Huawei buys internet-of-things networking firm Neul

Huawei has acquired Neul, a Cambridge, U.K.,-based radio module maker focused on the internet of things. The move marks an interesting new direction for Huawei, which is already one of the largest manufacturers of wireless networking technologies the world.

Neul specializes in the industrial side of the internet things: the billions of sensors, instruments and meters that need only send tiny amounts of information intermittently. Instead of connected cars and watches and tablets, we’re talking about connected bridges, burglar alarms and dog tracking collars (this shift to networking in the background will be one of the topics at Gigaom’s Structure:Connect conference in San Francisco next month). These are not the kinds of links that require or really benefit from cellular machine-to-machine connections, which is what the mobile industry has traditionally focused on in the past.

Huawei isn’t releasing any financial details about the purchase, though the U.K.’s Business Daily reported the purchase price was $25 million when it broke the news on Friday. The Business Daily further reported that Chinese equipment maker plans to invest millions more in the Cambridge area to build an internet-of-things “stronghold” around its new acquisition, helped along by Neul’s CEO Stan Boland.

Here’s the official statement Huawei gave Gigaom:

IOT is a key future direction of the Internet. Huawei is optimistic about the future of IOT. It is a business opportunity that we are keen to exploit and the acquisition of Neul with its unique brand of skills and technologies will help Huawei to achieve this.

“The acquisition of Neul gives Huawei improved access to the growing and exciting market in the IOT. Huawei has no doubt that the IOT market offers huge scope to expand and to deliver important new services and solutions to customers.”

Neul, however, is in the midst of a transformation period of its own. The startup — which has raised $18.8 million from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, IQ Capital Partners and Cambridge Business Angels – is a founding member and key backer of the Weightless standard, the original aim of which was to build internet-of-things networks over white spaces.

A Weightless white space module (source: Weightless SIG)

A Weightless white space module (source: Weightless SIG)

Just last week, though, the Weightless Special Interest Group announced it would suspend its work on white spaces as global regulators are still debating whether the those unused airwaves between TV broadcasts should be opened for commercial networking. Instead, the Weightless SIG is refocusing its efforts on industrial bands already commonly used around the world.