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Synaptics buys Amazon's Echo far-field voice processing supplier

Synaptics, maker of smartphone fingerprint scanners, has agreed to buy Conexant, the main voice recognition supplier for Amazon Alexa-enabled devices.

Published onJune 13, 2017

Synaptics Inc, who make many of the touch pads used on laptops and fingerprint scanners in smartphones, has agreed to buy Conexant Systems, LLC, a company which specializes in voice and audio recognition and which is the recommended far-field voice processing supplier for companies building Alexa-enabled devices.

As voice and audio processing become a key factor in the future of IoT devices (like the Amazon Echo), Synaptics is betting heavily on an increased demand for local multimedia processing power. In pursuit of this, the company has also announced that it will buy the Multimedia Solutions Business from Marvell Technology Group.

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Synaptics make a whole range of “human interface” components including touch pads for laptops and fingerprint readers for smartphones. Recently, it announced a new finger scanner with force sensing and swipe recognition. Nowadays though, “human interface” also means voice and Synaptics wants to remain at the head of the field, whether it be in touch technology or voice or video.

Talking of video, Marvell’s Multimedia Solutions Business makes a range of multimedia processors for the connected home including the processors used inside Android TVs and set-top boxes. These include the ARMADA 1500 Ultra processor which includes a quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 64-bit CPU and 51 GFLOP GPU (the 8 shader Vivante GC7000XS).

One place where IoT will have a huge impact is in the connected home. Last year Conexant announced that it was collaborating with Amazon to release an Alexa Voice Service (AVS) approved 4-mic and 2-mic development kit for smart home devices based on Amazon’s Alexa. The kit includes a hands-free voice input processor, and includes built-in Alexa wake words.

Conexant has a portfolio of more than 480 patents (granted or pending) and its tech can be found in over 27 million devices around the world. However its technology does more than just far-field voice solutions, for example it also has a USB Type-C codec which can be used in USB Type-C headphones where no 3.5mm jack is available.

Synaptics will pay $300 million in cash and hand over 726,000 shares of common stock for Conexant, while the Marvell deal will cost around $95 million. Overall the company is spending nearly $400 million in cash to get hold of these two businesses. As demand for Synaptics’ fingerprint scanners has weakened, the Conexant and Marvell deals aim to keep the company competitive as more and more OEMs turn to in-house component solutions to keep costs down.

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