Embedded SOMs and IoT innovation from Variscite based on iMX and other SOCsProfiles
The Device Chronicle interviews Ohad Yaniv, CEO of Variscite on embedded SOMs (system on modules with imx and other chipsets) and use cases.
Thanks to Ayelet Oz, Head of Marketing, Variscite, for arranging this executive interview.
For nearly 20 years, Lod, Israel-based Variscite has been developing, producing and manufacturing a powerful range of System on Modules, consistently setting market benchmarks in terms of speed and innovation. The company’s portfolio is based on leading SoC (system on computer) vendors including NXP/Freescale, Qualcomm, Texas Instruments and Marvell. This combination of technology makes up the embedded hardware that enables many industrial IoT use cases / applications across industries. Experts at the company have developed end-to-end solutions that deliver technology capabilities across a unique range of industries, including medical, agriculture, automotive, control systems and multimedia.
Ohad Yaniv is a computer scientist by training. He then moved into business management, and joined Variscite 12 years ago. Under Yaniv’s watch, Variscite has developed into a powerful player in the embedded world delivering robust and reliable technology solutions to device developers. So much so that it is recognised by industry giants – for example, the company is a platinum member of semiconductor maker NXP’s partner program and this is based on over 1m SOMs being shipped with an iMx chip inside and a close partnership has developed over the last 10 years. Variscite is the only SOM vendor in NXP’s Platinum program.
Strategic importance of integrated connectivity
Ohad explains that from day one, Variscite has identified connectivity as a key strategic driver: so it tries to incorporate communication channels into its products from ethernet to Wi-Fi, and they did this early on, more than 10 years ago. Ohad says “Connectivity was going to be central and the devices would interface with the Internet and internal system networks. Industrial applications are getting more connected, coffee machines have video displays, commercials are being updated on the coffee machines, and this is true too for aggregation systems.” He continues to say that strategic partnership for overall solution delivery is also strategically very important for the company. He says “We are providing infrastructure for the network device and we try to partner with 3rd parties that can provide management capabilities such as OTA and device management. More and more industries are connected 24/7 so they must be secure and robust.”
Short supply and high demand
Ohad explains the current crux in the IoT / Embedded industry: Demand is high for connectivity and complex devices based on NXP’s iMx platform, but the counterbalance and result is supply chain and chip shortages. Ohad further explains that Variscite entered the chipset shortage crisis in a good situation thanks to what he describes as a dynamic procurement strategy with good buffers for most components for 6-12 months. He admits that for some components, there were shortages where modifications had to be made to the product. He says “The ethernet 5 and ethernet controllers were in short supply as one provider stopped supplying for 8 months. (Variscite) Product had to be revised with a differ component from a new provider and a commitment was gained for immediate deliveries for high volumes. It was an effortless issue for the customer as they got a validated product and a software patch for uboot in the kernel to allow the new component to be supported. All the OSs were also updated to support the customer.” Ohs also admits that It has been a challenge for the operation to compensate for the irregular shipment deliveries, by assembling in house allows for this, high volumes to be handled to satisfy customer needs. Variscite launched a new production line which increased in-house manufacturing capabilities at its production and warehouse facilities by 25% to help bypass the component crisis due to the impact of COVID and supply chain challenges. The company last placed a new line into production a year ago, making this the second production increase during the pandemic. The new internal production line is now online and ensures delivery times as fast as four working days.
The company’s in-house production facilities are equipped with the most-advanced Surface Mount Technology (SMT) machines, ensuring high-quality Modules and a wide range of configuration choices for every SoM. In having established its own internal production lines, Variscite retains better control of lead times during both normal operations and during challenging time periods, such as the current worldwide component supply crisis.
Use cases across industry
Variscite has a wide customer base including medical devices so they are certified for ISO 13485 which is required for FDA approval. It is a growing market with ventilation and covid test systems. Access control, aggregation devices and point of sale systems all have complex interfaces so they need embedded Linux and SOMs. Variscite can give full support up to launch and the work with the partner ecosystem. The customer wants to focus on the IP and not be worried about the infrastructure.
Importance of OTA software updates
Ohad observes that more and more customers are looking for device management solutions for firmware updating, telemetry and over the air software patches. “Most devices have only become connected in the last 3-4 years. We are only seeing a small part of the potential, 20% of customers are updating devices remotely or concerned with security issues. 60 or 70% of customers ordering SOMs use wifi modules and this has gone up from 30% a few years ago. Once you get more device connectivity, you need patching and security, embedded devices will need over the air software updates. It is inevitable that this will happen.”
We wish Ohad, Ayelet and the team at Variscite well and look forward to helping them develop the IoT and connected devices ecosystem.