Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Imagination IP combines Wifi and Bluetooth Smart

Steve Rogerson
April 29, 2015
Imagination Technologies has announced the first members of its Ensigma Whisper flexible connectivity IP family, aimed at enabling the integration of ultra-low power communications in SoCs targeting wearables, IoT and other connected devices that require extended battery life and low cost points.
With these radio processing units (RPUs), users can choose to integrate Wifi 802.11n, Bluetooth Smart, or a combination of the two, depending on their application.
The RPUs are based on the ultra-low power Ensigma Whisper Series 5 architecture and complement the Ensigma Explorer RPU family, which is focused on enabling on-chip communications. With built-in processors and configurability, the RPUs are flexible and suitable for supporting multiple standards.
Repurposing mobile or other existing connectivity chips or IP won’t work for wearables and other ultra-low power IoT devices. Connectivity IP must be built from the ground up for these applications, with a focus on low power consumption and compact area. The Whisper IP cores are configurable engines that are purpose-built for integration onto next-generation SoCs targeting IoT and other applications including smart watches, home automation, healthcare, automotive and industrial.
“In today’s connected devices, we see a clear move away from using separate wireless combo chips towards integrating connectivity onto the main application processor as companies look to reduce power, footprint and bill-of-materials,” said Takeshi Niwa, assistant director at Techno Systems Research. “We are seeing this move first in smartphones, where we believe 70 per cent of devices will have connectivity integrated in the AP by 2018. As wearable and IoT devices become mainstream, we believe the same trend will occur. With their focus on delivering real performance within an ultra-low power envelope, Imagination’s Ensigma Whisper RPUs are welcome entrants to the market.”
To further accelerate time to market, the RPUs are provided as a complete communications system including certifications. In addition, a range of customisable RF and analogue front-ends are available from Hertfordshire, UK, based Imagination and partners if needed.
The company is initially offering the RPUs in three versions:
·    C5400: Wi-Fi 802.11n IP for low-power devices capable of audio-video streaming; enables users to achieve Wifi connectivity at the power levels of Bluetooth Classic while delivering better performance per megahertz;
·    C5300: Bluetooth Smart IP for ultra-low power, short range connectivity providing control functionality in devices including sensor hubs, wearables and home automation; and
·    C5401: For applications such as wearables, this IP combines Bluetooth Smart for control applications and Wifi 802.11n for streaming; capable of operating concurrently.
“There are two trends that will better enable wireless connectivity for the internet of things,” said Philip Solis, research director at ABI Research. “One, of course, is integration of wireless connectivity basebands into the host processor. The other is the scaling down of designs to reduce cost, size and most importantly power consumption. In the wireless connectivity space, where multiple connectivity standards are here to stay, this includes creating unique designs that take full advantage of the low-power connectivity requirements of wearables and IoT devices to significantly increase battery life.”
The RPUs include optimised, configurable hardware along with Imagination’s PowerGearing for Ensigma that optimises both static and dynamic power consumption in the cores.
The design of the Whisper architecture, with its tightly coupled modem and Mips processor, enables reduced connected standby power letting IoT and wearable devices awaken more quickly and consume less power in the wake-up process.
The tightly-coupled modem and processor means that for sensor applications, users can choose to eliminate the host processor or alleviate its load, leading to a smaller embedded system size and reduced power consumption.
Integrated, optimised Ensigma RPUs and Mips CPUs are at the heart of Imagination’s connected processor IP platform, an embedded processor IP platform that delivers multi-standard connectivity, alongside a Linux or RTOS based applications environment.
Whisper licensees can also leverage Imagination’s FlowCloud IoT device-to-cloud technology, which connects devices to the internet and each other, enabling easier product registration and updates as well as access to a growing portfolio of services from Imagination and its partners.
“We created the ultra-low power Ensigma Whisper architecture to complement our already successful high-performance Ensigma Explorer architecture,” said Chakra Parvathaneni, vice president of Ensigma business operations at Imagination. “Whisper is designed to ensure our customers can hit their aggressive power and area targets for IoT, wearables and other low-power, low-cost devices. With Whisper and Explorer RPUs, we are enabling customers to integrate a broad spectrum of communications capabilities onto SoCs. The complementary Mips and FlowCloud technologies in the connected processor IP platform add even more value, enabling unique end-to-end connectivity.”