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Nov 28th, 2013
Excelera: simplify, go faster
COWIN, an initiative sponsored by the European Commission to encourage the commercial exploitation of European collaborative research projects contributes to support the launch and growth of start-ups companies exploiting EC research projects results. In this context, COWIN is supporting Excelera, a fabless semiconductor startup specializing in signal processing for smart sensors.
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Excelera, a fabless semiconductor startup specializing in signal processing for smart sensors and exploiting results from the SMARTSES EU project is getting support from COWIN to overcome some of the common startup hurdles.

Excelera’s slogan is “simplify, go faster,” and that’s exactly what their technology enables. The company is solving the complex signal conversion problem for sensors by digitizing it.

Based in Barcelona, Spain, the startup’s technology was originally developed by two of the company’s founders at the Technical University of Catalonia. Excelera is led by Javier Cañete as CEO; Sergey Yurish, R&D; Ramon Borras, engineering; and Luis Boada, sales and marketing.

How is Excelera differentiating itself in the marketplace?

The startup’s patented technology leverages the data converter, which is normally a basic hardware component, as a hub for multi sensor systems with much higher metrological performances and much wider functionalities.

While Excelera works with frequency and time-to-digital signal conversion, their technology is 100% digital and firmware, which makes it highly portable to different packages like microcontrollers and ASICs.

We’re targeting applications in which greater precision and integration are needed,” explains Boada. “For example, we can replace all of the analog-to-digital converters in a sensor system with one of our products, which reduces cost and space, while also delivering higher performance. In addition we reduce power consumption dramatically since our solutions can deliver full functionalities using only 10% of the energy of conventional devices.

Excelera’s goal is to become a reference in smart sensor systems integration. “We intend to promote smart sensor systems as a real option to traditional devices,” says Boada. “Excelera is already in the aerospace and industrial automation markets, but now we’re interested in moving into the M2M / IoT market and consumer applications as well.

The bottom line is that Excelera’s approach “can simplify the design of sensor systems—and it’s disruptive in terms of reducing a lot of the materials and power consumption in devices with many sensors, which in turn also reduces costs,” Boada notes.

Excelera has four ICs already, more on the way

Excelera has already introduced four ICs, including: the Universal Frequency-to-Digital Converter (UFDC-1); the UFDC-1-16M; the Universal Sensors and Transducers Interface (USTI); and the EXT.

The UFDC-1 is a fully digital CMOS IC, capable of measuring frequency, period, ratio, duty-cycle, and phase shift in 16 different modes, with a relative error ranging from 0.001 to 1%.

UFDC-1-16M is a higher-speed version of the UFDC-1, boasting a conversion rate 32 times faster.
USTI is a high-precision digital converter with two frequency channels, and one for resistive, capacitive sensing elements and resistive bridges, with a relative error ranging from 0.0005 to 1%. It’s also faster than the UFDC-1.

EXT is designed for harsh environments such as automotive and aerospace applications, and is similar to the USTI, but with an operating temperature range of -50°C to 150°C.
Excelera plans to expand its product portfolio soon, with products for the “Internet of Things” and mobile device applications.

Support from COWIN and Telefónica ‘essential’
Support from COWIN and Telefónica is helping accelerate the introduction of Excelera’s products to the European market.

The support we’ve received from COWIN has been essential,” says Boada. “Excelera is a university-backed project that was completed in 2010 and, since then, we’ve been working on industrialization of our products. COWIN has been a great support, especially with commercial development—and we expect it will continue to be extremely helpful for finding investors.
COWIN has worked with Excelera to help them raise funds to further develop the company. “We place a heavy emphasis on business development—which is key for a new startup,” says Christophe Blanc, Yole Finance associate and portfolio manager for COWIN.

Boada describes COWIN’s ability to open doors to European companies as simply “awesome.” It’s very helpful for startups to have access to potential big customers and partners, and he says COWIN has been extremely helpful.

Excelera is also receiving support from Wayra, Telefónica’s startup accelerator, which is also providing office, business development and mentoring services and has already invested in the company.

These introductions are especially important, because the time to market for startups can involve a long wait. “The selling cycle is long—it can take several months from initial contact to an actual sale. To be successful, it’s helpful to have a big pipeline of customers,” says Boada. “Our goal, in COWIN, is really to accelerate the business development and multiply contacts to generate business opportunities” says Régis Hamelin, from Euripides and portfolio manager for COWIN “it is essential, when talking to investors, that customers support the company technology development” concludes Hamelin.

When Excelera first started out, they intended to sell only off the shelf products. But once in contact with the market, they quickly realized they needed to adapt their product to the needs of their customers.

Excelera is now positioned as a solutions company and, since the products are 100% firmware, it can accelerate the customization of its technology to the customer requirements. Excelera recently adapted one of its off-the-shelf products for an aerospace customer within less than a week—something that would require weeks or months for a hardware-only component—just one example of how the startup is already making good on its slogan to “simplify and go faster.”

About COWINwww.cowin4u.eu
COWIN is an initiative supported by the European Commission under the 7th Framework Programme successfully supporting the commercial exploitation of Smart Systems technologies funded by the European Commission in smart systems. COWIN works hand-in-hand with technology holders in helping them to find the right processes, partners and resources to bridge the gap from technology to market. COWIN is supporting also entrepreneurs to accelerate the development of their companies. COWIN has set-up an attractive ecosystem to generate value in exploiting EU research projects results.

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