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Silicon Labs buys mesh networking firm Telegesis for $20m

Steve Rogerson
November 25, 2015
Silicon Labs has acquired for US$20m Telegesis, a supplier of wireless mesh networking modules based on Silicon Labs’ Zigbee technology. A privately held company founded in 1998 and based near London, Telegesis has established itself as a Zigbee expert with momentum in the smart energy market, providing Zigbee modules to many of the world’s top smart metering manufacturers.
This acquisition should accelerate Texas-based Silicon Labs’ roadmap for Zigbee and Thread-ready modules and enhances the company’s ability to support customer needs with mesh networking ranging from wireless system-on-chip (SoC) devices to plug-and-play modules backed by 802.15.4 software stacks and development tools.
Telegesis modules integrate the antenna and provide a pre-certified RF design that reduces certification costs, compliance efforts and time to market. Users can migrate later from modules to cost-efficient SoC-based designs with little system redesign and full software reuse.
The market for Zigbee modules is large and growing. According to IHS Technology, 20 per cent of all Zigbee Pro integrated circuits shipping today are used in modules, and Zigbee module shipments are expected to grow at a compounded rate of 24.6 per cent between now and 2019.
Telegesis exclusively uses Silicon Labs’ Zigbee technology in its module products, which are deployed in smart meters, USB adapters and gateways for smart energy applications. Additional target applications include home automation, connected lighting, security and industrial automation. The modules come with Silicon Labs’ EmberZNet Pro Zigbee protocol stack. Telegesis also offers development and evaluation kits to help developers streamline their Zigbee-based applications.
“The addition of Telegesis’s successful module business strengthens Silicon Labs’ position as the market leader in mesh networking for the internet of things,” said James Stansberry, senior vice president and general manager of Silicon Labs’ IoT products. “The combination of Telegesis modules, Silicon Labs mesh networking SoCs, best-in-class 802.15.4 software stacks and easy-to-use wireless development tools provides customers with a seamless migration path from modules to SoCs and from Zigbee to Thread-based networks.”
Telegesis’s position in the Zigbee module market complements Silicon Labs’ 11 years of experience in developing, certifying and shipping standards-based mesh networking products. As strategic partners, both companies share an understanding of not only 802.15.4 mesh networking technology but also the certification process.
“The Telegesis team is truly excited to become an integral part of Silicon Labs,” said Ollie Smith, director of business development at Telegesis. “Together, our hardware and software engineering teams will drive innovation in wireless mesh networking while giving customers a flexible choice of module and SoC-based designs leveraging both Zigbee and Thread technology.”
Silicon Labs completed the acquisition of Telegesis this month for a cash purchase price of approximately $20m. Telegesis is expected to contribute incremental revenue at an annual run-rate of approximately $8m to $10m for the remainder of Q4 2015 and also for fiscal 2016. Silicon Labs expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive on a non-GAAP basis, including the addition of approximately 20 Telegesis employees.
• Silicon Labs has introduced a series of reference designs to reduce time to market and simplify the development of Zigbee-based home automation, connected lighting and smart gateway products.
The first in a series of turnkey IoT products from the Texas-based company, the reference designs include the hardware, firmware and software tools that developers need to create interoperable, scalable connected home products based on its Zigbee Golden Unit HA 1.2 home automation software stack and Zigbee system-on-chip (SoC) mesh networking technology.
“The connected home is one of the most attractive markets for wireless connectivity, driven by a number of compelling applications such as home automation and connected lighting, and it’s growing quickly too,” said Lee Ratliff, principal analyst for connectivity and IoT at IHS Technology. IHS forecasts that connected home device shipments will grow from 59 million units in 2015 to 193 million units in 2018, a compounded annual growth rate of more than 48 per cent. According to Ratliff, successful connected home products must be standards-based, easy to deploy by mainstream consumers, designed to work in real-world environments and solve specific problems with minimal complexity.
Silicon Labs created the reference designs to reduce the complexity of connecting Zigbee devices, such as lights, dimmer switches and door and window contact sensors, in a connected home network. This design simplicity translates into ease of use for consumers who are increasingly purchasing do-it-yourself connected home products at home improvement retailers.
The Zigbee connected lighting reference designs feature wireless lighting boards as well as a plug-in demo board suitable for quick demonstrations and testing. The Golden-Unit Zigbee stack allows LED lights reliably to join, interoperate and leave a mesh network, as well as scale from a few to hundreds of light nodes on the same network. The connected lights can support white, colour temperature tuning and RGB colour settings as well as dimming.
The home automation reference designs include a capacitive-sense dimmable light switch and a small-form-factor door and window contact sensor. The light switch provides colour, colour tuning and dimming control capabilities that traditional switches cannot achieve.
Unlike conventional switches, these wireless, battery-powered switches have no moving parts and are easy to place anywhere in a home. The switch design features Silicon Labs’ EFM8 capacitive sensing MCU to detect different user gestures such as touch, hold and swipe. The contact sensor reference design provides all the tools needed to create wireless, battery-powered sensors used to monitor door and window positions – open or closed – a useful feature for automatically triggering room lighting.
There are two Zigbee gateway options to complement the reference designs: a plug-and-play USB virtual gateway that works with any PC development platform and supports the Windows, OS X and Linux environments as a virtual machine; and an out-of-the-box Wifi and Ethernet gateway reference design based on an embedded Linux computer system.
Both gateway options allow developers to control and monitor Zigbee HA 1.2 compliant end nodes through Wifi with any device with a web browser, such as a smartphone or tablet. Using a web-based user interface, developers can create rules between Zigbee end devices including lights, dimmable light switches and contact sensors.
The reference designs support the company’s EM358x mesh networking SoCs, combining an ARM Cortex-M3 processor core with a low-power 2.4GHz 802.15.4 transceiver. They can be used for low-power designs enabling battery life up to three years for dimmable light switches and up to five years for contact sensors on a CR2032 coin-cell battery.
The Golden-Unit Zigbee Pro-certified software stack and Zigbee HA 1.2-certified applications enable interoperability with other HA 1.2-certified devices.
Also supported are over-the-air Zigbee updates and future-proof upgrades to Silicon Labs’ Thread software. Mesh networking capability scales from tens to hundreds of nodes with individual selectivity, without costly rewiring of existing systems.
The wireless development kit has configuration and debugging tools to simplify design, as well as packet trace port on EM358x SoCs for network signal debugging.
Also included are FCC and CE pre-certified hardware for easy system configuration and fast time to market, and complete schematics, layout and bill of materials.
“Developers creating connected home products want simple, high-performance, battery-friendly solutions that make wireless design fast, easy and straightforward,” said Greg Hodgson, senior director of IoT at Silicon Labs. “Our new connected lighting, home automation and Zigbee gateway reference designs meet these developer priorities, providing the most robust, easiest to use hardware and software available.”