IoT wireless device works in digital domain to cut power

LONDON — A San Diego-based fabless semiconductor startup has developed a single chip wireless internet of things (IoT) platform that allow analog radio circuits to take advantage of the power consumption and performance benefits of digital, enabling analog RF processing to benefit from Moore’s Law.

InnoPhase, established in Chicago in 2012 as a result of low power radio research being carried out by founder and Chief Technology Officer Yang Zu, has developed a software programmable smart radio that encodes and decodes RF waveforms using polar coordinates, amplitude and phase, instead of traditional Cartesian/IQ coordinates, in-phase and quadrature, which most analog-based radios currently use. This enables the radio function to be carried out in the digital domain rather than the analog domain, which means a significant part of the RF processing can be implemented on high end process nodes and reducing power consumption by 50% or more for edge-of-network IoT devices.

Tom Lee, vice president of sales and marketing at InnoPhase, told EE Times in a telephone briefing that radios have been dominated by IQ architectures which, being analog intensive, cannot take advantage of the Moore’s law curve.

“As process technology shrinks, analog circuits can’t shrink in the same way,” Lee said. “We’ve figured out how to move RF processing to the digital domain so they can then benefit from the power consumption and performance improvements achieved in smaller processes.”Lee said being digital means protocols like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, narrowband IoT and others can be defined and implemented in software.

InnoPhase's first product, the Talaria TWO, contains a full functionality multiprotocol transceiver, MAC/PHY, digital power amplifier and an embedded Arm Cortex M3 processor for lightweight applications. Based on InnoPhase’s patented PolaRFusion radio architecture, it processes radio signals using polar coordinates rather than traditional IQ coordinates.

The Talaria TWO chip from InnoPhase.

The digitally-intensive radio solution dramatically reduces the amount of power required to transmit, process, and receive wireless information using industry standard wireless protocols. Being digital means it also actively manages multiprotocol coexistence for 802.11b/g/n and BLE 5.0 for edge-of-network applications.  Initial customer products developed using the Talaria TWO wireless platform have shown battery life improvements of more than 50% versus competitive solutions, according to the company.

Lee said that many edge of network IoT devices in applications like video security, smart audio, lighting control and connected smoke detectors are still plugged into the wall rather being battery operated — which is a huge IoT market growth inhibitor.

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