Sony Corp. agreed to buy Altair Semiconductor Ltd. for $212 million, acquiring technology to power the next generation of smart appliances as the firm looks for growth beyond chips for smartphone cameras. Altair, with modem chips for fourth-generation cellular technology, will help the company make component devices featuring both sensing and communication capabilities, Sony said in a statement Tuesday. Altair, based in Hod Hasharon, Israel, makes chipsets that can connect security systems, power meters and cars to the Web with the deal due to close next month.
Chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai is moving the Tokyo- based company away from consumer electronics to focus on growth in image sensors, video games and movies. It agreed to buy Toshiba Corp.'s image sensor operations last year to build up its chip business with growth in its devices unit contributing to the company's return to profit. "More and more 'things' are expected to be equipped with cellular chipsets, realizing a connected environment in which 'things' can reliably and securely access network services that leverage the power of cloud computing," Sony said in the statement. Global companies are increasingly looking to Israel for innovation and the country has been seeking to promote stronger trading ties with Japan. Honda Motor Co. has partnered with Israeli crowdfunding startup OurCrowd to find applications for connected cars, Nick Sugimoto, a senior programme director for Honda, said in an interview Monday. "Japanese companies are more active in looking for innovative and disruptive Israeli technology," said Avi Hasson, the head of the Office of the Chief Scientist, which promotes and invests in the technology industry. "The Sony deal is a good example of that." In October, the Israeli economic ministry arranged for Hitachi Ltd. to visit local companies and discuss areas where companies from the two countries could collaborate on technology for connected devices. Sony reports fiscal third quarter results on Friday.