With radar getting adopted even in consumer products, Systems Plus Consulting got curious about how it was being implemented. The technology and costing analysis firm decided to tear down a radar chip, but which one? The company selected Vayyar’s first-generation RF system-on-chip for several reasons.

The company was primarily interested in how Vayyar designed such a highly integrated single-chip RF SoC. System Plus analysts were also intrigued by the ability of Vayyar’s SoC to create high-resolution 4D images.

Radar used to be a slow-growing market catering to mature applications such as the military. Things have changed — a lot. Radar, especially “imaging radar,” is hotter than the Kardashians. Automotive and consumer applications are firing system designers’ imaginations and driving radar growth into double-digit numbers.

While radar remains critical to military bases and aircraft carriers, they are massively invading homes, family cars and even smartphones. For automotive applications, Tier Ones and car OEMs are working on imaging radars for both advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and in-cabin occupancy detection.

Radar technology suppliers are also keeping an eye on smartphone opportunities. Central to the collaboration between Infineon and Google announced last year, for example, was the enabling of gesture control in Google Pixel 4 smartphones, using Infineon’s radar technology. Although it is far from clear if every phone will feature radar technology any time soon, the field of radar apps is rapidly expanding.

Vayyar designed its RF SoC into its own Walabot line of products. The Walabot Home fall-detection system enables family members and caregivers to keep tabs on aged relatives who might be prone to falling. Being radar based, it can perceive people through walls and curtains. One of the benefits is that the person being monitored does not require a wearable device.

Systems Plus Consulting (a Yole Développement group company) was intrigued by the Vayyar chip, which analyzes a multitude of signals sent and received from integrated transceivers and processing them by a high-speed DSP on the SoC. System Plus revealed that Vayyar designed a small board housing both the RF SoC and MCU. That setup allows Vayyar’s RF SoC to work with any external application processor picked by a system vendor.

The first-generation of Vayyar’s chip — the subject of this teardown — was based on a 3-10 GHz RF SoC. Given frequency range restrictions imposed by different countries, Vayyar has already designed follow-ons, including one that works at 57-64 GHz, offering larger maximum bandwidth and a higher range of resolution. Another is based on the 77-81 GHz range.

The RF SoC comes with “an on-chip DSP with a large amount of SRAM memory in the transceiver die,” according to System Plus. The RF SoC provides the data to an MCU placed on the Walabot board. The MCU “only transforms the SRAM data into USB data stream type.” This step is critical since it makes Vayyar’s RF SoC neutral and flexible enough to work with any external CPU or application processor chosen by systems designers.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Qualcomm’s Snapdragon or someone else’s app processor. It can then execute complex imaging algorithms if needed.

click for larger image
Figure 5: RF Board with 21 antennas (source: System Plus)
RF Board with 21 antennas (Source: System Plus)

Beyond Walabot Home system

Beyond the Walabot Home system, Vayyar is making inroads in the automotive market. Vayyar sealed a deal with Valeo, a leading Tier One company, two years ago. At that time, Valeo announced plans to use Vayyar radar sensors for monitoring infants’ breathing and triggering an alert in case of emergency, especially if infant has been left inside a vehicle alone.

Last November, Vayyar raised $109 million in a series D round of funding led by Koch Disruptive Technologies (KDT), an investment subsidiary of U.S. multinational Koch Industries. Nabbing Koch as a strategic investor was a big deal, since Koch and its various subsidiaries can potentially open the door for Vayyar’s imaging sensors into many more market segments.

Earlier this year, Vayyar announced a partnership with Japan-based automotive parts company Aisin Seiki, seeking to jointly develop “4D high-resolution short-range exterior sensors for vehicles” for such applications as blind-spot detection.

Next page: Walabot Home Setup