Consumer chip firm emerges in the UK
A major fabless semiconductor company is emerging from the UK’s high tech start-up community.
Toumaz, a developer of specialist medical sensors and low power wireless chips is to acquire Frontier Silicon, the digital radio chipset developer for around £32.3m.
This is the latest and largest expanison of the Abingdon, Oxfordshire-based Toumaz semiconductor business. At the start of the year Toumaz created a new wireless IC business, called Toumaz Microsystems, with help of multimedia processor intellectual property firm Imagination Technologies.
According to Toumaz CEO, Anthony Sethill, the acquisition of Frontier Silicon will “strengthen our commercial presence and provides us with essential engineering and R&D resource”.
Sethill knows Frontior Silicon very well. He was a founder of the DAB chipset supplier and its CEO until last year before joining Toumaz.
“The enlarged group can exploit our wireless solutions combined with the software systems, commercial expertise and tier one customer access of Frontier,” said Sethill.
According to Sethill, the the broader consumer market is now a major target as well as Toumaz’s existing healthcare markets.
Toumaz is centred around wireless medical chips, and also has its own DAB radio chips – the latter based on the same technology patents as in Frontier’s DAB chips. The patents come from King’s Langley-based Imagination Technologies.
Toumaz had been a medical chip company with wireless capability. What was it doing entering the consumer radio market?
“Our key vision is on the healthcare side and more and more healthcare will be delivered in the home,” Toumaz COO Noel Hurley told Electronics Weekly as long ago as November 2010. “If we are in consumer, we are already in the home. And there is no better way to understand consumer electronics than to do it. Then we can bring together consumer and healthcare.”
Toumaz now has a number of businesses, each with significant critical mass. The health device business, the low power wireless chip business and now a DAB digital radio consumer business.
Frontier supplies semiconductors, modules and software systems.
Frontier’s customer base includes big name consumer brands such as Bang & Olufsen, Bose, JVC, Panasonic, Philips, Pure, LG, Roberts Radio and Sony.
“The clear trend toward wireless and cloud-connected devices across many embedded markets is set to create huge opportunities,” said Professor Chris Toumazou, founder and executive chairman of Toumaz.
Toumaz Microsystems, the wireless chip business, focues on the design of low power radio ICs for embedded wireless devices in markets including: home automation, enterprise automation, healthcare, smart power, security, monitoring systems, and toys.
The product plans include multi-standard wireless chips with ultra-low power radio receiver and transmitter chips incorporating IEEE 802.15.6 [body area network standard] and other relevant standards.
According to the company, this will be “one of the first chips to be based on this new standard and will specifically target body area networks and a range of low-power domestic consumer wireless sensor applications.”
“The recently approved IEEE standard gives us a window of opportunity to move quickly to set the industry standard for ultra-low power wireless chips for use in Body Area Networks and also the wider wireless home and enterprise connectivity environments,” said Toumazou.
Imagination Technologies owns 25% of the wireless chip business and provides licences to hardware and software technologies, and even engineering resources.
“The extended collaboration with Toumaz, and our support of its newly established subsidiary, is part of an overall strategy of developing strategic partnerships and supporting the growth of ecosystems which will drive and exploit the opportunities of an increasingly internet-connected world,” said Imagination CEO Hossein Yassaie, in January.
The remaining part of Toumaz will focus solely on healthcare and sport applications, including licensing IP for these applications to others, using chips from the Microsystems subsidiary.
In November, Imagination Technologies confirmed Bristol as the location for its latest PowerVR graphics and multimedia R&D facility.
With more than 1,000 staff, its world-wide headquarters and many of its PowerVR R&D teams are based in Kings Langley, near London. Including its Leeds and Chepstow design centres, the UK is home to more than 70% of its workforce.