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Freescale Acquires Zenverge, Addresses the Video Internet of Things

On December 2, 2014 Freescale announced it had acquired Zenverge, a fabless chip vendor of advanced HD content processing.

Zenverge has transcoding technology that enables one media stream to be converted into multiple streams with different formats. This is optimized for specific internet connected devices or platforms.
Freescale has several technologies for IoT covering a broad range of applications in consumer, automotive, industrial and wearables. What has not been addressed is how the visual experience will play in IoT.

Zenverge’s technology offers a very efficient encoding and decoding scheme which offers fast response, reduced amount of memory required and power savings.  Additionally, Zenverge has proprietary security for sharing HD video content and other rich digital content.  The company has proprietary encryption/decryption technology and watermarking of data. Thus, it can validate the user, validate the data in another location and maintain this validation throughout the delivery system.

At the time of the acquisition, Zenverge has been shipping products to customers, mainly carriers and service providers to the home, through set top boxes and cable boxes which use transcoding. The Zenverge product roadmap for standalone content networking ICs will continue to evolve. The Zenverge IP is being incorporated in Freescale’s microcontroller group which includes standard MCUs, application processors (i.MX), and networking devices. The Zenverge IP will be integrated into Freescale components. Products with this IP may be sampled as soon as the end of 2015. It is not clear yet what the branding strategy will be for Zenverge technology by Freescale.

Semico Spin

Freescale is looking to optimize the visual experience for IoT, hence the new term it is introducing – Video Internet of Things. Semico believes this is an insightful strategic IoT move for Freescale.  A key component to IoT is access to information via video.  Home security and automotive safety are just two applications already using video IoT.  A large portion of the internet bandwidth is consumed by video content.  There are a lot of improvements that can be made to make the video experience more device appropriate, secure and power efficient.  All are key variables in the deployment of IoT to the masses.

Moving media content, including DRM, requires security by the carriers and suppliers. Most of the efforts in IoT have been focused on the various consumer end node devices for home automation, industrial automation and commercial installations. Video has not received as much attention at this time. Consumers are increasingly connecting to video via the internet. There are security vulnerabilities that can emerge when video data is transmitted and when it is being transformed into different formats. Zenverge addresses DRM security from both the provider and user perspective but the vulnerabilities created by the conversion process are still a work in progress.

The security technology for video connectivity for different devices can be integrated in different applications. In addition to entertainment, security cameras in home and commercial locations have sensitive data that need protection. Other applications outside of video can also benefit. By providing additional levels of security, Freescale can differentiate itself in the IoT market. As the IoT develops more security threats will emerge. It is a never ending battle with the hackers. Freescale’s acquisition of Zenverge will enable the company to offer more security technology.

Beyond the security aspect, Zenverge technology reduces the need to go off chip to access external memory, providing system power savings, a critical concern for all carriers, service providers and IoT users.  Since power savings is such a key focus for most IoT and mobile devices, this seems to be an area where Freescale could gain a lot of interest but they didn’t seem to emphasize this.  Maybe the power savings aren’t that significant.   

Semico Research has just published an extensive report covering the topic of security for the IoT. The latest report “IoT Security: At What Cost?” examines key security issues and the solutions offered by the semiconductor industry.  For more information contact Rick Vogelei at rickv@semico.com

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