Monday, March 25, 2013

Intel buys GPS GNSS Chip Maker

Intel has just bought the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) business chip business unit of ST-Ericsson, a joint venture operated by STMicroelectronic, which supplies chips for GPS navigation systems and wireless phones. ST-Ericsson's GNSS product family includes personal handset receivers that interact with both the United States' GPS technology and Russia's GLONASS geo-location services. It is claimed that GPS + GLONASS satellites help refine position to the nearest centimeter accuracy, making location more accurate, especially in dense ‘urban canyon’ environments; Apple has started supporting GPS and GLONASS starting with the iPhone 4S.

The GPS unit will become part of Intel's mobile chip unit. This will help Intel compete a little more completely with Qualcomm, which has pretty strong GPS assets. ST-Ericsson's GPS-related intellectual property rights and engineers will add to Intel's already existing GPS technology and assets it already has, including the Xposys single chip receiver. The deal is expected to close in August.

According to ST-Ericsson officials, the market for such location technologies is continuing to grow who predict that, by 2014, four out of every five phones shipped will be location-aware. That kind of technology is particularly attractive to Intel, which is aggressively pushing its way into the booming mobile device space, particularly markets for smartphones and tablets. Most of these devices currently are powered by systems-on-a-chip that are designed by ARM and made by Samsung, Qualcomm, Nvidia and others.

Intel could be making a significant move into the mobile market with speculation that its chip will power the upcoming Samsung Galaxy 3 tablet.

It's not clear if Ericsson's Indoor Maps and Positioning platform is part of this deal, which provides developers with tools to create indoor maps and facilitate indoor positioning designed for Android OS and mobile phone networking. The Indoor Positioning system comprises Indoor Maps and Positioning platform, map studio, SDKs and positioning, all provided as a complete development framework.

ST Microelectronics is left with its MEMS unit, which has offered a cascade of new gyroscopes with 2 and 3 axes, making indoor navigation possible.

More details on each company in our report