Electronic Design

Silicon Labs Buys Mesh Networking Module Company

With the wireless industry training its eyes on low-power networks, Silicon Labs recently acquired Telegesis, a maker of mesh networking modules based on ZigBee technology. The deal was signed for around $20 million.

Over the last year, Silicon Labs has been expanding into the module side of mesh networking. With the Telegesis buyout, the company extends its mesh networking products into modules backed by ZigBee software stacks and development tools. Based on the 802.15.4 wireless protocol, ZigBee, is a communications standard for generating personal area networks with low-power radios.

Earlier this year, Silicon Labs introduced its first Blue Gecko Bluetooth Smart modules, which were developed by Bluegiga Technologies, another one of Silicon Labs’ recent acquisitions. Adding Bluegiga's modules helped to balance the company's portfolio of wireless hardware and software for the Internet of Things, according to Tyson Tuttle, chief executive of Silicon Labs, which also makes system-on-chips.

Telegesis has developed ZigBee modules primarily for smart meters, USB adapters, and gateways for smart energy networks. The modules can also be used in home automation, connected lighting, security and industrial automation. Telegesis already had a relationship with Silicon Labs, using its mesh networking chips ZigBee protocol stack in its modules.

The confidence in modules is not misplaced. About 20% of all ZigBee integrated circuits will ship in modules this year, according to research firm IHS Technology. In addition, ZigBee module shipments are expected to grow at an annual rate of 24.6% between 2015 and 2019.

James Stansberry, senior vice president of Silicon Labs and general manager of the IoT division, says that Telegesis modules will give customers a “migration path” from chips to entire modules based on both ZigBee and Thread—another protocol for personal area networks that support mesh networking.

Earlier this year, the Thread Group announced that it would begin working with the ZigBee Alliance to make its protocol compatible with the ZigBee Cluster Library application layer. Thread was developed in part by Google’s Nest smart home division, along with chipmakers Samsung Electronics and ARM Holdings. Thread places a significant emphasis on mesh networking as its core feature.

As rival protocols to Bluetooth Smart, Thread and ZigBee are both designed for consumer and industrial equipment that requires short-range wireless data transfers. ZigBee transfers data at around 250 kilobits per second, making it ideal for intermittent transmissions from sensors or other simple devices. The transmission range is typically limited to between 10 and 100 meters.

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