The computer vision chip and intellectual property (IP) market is by no means a stranger to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity. Within the past year, ARM acquired Apical, Freescale acquired CogniVue, and Sensity acquired Eutecus. Intel’s acquisition of Movidius this month is yet another step toward bolstering its presence in a market poised to ramp up in short order. The terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but according to Intel’s blog, the Movidius acquisition is expected to move Intel into “augmented, virtual and merged reality (AR/VR/MR), drones, robotics, digital security cameras and beyond.”
The Low-Power Impetus
Why was Intel interested in Movidius? In Tractica’s opinion, from a technology perspective it all comes down to power. Movidius has the lowest announced power consumption level in the embedded category of chipsets. The Myriad 2 product announcement talks about power as low as 500 mW in 28 nm technology. Those in the chip industry always take such reviews with a grain of salt because the power is really dependent on the application and a number could be interpreted in many ways. Some independent reviews rated the power consumption level at as much as 2 W, but in terms of power, the fact still remains that the chip is way ahead of its competition. Competing chipsets have power consumption ranges of 5 W and higher, based on Tractica’s market analysis.
Power has always been hard to minimize in X86 architecture. Atom, however powerful it may be, is overkill for many embedded applications. Most of the embedded device manufacturers interviewed by Tractica said that the current ARM-based central processing unit (CPU) performance was “good enough” to run most computer vision applications, but most respondents wished that it consumed less power. In self-navigating drones, for instance, power consumption of 1 W versus 5 W can make a huge difference. A VR headset is another example where 5X the power savings could go a long way. Power is a compelling factor when it comes to embedded applications.
Integrating the Movidius Chips
Movidius also has successful design wins from fairly well known companies, including Google (Project Tango), FLIR (thermal intelligent camera), Lenovo (VR headset), and DJI (drones). All of the VR, video analytics, and drone markets are key growth areas for computer vision. Tractica estimates that Movidius has shipped millions, if not tens of millions, chips to date. The acquisition of Movidius gives Intel an instant foothold into growing markets with a product that has established itself and has a good pipeline for immediate growth.
It is now up to Intel to figure out how to integrate the Movidius chips with its existing product line. Intel’s RealSense platform has had limited success, but Intel’s product line cannot do what a Movidius chipset can. Using the Movidius chipsets may enable Intel to design a platform that combines an embedded hub with a more powerful X86 server in the background. Intel could then sell more of it X86 processors, which are the company’s bread and butter.
Overall, the acquisition of Movidius complements Intel’s existing portfolio, impacts its bottom line immediately, and has the potential to go way beyond AR/VR, robotics, and drones. Tractica will be monitoring developments for any new and interesting applications that emerge.