Power Semiconductors

Deep learning AI chip introduced at CES 2021

12 January 2021
The tiny deep neural network chip can be used in a variety of consumer electronics devices such as smartphones, earbuds, virtual assistants, laptops, home entertainment and security devices. Source: Syntiant

While much of the world’s current artificial intelligence (AI) is software based, the market for hardware-based AI is accelerating quickly with several announcements for hardware AI semiconductors being announced last year. Similarly, another chip, Syntiant’s neural decision processor 120 (NDP120) ultra-low power inference engine, has been introduced at CES 2021 and it has garnered an Innovation Award for outstanding design and engineering in consumer technology products.

The NDP120 is a special purpose chip for audio and sensor processing for always-on applications in battery-powered devices.

The semiconductor runs at under 1 milliwatt and applies neural processing to run multiple applications simultaneously in consumer electronics devices such as smartphones, earbuds, virtual assistants, laptops, home entertainment and security devices

The chip allows for echo-cancelation, beamforming, noise suppression, speech enhancement, speaker identification, keyword spotting, multiple wake words, event detection and local command recognition. The NDP120 also supports multi-sensor fusion, passive infrared detection and accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer and pressure sensing MEMS applications.

The NDP120 packages the Syntiant core 2, a low power deep neural network inference engine that moves larger neural networks into always-on domains with the ability to generate shared embeddings, run ensembles and other neural architectures concurrently or in cascades. The Syntiant Core 2 is a second generation architecture that delivers 25 times the tensor throughput as the first generation.

Other features of the NDP120 include support for up to seven audio streams, I2S/TDM output audio interface for streaming audio output, embedded user programmable HiFi-3 DSP and an embedded Arm Cortex M0 microcontroller for device management with 48 KB static random-access memory (SRAM), dual-timers and universal asynchronous receiver-transmitter (UART) functionality. Additionally, the chip features quad serial peripheral interface (SPI) target and controller interface, I2c serial interface for sensors, up to 26 general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins, flexible clock generation and onboard firmware decryption and authentication.

Syntiant plans to begin volume production on the NDP120 in the summer.

CES 2021 is all-digital and is taking place Jan. 11-14.

To contact the author of this article, email PBrown@globalspec.com

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