Silicon Image, Almgren took over as CEO of Keyssa, a startup founded in 2009. Keyssa is a developer of “Kiss Connectivity,” based on a proprietary solid-state connector that uses extremely high frequency to provide low-power, high-speed data transfer.
This description begs the question of whether Keyssa is pursuing a market already occupied by other high-bandwidth wireless technologies, such as WirelessHD or IEEE 802.11ad promoted by WiGig.
Asked the question, Almgren’s answer was an emphatic no. Nothing, he said, could be further from the truth. “The only thing we have in common is that we use 60 GHz band.”
“Keyssa uses the same band, but is optimized for short distances,” he stressed. It allows Keyssa to offer a higher bandwidth, lower latency, smaller antenna and lower power. “Our tech is a point-to-point solution, not a shared network like others.”
While other wireless technologies target long-distance connectivity, Keyssa positions Kiss Connectivity as a close-proximity technology that enables consumers “to share videos and other files, simply by touching one device to another.”
Keyssa’s near-field, high-bandwidth approach “avoids problems with other wireless technologies,” noted Almgren. Problems inherent with WiFi or Bluetooth include difficulties in pairing, dealing with passwords, the potential for signals falling out and snooping, he explained.
With Kiss, “Product designers are now freed from the design frustrations of wired connectors and customer frustrations with wireless communications,” according to Keyssa.
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