Wireless could come to more Arduino boards with Atmel buy

In a move that could bring faster wireless capabilities to gadgets and Arduino boards, chip maker Atmel is buying wireless chip maker Newport Media for US$140 million.

Atmel’s chips are widely used in small electronics, do-it-yourself kits and Arduino boards. The company’s strong spot has been its low-power microcontrollers, but Newport Media’s Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth technologies could bring faster wireless communication capabilities to products like wearables and robots.

Arduino boards are largely based on Atmel’s MCUs, but mostly don’t have wireless due to their size and cost constraints. With devices becoming more connected, Atmel will be able to package wireless on electronics or developer boards used to prototype wearable devices and robots.

In May, Atmel and Arduino showed off a new development board called Zero to build electronics and wearable devices. Last month, Atmel launched a set of ARM-based microcontrollers with sensors and Wi-Fi connectivity.

The acquisition comes as Atmel goes deeper into the Internet of Things market, with a number of sensor devices already using its microcontrollers. Atmel supports ZigBee, and will now own Bluetooth technology.

Atmel MCUs and Newport Media’s wireless chipsets could be combined in industrial, home and building automation, the company said in a statement. Refrigerators and other home appliances also use Atmel’s MCUs.

The acquisition is expected to close in the third quarter this year.

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