Sigma’s Acquisition of Zensys: Z-Wave in Settop Boxes?

Sigma could persuade settop box manufacturers to incorporate RF-based Z-Wave as an IR replacement and gateway to other Z-Wave automation products.

The Z-Wave Pavilion has been a fixture at the Electronic House Expos and other industry events. Now the technology may appear in gateway devices such as settop boxes.
Julie Jacobson · December 24, 2008

Zensys, developer of the Z-Wave protocol for low-cost RF communications, is being acquired by Sigma Designs, which makes system-on-chip solutions primarily for residential A/V applications.

Sigma is buying Zensys “lock stock and barrel,” says Raoul Wijgergangs, Zensys executive vice president sales and business development. Original investors in Zensys include Intel, Cisco and Panasonic.

Founded in 1999, Zensys was the first to come out with a viable mesh-networking RF solution for home automation applications. ZigBee and the new HomePlug Command and Control protocol followed.

The Z-Wave protocol has been designed into more than 250 CE-related products so far. The key to its success has been a set of device definitions that must be included in all certified Z-Wave products to ensure interoperability (although in reality not all Z-Wave products are compatible with each other).

ZigBee, on the other hand, is only now coming out with such standardization.

Sigma to Expand Beyond A/V Decoding

Sigma (Nasdaq: SIGM) develops system-on-chip (SoC) solutions for processing digital video and audio content. The company has thrived in the IPTV settop box market and, to a lesser extent, the emerging Blu-ray player market.

Sigma’s flagship chipset line is the SMP8630, providing an integrated solution for high-definition decoding. The Secure Media Processor architecture offers advanced content protection, supporting a wide variety of Digital Rights Management (DRM) and Conditional Access (CA) solutions.

The SMP8630 represented 83% ($135.4 million) of Sigma’s net revenue for the nine months ended November 1, 2008.

So it’s not wonder the company wants to diversify into other areas.

Earlier this year, Sigma brought out the WiMedia (UWB)-based CoAir chipset for wireless, coax and Ethernet Connectivity.  Later, the company announced an agreement to provide wireless HD technology for Monster Cable’s impending line of HD transceivers.

And now Zensys.

Sigma/Zensys Synergies

Perpetually struggling for money, Zensys should find security in the cash-rich Sigma family.

Leviton, which embeds Z-Wave in the Vizia RF line of lighting controls, is one Zensys partner that is thrilled with the acquisition.

“It’s a great thing,” says Leviton director of business development Ian Hendler. “Sigma is financially stable. … Zensys should have the resources to devote more efforts to our channel.”

Hendler also believes that Zensys will benefit from Sigma’s SoC expertise.

For its part, Sigma has plenty to gain from a control/automation solution.

As far as UWB wireless is concerned, Sigma is “very well established in this space,” says Wijgergangs, “but on automation, there’s nothing.”

He foresees the integration of Z-Wave into settop boxes for which Sigma already providers A/V processing solutions.

“Operators are looking for separate boxes that are disappearing in cabinets or in other rooms,” Wijgergangs says, “so RF is going to be needed to replace IR.”

Still, he explains, “That’s only one part if it [acquisition], probably even lass than half the reason for it. Their customers want to roll out services. They need an ecosystem – an IR replacement as well as a service platform in-house.”

Z-Wave offers a substantial ecosystem of productsgateways, lighting controls, door locks, touchscreens, thermostats, universal remotes, garage door openers, and complete control systems – that would bring value to a settop box and, ultimately, the service providers that offer them.

In the near future, Zensys will be looking “very strongly at security and energy conservation,” says Wijgergangs.

Upon completion of the acquisition, Zensys’s Fremont, Calif. headquarters will be physically merged into the headquarters of Sigma Designs in the neighboring city of Milpitas. Zensys also has an R&D center located in Copenhagen, Denmark, housing all engineering and operations personnel, which will remain in place.  The group currently employs 33 people, 23 of which are engineers.

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  About the Author

Julie Jacobson is founding editor of CE Pro, the leading media brand for the home-technology channel. She has covered the smart-home industry since 1994, long before there was much of an Internet, let alone an Internet of things. Currently she studies, speaks, writes and rabble-rouses in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V, wellness-related technology, biophilic design, and the business of home technology. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, and earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a recipient of the annual CTA TechHome Leadership Award, and a CEDIA Fellows honoree. A washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player, Julie currently resides in San Antonio, Texas and sometimes St. Paul, Minn. Follow on Twitter: @juliejacobson Email Julie at

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  Article Topics

News · Mergers and Acquisitions · Z-Wave · All Topics
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