Consumer Electronics

Audience Goes Beyond Sound with Sensor Platform Buy

07 July 2014

Audience Inc. (Mountain View, Calif.), a fabless chip company that provides audio processors to improve voice clarity and suppress noise to consumer products, has agreed to buy Sensor Platforms Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) for $41 million in cash.

Sensor Platforms develops algorithms and software to interpret multi-sensor data and provide context awareness on smartphones, wearables and other consumer devices. The company, founded in 2004, developed the FreeMotion Library of software in support of sensor fusion and in April 2014 announced the creation with intellectual property licensor ARM Holdings plc of the Open Sensor Platform (OSP) for the ARM processor architecture. OSP is intended to provide an open-source approach to sensor hubs in smartphones, wearables and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.

Audience said it wanted to combine voice and motion to help consumers engage with devices that can be always-on and context-aware.

Audience has recently launched its own motion processor, the MQ100, and gained design wins with some OEMs. Peter Santos, president and CEO of Audience, told analysts on a conference call that some of the same processing is used for motion as it had previously used for voice and that he expected this form of application-specific processing and optimized software would bring Audience a low power advantage.

With the addition of Sensor Platforms, Audience plans to develop a road map of fully-fused sound-pus-motion solutions, Santos said. "Sensor Platforms has a close relationship with Google Android and sensor fusion compliance," Santos added.

The purchase is being made with excess cash from the Audience balance sheet – at the end of 1Q14 Audience had about $125 million.

Sensor Platforms business model was based on the licensing out of its FreeMotion library. Santos said that in the near-term Audience would support all the existing contracts and business but added that the real value in the deal would be in the combination of voice and motion which would be offered on Audience hardware. He said he expects Audience to deliver new levels of user experience through the optimization of audio through motion and vice versa.

Closing is subject to customary conditions and is expected to take place in 3Q14.

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