Altair Changes Its Name to Sony Semiconductor Israel

Four years after being acquired by Sony, Altair Semiconductor is becoming Sony Semiconductor Israel. “We have been honored to be part of Sony for the past four years, playing a key role in the company’s core business,” says Sony Semiconductor Israel CEO Nohik Semel. Semiconductor Solutions President and CEO, Terushi Shimizu, said: “We expect to see great innovations in IoT and to build AI capabilities directly into our Semiconductors and Solutions.”

Sony Semiconductor Israel provides of cellular IoT chipsets. They are considered the smallest and most highly integrated LTE CAT-M and NB-IoT chipsets on the market, featuring ultra-low power consumption, hardware-based security, and a carrier-grade integrated SIM (iSIM), all 5G ready.

Strategic move into Artificial Intelligence Market

In June 2020 Altair revealed it is entering  the Artificial Intelligence (AI) chips market: Sony Semiconductor Israel also developed the AI Digital Signal Processor (DSP), which was included in the recently announced intelligent vision sensor IMX500/IMX501 by Sony. The component is built of two chips embedded in stacked configuration inside a single package (Multi Chip Module) consisting of a Sony image sensor, and a DSP processor developed by Altair, which is responsible for a neuronal network inference operations.

When installed in a security camera, street camera, or other IoT devices, the logic circuit processes and sends only the inference itself to the network center. Thus, it saves processing and communication resources and enables a given device to function as a smart sensor without compromising the privacy of the people being photographed.

This move may explain why Altair is now called Sony Semiconductor Israel. Visual sensors are the core business of Sony Semiconductor Solutions Group, and “smart sensors” are going to be the next core business of Sony’s visual sensors. The new name represent a new role for the Israeli branch.

“Altair” will not disappear

Altair, now Sony Semiconductor Israel, partners with leading global vendors, including ARM, G+D (Giesecke+Devrient), HERE Technologies, Murata, and Sierra Wireless, to provide industrial and consumer IoT applications such as trackers, smart meters, smart labels, wearables, and vehicle telematics.

The Altair chipsets are commercially deployed on the world’s most advanced LTE networks, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Docomo, KDDI, SoftBank, Verizon, and Vodafone. The company announced that its cellular IoT product line continue to maintain the “Altair” branding.

 

Altair’s new business: AI DSP Engines

Photo above: Sony intelligent vision sensors IMX500 (left) and IMX501. Both include Altair’s DSP processor

Hod Hasharon-based Altair Semiconductor (owned by Sony) has secretly expanded its operations beyond the IoT sector and entered the Artificial Intelligence (AI) chips market. This came to light last month, when Sony announced new image sensors for smart control systems . The component is built of two chips embedded in stacked configuration inside a single package (Multi Chip Module) consisting of a Sony image sensor, and a DSP processor developed by Altair, which is responsible for a neuronal network inference operations.

This new family of smart image sensors is currently consists of two components: IMX500 and IMX501. When installed in a security camera, street camera, or other IoT devices, the logic circuit processes and sends only the inference itself to the network center. Thus, it saves considerable processing and communication resources and enables a given device to function as a smart sensor without compromising the privacy of the people being photographed.

A smart camera equipped with the visual-logic sensor can enumerate the number of people in the store and transmit the information without having to send their images to the cloud. It can discern congestion patterns in various complexes, and even track customer behavior in the store –  based only on analyzing their movements –  and without having to identify the customers themselves.

The images are sent back in a variety of configurations (see below): pure decoded information without visual elements, an image in various formats, or only the relevant visual area. From Sony’s point of view, this constitutes an entrance to a major market characterized by a very large growth. As far as Altair is concerned, this is a very surprising development, since so far the company has focused on communication solutions for IoT devices and not on the development of DSP or artificial intelligence processors.

Altair’s core activity is focused on IoT connectivity chips, with its flagship product being the ALT1250 chipset, which includes a modulator and a modem for supporting Cat-M1 standard and the NB-IoT standard. It features an RF front end circuit that supports all LTE bands, an RFIC circuit, a power management unit (PMU), memory, amplifier circuits, filters, an antenna switch, global navigation satellite system (GNSS), hardware-based security, an eSIM circuit and an internal micro controller unit (MCU) that allows customers to develop unique applications.

A new strategy for both Altair and Sony

Sony’s announcement positions it in a massive market and transforms it into ahybrid IoT-image-sensors player. The move can secure orders for Altair in very large quantities. However, it can also hint at a new Altair strategy that can develop in two interesting directions: the first is the integration of ALT1250 technologies into Sony’s future image sensors – alongside the recently unveiled AI processor.

The other direction is independent: integrating the artificial intelligence processor into its next-generation connectivity chip – a kind of ALT1250 reinforced with artificial intelligence. An IoT connectivity chip embedded with artificial intelligence has many advantages – from providing artificial intelligence to ‘dumb’ cameras – thus allowing enhanced communication management capabilities – and even enhancing the current-generation ALT1250 security system.

Connected Devices in an Era of Pandemics

By: Igor Tovberg, Director of Product Marketing at Altair Semiconductor, a Sony Group Company

Technology has a history of helping to track and treat viruses. And, with the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, people are rightly asking themselves how new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, and Big Data can be employed to slow down the proliferation of pandemics and avoid a future global health crisis.  In this article, I describe how connected medical devices could help.

Monitoring trends with Wearables

Millions of wearable devices have been deployed globally. Activity and heart-rate sensing are becoming a baseline feature in every fitness band and smartwatch, with data being continuously sensed and uploaded into the cloud. Would this data be useful in predicting a spreading epidemic?

Indeed, a recently published study by Scripps Research Translational Institute in The Lancet Digital Health analyzed such data and found that resting heart rate and sleep-duration data collected from wearable devices could help inform timely and accurate models of population-level influenza trends. Sensing and analyzing more physiological factors would improve the speed and accuracy in the discovery of epidemics.

Changes in patient care habits

Isolation is one of the preventive actions being taken to stop the virus spread, as exposure to an infected carrier could prove fatal for people with a weakened immune system. Now, more than ever, health stats relating to virus symptoms can be sent to health care providers without patients having to visit their clinic and risking exposure.

mHealth

Connected devices such as thermometers, blood pressure meters, inhalers, glucose meters, or other personal health monitoring devices will play a significant role in protecting people’s lives.

Cellular connectivity through the CAT-M or NB-IoT network can ensure a secure and reliable countrywide link for the delivery of patients’ stats to their health care provider from any location, regardless of WiFi/BLE coverage.

Connected out-of-the-box cellular-based devices are freeing doctors from relying on a patient’s ability to set up the LAN/PAN connection by themselves.

Quarantine compliance with smart cellular IoT wristbands

The general population can wear smart wristbands as a health monitor. With an emphasis on the small size and long battery life, Cellular IoT offers reliable connectivity for smart wristbands, with autonomy from paired smartphones. Recently, the Hong Kong Government has deployed smart wristbands to monitor city residents quarantined inside their homes.

Accelerating the speed of reaction

Monitoring is vital in the detection chain, and reaction time is critical for prevention. Enterprises, airports, and cities would surely benefit from monitoring devices for citizens, and healthcare facilities would benefit from the ability to monitor remote patients. Timely discovery of outbreaks could prevent many new dangerous viruses in the future.

Solution

For personal, medical, or environmental monitoring, Altair’s ALT1250 ultra-low power, compact, secure, and highly integrated cellular IoT chipset enables slimmer devices with long battery life, which can remain continuously connected – reliably connecting people in ways previously unobtainable. All without the need for a smartphone or home WiFi network.

Conclusion

According to Bill Gates, in any crisis, leaders have two equally important responsibilities: Solving the immediate problem and keeping it from happening again. It’s clear that IoT technology, and specifically medical devices, have an important role to play in the containment and treatment of outbreaks like COVID-19. I genuinely believe that IoT can be fully harnessed to control and potentially prevent the next global pandemic.

Nohik Semel named the next CEO of Altair

Photo above: Oded Melamed (left) and Nohik Semel

Altair Semiconductor is appointing current VP System Engineering and Product Management Nohik Semel to CEO, to replace outgoing co-founder and CEO Oded Melamed who is stepping down to pursue new startup Opportunity. The appointment will be effective on November 18th, 2019. Semel joined Altair in its very beginning and has spent the last 14 years in different executive positions. He is credited with the development of Altair’s LTE product portfolio.

His accomplishments include developing the ALT1250 and the ALT1160 chipset. ALT1250 is the company’s flagship. It is considered is the smallest and most highly integrated LTE CAT-M and NB-IoT chipset. It features ultra-low power consumption, hardware-based security, and a carrier-grade integrated SIM (iUICC), all 5G ready. ,“We wish Oded the best of luck and expect to see sensational developments from his next project,” said Nohik Semel.

Altair was founded in 2005 by Melamed and the current CTO Yigal Bitran, former Texas Instrument Israel employees, where they led Cable Modem Research and Development. Altair was a pioneer at Cellular IoT chipsets. In 2016 it was acquires by Sony for $212 Million. Altair partners with leading global vendors, including G+D (Giesecke+Devrient), HERE Technologies, Murata, Sierra Wireless and WNC. Its chipsets have been commercially deployed on the LTE networks of AT&T, China Mobile, KDDI, SoftBank, Verizon and Vodafone.