Analog, MEMS and sensor startups to follow in 2020

Analog, MEMS and sensor startups to follow in 2020
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We have renewed our list of analog, MEMS and sensor startups to follow, in the sixth annual iteration of our list. So this year it is 20 to follow in 2020.
By Peter Clarke

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Nine companies have been brought in to replace nine departures from last year’s list (see Analog, MEMS and sensor startups to follow in 2019).

The newcomers to the list include companies active in MEMS for mass sensing, sensor-SOC manufacturing, analog IP, near field communications; event-based computer vision and ultrasound imaging and interfaces.

Below are 20 startup companies we feel are worth keeping track of during 2019 listed in alphabetical order. New entries are highlighted with an italic entry.

Next: From nose to eyes


AerNos Inc. (San Diego, Calif.), founded in 2016, uses doped materials and nanotechnology to detect multiple airborne gases and volatile organic compounds simultaneously at parts per billion levels. The sensors include carbon nanotubes, nanowires and polymers. www.aernos.com

(see Gas sensor sniffs out diabetes)

 

Agile Analog Ltd. (Cambridge, England) is an analog IP company that was formed in 2017 by CTO Michael Hulse and led by CEO Tim Ramsdale and chairman Peter Hutton. Ramsdale and Hutton were previously senior executives at ARM. The company is now rolling out a growing list of analog circuits suitable for various CMOS and FDSOI manufacturing processes and has welcomed Sir Hossein Yassaie to its board of directors. www.agileanalog.com

(See Agile Analog rolls out first products and Agile Analog to accelerate IP development with new money).

 

Cambridge Touch Technology Ltd. (Cambridge, England), founded in 2012, is a provider of 3D multipoint touch technologies to the consumer electronics, automotive, industrial and military markets. CTT supports its OEM and supply chain customers with IP, know-how, analog and digital technologies, and system architectures. www.camtouch3d.com

(see Cambridge touchscreen developer attracts Chinese cash)

 

CanSemi Technology Inc. (Guangzhou, China) broke ground on a 300mm wafer fab on December 26, 2017 with a plan for a billion-dollar fab in Guangzhou, China. The company is said to be pooling investments from fabless companies to provide funding with a built-in customer base. Richard Chang, the first CEO of China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), is said to be leading the project. The plant is expected to go into operation in 2019. When completed, the 7billion yuan (about US$1billion) plant will produce 40,000 12-inch wafer chips per month, with annual sales revenue estimated at 3 billion yuan rising to 10 billion yuan when at full capacity. Type cansemitech.com into your browser. www.cansemitech.com

(see IDM or foundry: CanSemi builds on analog, MCU strategy)

 

Cista Systems Corp. (San Jose, Calif.), founded in 2013, has developed a number of CMOS image sensors making use of the Chinese foundry SMIC’s 0.13-micron BSI technology platform. www.cistadesign.com

(See Image sensor startup teams with SMIC)

 

Next: From PMIC to computer vision


E-peas Semiconductors (Mont-Saint-Guibert, Belgium) has announced its first chip in energy management IC for use with photovoltaic and thermoelectric energy harvesting. The company was founded in 2014 with a vision to address Internet of Things applications on two fronts; by increasing harvested energy and by reducing the energy consumption of circuit blocks. www.e-peas.com

(See Fujitsu to distribute E-peas energy harvest ICs)

 

eXo Imaging Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.) founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneur and visionary Janusz Bryzek with a plan to develop handheld ultrasound imager. The firm either has or is developing a piezoelectric micro-machined ultrasound transducer (pMUT) that it plans to marry with advances in ultrasound imaging algorithms and “deep learning” processors as well as cloud and ‘fog’ computing. www.exo-imaging.com

(See Ultrasound imaging startup takes money raised to $50 million).

 

Hanking Electronics (Liaoning) Co. Ltd. (Shenyang, China), founded in April 2011, is a privately funded MEMS company and a subsidiary of the Hanking Industrial Group. Hanking Electronics focuses on developing, fabrication and marketing MEMS products and related electronics components. It provides customers with design and development, fabrication processing, volume manufacturing, MEMS foundry services, MEMS sensors, MEMS actuators, ASIC, MEMS technology and application consulting. www.hkmems.com

(see Hanking offers MEMS foundry services)

 

Innoviz Technologies Ltd. (Kfar Saba, Israel), a 2016 startup developing lidar sensors for autonomous vehicles. Backers include Samsung Catalyst and SoftBank Ventures Korea. In 2019 the company closed its Series C round at $170 million bringing the amount raised by the company to $252 million in total. The company was founded by former members of the Israeli Intelligence Corps. who went on to work for multiple startups and multinational corporations prior to forming Innoviz. www.innoviz.tech

(See Samsung, SoftBank back lidar startup Innoviz)

 

Insightness AG (Zurich, Swtizerland) has announced its second image sensor, the SiliconEye 2. The company develops vision sensor chips with smart pixels that compress information in the pixel thereby saving time, power and computation. The company was founded in 2014 by PhD students as a spin-off from University of Zurich and ETH Zurich.

www.insightness.com

(See Swiss event-based vision startup launches next-gen chip).

 

Next: From 3D printing to sensor-SOC platform


Lunewave Inc. (Tuscon, Ariz.), a 2017 startup developing antenna and radar sensor technology for use in self-driving vehicles and other applications, has raised $5 million in seed funding. Lunewave uses 3D printing to create a so-called Luneburg lens antenna. A Luneburg lens is spherically symmetric with a refractive index that decreases radially from the center to the outer surface.  This produces a spherical sensor with a 360-degree field of view that Lunewave is proposing to be used with radar in self-driving vehicles. www.lunewave.com

(See Funds raised for 3D-printed automotive antenna).

 

Movellus Inc. (San Jose, Calif.) has launched itself on the market with a focus on the use of digital design and verification tools to implement analog circuit functionality. The company was formed in April 2014. In May 2018 Movellus announced it had received an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel. www.movellus.com

(See Intel doubles down on analog IP from digital tools Stata joins Intel in backing Movellus).

 

Panthronics AG (Graz, Austria) was founded in 2014 by CEO Dawoodi Kambiz and CTO Jakob Jongsma. The company has expertise covering RFID/NFC hardware, software and applet solutions that are secure-element agnostic. The company has a patented technology which enables the NFC chip to drive up to three watts directly to the antenna while achieving a detection sensitivity of -80dB. With this, the company has developed an NFC reader chip that is compliant with the EMVCo 3.0 standard for contactless payments. www.panthronics.com

(See Austrian startup brings NFC reader to market)

 

Senbiosys SA (Neuchatel, Switzerland), a 2017 spin-off from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), has developed a chip that can measure both heart rate, and oxygen level using both the photoplethysmography (PPG) and time-of-flight (ToF) signals. The chip also measures ambient light. www.senbiosys.com

(see Swiss startup claims low power PPG plus ToF sensor)

 

Sensry GmbH (Dresden, Germany), a startup formed to commercialize a sensor-SoC platform that can produce easily customizable smart sensors for IoT applications based on Globalfoundries’ 22FDX technology. www.sensry.net

(See GloFo, Fraunhofer, NBT launch startup for IoT chips).

 

Next: From massive to RF-powered tags


Sorex Sensors Ltd. (Cambridge, England) was spun out of the University of Cambridge engineering department in 2017 to commercialize film bulk acoustic resonator (FBAR) technology that uses a piezoelectric layer that can be excited to resonate. Attachment of mass to the surface changes the resonant frequency and provides a measurement of the amount of mass on the sensing area. The company claims the technology can be sensitive down to femtogram levels. www.sorexsensors.com

(See Cambridge startup Sorex launches particulate sensor and Former Plessey CEO takes top job at sensor startup).

 

SmartSens Technology Co. Ltd. (Shanghai, China), founded in 2011, is a supplier of CMOS image sensors. It has R&D teams in Silicon Valley and Shanghai and an ISO-certified supply chain infrastructure to supply CMOS image sensors for security and surveillance, consumer, automotive and other mass market applications. The company signed a license agreement with IBM in 2018. www.smartsenstech.com

(see Sony, ST increase image sensor market share)

 

Trameto Ltd. (Swansea, Wales) is a 2016 startup company that is developing a power management IC (PMIC) for use with multiple energy harvesting sources that it calls HarvestAll. Trameto was co-founded by Huw Davies and Laurence Strong. Davies is a former co-founder and director of Audium Semiconductor Ltd. and Strong is a former director of audio products at XMOS Ltd. Trameto’s CTO is Cliff Travis who has held CTO positions with several startups, the most recent of which, Redux LLC, was sold to Google. www.trameto.com

(See Welsh startup backed to make energy harvest PMIC).

 

UltraSense Systems Inc. (San Jose, Calif.), a startup formed in 2017, has announced an ultrasound-based user interface. The company has developed an ultrasound actuator/sensor that can be attached to the inside surface of an enclosure to create a touch user interface. The MEMS-based technology operates at megahertz frequencies. It sends and receives pressure wave signals through 5mm of aluminium or glass and so can detect strength of tap and avoids the need for cut outs or openings in the enclosure. www.ultrasensesys.com

(See Former InvenSense executives launch MEMS ultrasound interface startup).

 

Wiliot Inc. (San Diego, Calif.) is a fabless semiconductor company formed by a group of engineers whose previous company, Wi-Fi pioneer Wilocity, was acquired by Qualcomm in 2014. Wiliot is setting out to develop a Bluetooth chip powered by energy harvested from radio waves and thereby create passive SoC platforms for the IoT market. Founded in 2017. www.wiliot.com

(See Qualcomm, Merck back battery-free IoT startup)

 

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