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23 June, 2006 - 10:48 By Staff Reporter

Fresh investment for wireless specialist to boost Cambridge operation

Zigbee specialist Ember, has closed an additional $12 million (£6.6m) in funding from its primary venture capital investors and strategic partners. Zigbee specialist Ember, has closed an additional $12 million (£6.6m) in funding from its primary venture capital investors and strategic partners.

The networking company announced in April that it would be doubling the size of its Cambridge design centre by the end of the year. Its East of England operations were established following the US company's acquisition of intellectual property and the team that developed it from technology consultancy, Cambridge Consultants.

Polaris Venture Partners, GrandBanks Capital, RRE Ventures, Vulcan Capital (the investment group of Microsoft’s Paul G. Allen), DFJ ePlanet Ventures, DFJ New England, WestLB Mellon Asset Management (formerly West AM) and strategic partners such as ChevronTexaco Technology Ventures participated in the round.

This new round combined with existing investments from Hitachi Corporation, Stata Venture Partners and MIT bring the total capital Ember has raised to $65 million (just under £36m).

Ember’s investors see huge potential in the company’s embedded wireless networking technology, which is helping to create an “internet of things” by enabling billions of devices to support low-cost, low-power sensor and control applications such as home and building automation, industrial controls, inventory management, automatic meter reading (AMR) and environmental monitoring.

The market for 802.15.4/ZigBee devices is expected to reach $1 billion (£550m) between 2008 and 2010, according to two research firms, In-Stat and Northern Sky Research.

Bob Metcalfe, credited as the inventor of ethernet and Ember chairman, said the funds would help fuel Ember’s expansion in the ZigBee wireless networking market.

“Ember’s opportunity with the ZigBee standard is reminiscent of Ethernet. With Ethernet, the opportunity was to network hundreds of millions of personal computers.

“With ZigBee, the networking opportunity is the 10 billion microcontrollers built into everyday products each year. Ember is aiming to network them all. How? Through partnerships with microcontroller vendors, like for example STMicroelectronics.”

Ember’s CEO Robert LeFort added: “This additional funding enables Ember to scale to support our growing customer base as they ramp new products into volume production, while continuing our strategy to network the entire universe of microcontrollers.

“It will also help us accelerate development of next-generation ZigBee technology to maintain our product, technology and market leadership position.”

Spun out of MIT in 2001, Ember is headquartered in Boston and has its radio development centre in Cambridge.

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