Startups often aim to fill gaps left by traditional companies. In this way, they indicate potential technology and market hot spots.
For that reason, I will be watching a number of IoT startups this year. The best — or, at least, luckiest — of them will get acquired by companies trying to fill those gaps.
Riot Micro stands in a particularly gutsy spot, competing with the likes of Qualcomm and other cellular baseband chip suppliers. It created an ultra-low-power chip to run a subset of the LTE protocol stack that it developed.
If the startup can get its chips tested and qualified by carriers before Qualcomm, et al., can respond, it could go from zero to a significant place in the M2M market. Meanwhile, it could serve as a bellwether for carrier adoption of the new cellular IoT standards — Cat M1 and Narrowband-IoT.
Advanced packaging is a key accelerator given the slowing pace of Moore’s law in high-end chips, and now it also is becoming a key ally for the IoT.Startup zGlue underlined this opportunity with its trailing-edge interposer with integrated passives.
It aims to enable a class of low-power, low cost SoCs with its 3,000 programmable pins and 100-MHz interfaces. Well worth watching.
zGlue's trailing-edge interposer brings chip stacks to IoT. (Images: zGlue)
Forget sub-watt processors; ETA Compute aims to enable a generation of sub-milliwatt chips that can crank out useful work. The company’s Dial architecture enables cores to run at 0.25 V, potentially delivering a five-fold improvement in MIPS/watt compared to today’s MCUs. At last check, they were still pushing beyond proofs-of-concept, but whether they get traction or not, this is the kind of design thinking that the IoT needs.
This startup invested the last several years refining a process to make fabric-based pressure sensors from materials ranging from artificial silk to Kevlar and denim. They target everything from car and wheelchair seats to data gloves for VR gamers and factory-floor workers, some with customizable haptic feedback.
It’s still early days for the 20-person company that could be a significant enabler for wearables and other IoT uses. It aims to raise up to $5 million this year to fund production of some of its designs and R&D on others.
This startup aims to take the LoRa network into both industrial and consumer markets for asset tracking and other uses. It’s worth watching for two reasons: LoRa is one of an emerging class of low-power wide-area networks opening up new use cases. Also, its founder was a lead designer on the first two generations of LoRa chips at Semtech and has a deep understanding of both the technology and the nascent market sector.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times