Smart devices for the Internet of Things are among the top three growth drivers for the semiconductor industry, but the IoT is a highly fragmented market where multiple applications have varying energy requirements.
Speaking at a session on “Consumer & Energy Efficiency” at the LetiDays annual event in Grenoble, France, Edith Beigné, a senior scientist in the Architecture, ID Design, and Embedded Software Department at CEA-Leti, said the fragmentation presents challenges for technology providers, because it is difficult and expensive to design a single chip for one application or to provide a software or hardware platform to cover each archetype.
Leti’s new Internet of Things platform, L-IoT, is designed to overcome the challenges of fragmentation by providing a complete, flexible ultra-low power solution with adaptable analog and digital building blocks globally optimized for high energy efficiency and that “sleep” when energy-supply is low. All functionality, except the sensors, is integrated on a single chip.
L-IoT: a Flexible Platform
Adaptive Always-Responsive/On-Demand, according to energy levels
Known as “Elliot”, the platform includes both an “always-on” subsystem and “on-demand” subsystem. For applications such as video surveillance, secure communications, data fusion and tracking and monitoring, for example, the “on-demand” system can be woken up to provide additional data, as needed.
The application may have a variety of power sources for the “on-demand” tasks, but energy harvesting is the preferred choice, Beigné said.
Leti also recently introduced Silicon Impulse, a comprehensive IC technology platform offering IC design, advanced intellectual property, emulator and test services and industrial multi-project wafer (MPW) shuttles. The eight-member consortium supporting the platform offers leading-edge, hardware-and-software solutions, including embedded software dedicated to geo-location and people location, for instance; subsystems such as 3D multi-core and low-power CPU modules, and a wide range of ICs: FD-SOI, RF, sensors, mixed-signal, MEMS and NEMS and 3D devices.
Caroline Arnaud, head of the Platform and Design Center Department at Leti, said the platform supports 28nm FD-SOI now, and Leti is in discussions with GLOBALFOUNDRIES for access to 22nm technology next year.
From sensor fusion to context awareness
Vivian Cattin, Leti project Manager, outlined future consumer applications that context-awareness technology can provide. She summarized Leti’s ongoing work with InvenSense, the world’s leading provider of MotionTracking sensor system-on-chip (SoC) and sound solutions for consumer electronic devices. In 2014, the company acquired the Leti spinout Movea, which was widely recognized for its advanced software for ultra-low-power location, activity tracking and context sensing.
The continuing collaboration is focused on improving context awareness by combining data from a variety of sensors, including accelerators and gyrometers, with other sources, such as WiFi beacons and the GPS systems from a person’s mobile device, to not only locate the person but estimate his or her direction or trajectory. The application also can estimate the travel time to the destination.
Cattin said a next step, called “user-adaptive processing”, would combine additional sensors, including wearable devices, software that supports machine learning, and the user’s own cloud-based information to support new uses such as personal wellness tips.
Less energy, more powerful applications for consumers
Jean-Michel Goiran, IoT business-development manager at Leti, highlighted Leti programs and projects that provide more powerful applications for consumers in the Internet of Things era, while using less power.
Connected sensor nodes typically reserve two-thirds of available power in standby mode for the microprocessor, while 13 percent is used by the sensor, 11 percent by the radio, and 10 percent by the active microprocessor. “We need an ultra-low standby-power solution for sustainable and long-living IoT devices deployment,” he said.
Non-volatile memory will be a big part of the solution for better standby-power management, because its content doesn’t require periodic refreshing. Super directivity, which refers to very small antennas directing their signals in only one direction, are another energy saver for IoT applications. Mutualizing functions on a single sensor, such as C02 detection, ventilation, presence detection and fire alarms, also can significantly lower power demand. “You need energy for sensors, so the fewer sensors the better,” Goiran said.
Wired houses for energy efficiency and security
Joël Mercelat, chief technical officer at Delta Dore, described a fully connected house that provides enhanced security and maintains residents’ preferred heating/cooling and lighting preferences, while cutting energy use. These functions are automated, but also can be controlled be hand-held devices.
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