Report: Apple has acquired Passif, maker of low-energy chips


Former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin posted an exclusive story on her blog today, and it reveals that Apple has acquired Silicon Valley-based low-energy chip maker Passif. An Apple spokeswoman went on to confirm the report, saying “Apple buys small technology companies from time to time.”

But what does this mysterious chipmaker have to offer and why has Apple acquired it?

Passif was founded several years ago by two PhD students at the University of California, Berkeley by the names of Ben Cook and Axel Berny. The company develops communication chips that use very little power, and these include a radio which works with low-power-consumption Bluetooth LE. The technology has its intended uses in wearable health-monitoring and fitnesss devices. These devices need longer-than-usual battery life to remain practical.

As noted by Lessin, radios can be one of the biggest drainers of battery life and, as companies attempt to make their wearable devices smaller and smaller, preserving any extra battery life is critical. As widely rumored, Apple is indeed working on one of these devices, and it makes sense that they would acquire a company that offers technology which would likely give the Cupertino corporation a leg up on its competitors.

The need is particularly acute for wearable devices, like activity-tracking watches. One of the reasons Apple and its rivals haven’t launched such devices yet is how hard it is to shrink screens, batteries and radios to fit into them.

It isn’t clear as of yet how much Apple paid for the company. Lessin’s sources say that “Apple tried to buy Passif a few years earlier for a price in the mid-tens-of-millions of dollars.” Now, in light of an emerging wearable market, that price is likely much higher.

This acquisition is only one of many that Apple has made in recent months and years. Among the companies Apple has acquired recently are Wifislam (an indoor GPS company), and mapping data providers Locationary and HopStop.

[Jessica Lessin]