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Fairchild races to the low power segment of MEMS

Posted: 14 May 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fairchild  Xsens  MEMS  sensor 

Fairchild Semiconductor International Inc. is fixed for its entry into the MEMS market as it finally sealed the acquisition deal with Netherlands-based Xsens Technologies BV.

A private company specialising in 3D motion tracking systems based on MEMS inertial sensors, Xsens' purchase was reported back in March 2014 (see Is Fairchild eyeing MEMS sensors with Xsens buy?).

Mark Thompson, CEO of Fairchild, announced at a meeting held alongside the Global Semiconductor Alliance (GSA) Executive Forum in Munich that the company spent approximately $60 million to acquire Xens and its sensor fusion technologies. These will enable a number of context-awareness functions in mobile, industrial control and stabilisation, health and fitness applications, as well as 3D character animation, the companies said.

Casper Peeters, co-founder and CEO of Xsens, said: "Xsens has the sensor and software skills. We make systems. Fairchild has the low-power MEMS capability." Xsens will operate as an independent subsidiary of Fairchild and will continue to be headquartered in Enschede, The Netherlands.

"Xsens algorithms embedded within hardware enable very low power inertial MEMS. That's going to come out later this year," said Vijay Ullal, president and COO of Fairchild. Ullal said Fairchild has already developed six-degrees of freedom accelerometer-gyroscope and that it was getting the MEMS part made in a foundry.

"We're not intending to compete head-on with the likes of STMicroelectronics and InvenSense. They have their markets in mobile phones and tablets. We will go into markets where low power is important; accuracy is important; support is important," said Ullal. Similarly Ullal said Fairchild was not interested in serving the automotive industry with motion-tracking MEMS at present.

In the past Xsens has developed motion-tracking products based upon MEMS inertial sensor technology that it has bought in from suppliers such as STMicroelectronics. It has provided systems for industrial applications and for body-motion tracking used in 3D character animation and sports and fitness studies. Xsens customers include Electronic Arts, NBC Universal, Daimler and other leading institutes and companies.

"There are plenty of markets beyond smartphones and tablets; especially in wearables and the Internet of Things," Ullal added stressing that Fairchild intends to focus on providing application-specific components, sub-systems and complete systems rather than standard MEMS components. "The value-add is in the applications knowledge and the algorithms deployed in hardware and software," he said.

Ullal said that by controlling both the hardware and software Fairchild is able to optimise the whole motion-tracking system for low power. "We could bring [MEMS] manufacturing in-house. Right now it's in a foundry but that's not important," he said. He added that Fairchild would buy-in RF, GPS and magnetometer components or die to complete motion-tracking systems as necessary.

- Peter Clarke
  EE Times Europe





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